We’re just one week away from Thanksgiving and the start of the extended holiday season. That means it’s time for home parties — and everybody needs some good American eats to go along with them. This year, why not ring in the season with a fresh kind of plant-based menu, using high-quality ingredients? This expert chef-crafted recipe for vegan rice salad rolls packs a shareable punch in terms of flavor first, not to mention nutrition.  

The vegan boom is real and here to stay. That’s for certain in the US, where plant-based food sales have skyrocketed over the last few years. The well-heralded perks of veganism run the gamut from promoting weight loss, to lowering cholesterol, to shrinking your carbon footprint, not to mention the ethical considerations around eating and mistreating animals.

Industry estimates have the percentage of American vegans at 4-8 percent. But over 2 percent of Japan’s eaters are vegans as well — a number that amazingly, per data from the Japanese government, doubled from 2018 to 2020. It’s just the right time to bring vegan treats to 2022 Thanksgiving, especially with the authentic American ingredients available at National Azabu in Hiroo and Nissin World Delicatessen in Azabu Juban. 

The fruit of your labors will be a healthy rice salad with organic nuts, dried fruits, and olives, drizzled with olive oil and vinegar, wrapped up into seaweed rolls like Japanese hand-rolled sushi. These salad rolls are the perfect wholesome appetizer to get passed around the living room or table, party-style. The recipe was created by Chef Hideo Ogawa at Cielito Lindo Bar and Grill, a highly rated upscale Mexican restaurant in Hamamatsucho known for its tacos and airy ambience. Ogawa grows his own rice and herbs on the rooftop restaurant to have fresh herbs at the ready.

How to Make Vegan Rice Salad Rolls

Here’s what you’ll need for a portion for two:

  • 50g Calrose rice

For the vinegar sauce:

  • 50g minced onion
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 25g white wine vinegar
  • 50g extra virgin olive oil
  • 3g salt
  • 1g black pepper
  • ¼ freshly squeezed lime

For the rolls:

  • California black and green ripe olives, 30g each, cut in halves
  • 30g US organic raisins
  • 45g US organic prunes, cut in quarters
  • 30g US organic walnuts
  • 30g US organic almonds


  • 5 cherry tomatoes yellow/red, cut in halves
  • A leaf of kale, torn into pieces
  • 8 sheets yakinori (toasted seaweed)
  • Bonus seasonings: Italian parsley, garden nasturtium, thyme, rosemary, shiso
  • Sliced avocado, sliced mango

Start off preparing the Calrose rice al dente by boiling it in plenty of water for 12 minutes. Lightly mix in the olive oil and allow the rice to cool. After that, prepare the vinegar sauce by mixing together the ingredients, and adding them to the rice. The vinegar sauce should lift the flavors and add freshness to the dish all the while keeping it balanced. 

Then take all the ingredients for the rolls and mix them into the rice well, letting in some air. Add the cherry tomatoes and kale and taste the mixture. After that, put all the ingredients on a plate and add the bonus toppings to your liking, sprinkling in herbs like rosemary, thyme, and shiso, especially if you have anything fresh from your own garden. 

With the salad ready, only the wrapping remains. Wrap up the salad in the seaweed sheets for a Japanese twist, and voilà. You can even create a range of flavors by swapping out the seaweed for lettuce wraps or adding some avocado or mango. 

Pairing the rolls with white or red wine brings out the flavor of the dish. The best of all American wines from Washington and Oregon are also available at the aforementioned Tokyo groceries.


National Azabu is an international supermarket that opened up in Minami-Azabu in 1962 for embassy staff and international employees living in Japan, with all sorts of ingredients available that are rare in Japan. On the other side of Minato in Higashi-Azabu, the Nissin World Delicatessen international supermarket features worldwide products, including high quality imported and domestic meat and wine from over 30 countries.


Several of the American ingredients used in this recipe are also worth a special mention. Calrose rice is a medium-grain rice original to California, where it’s sustainably grown. It’s easy to cook, and its light texture makes it ideal for salads, soups and rice bowls. Green and black California Ripe olives are prepared with a traditional process that removes the bitterness, leaving a refined, salty flavor perfect for snacking. These olives pair well with bread and provide sound support to a variety of entrees and desserts.

The US organic dried fruits and nuts include the mellow, nutritious walnut, the faintly sweet almond, the fiber-filled prunes and fruity raisins. The USDA label identifies each of these products as certified by the US Department of Agriculture to meet health and environmental standards, a fitting choice of ingredients for a vegan recipe. The mix of fruits and nuts in this recipe provides tons of nutrients, including antioxidants and Omega-3s (walnuts), vitamin E (almonds), polyphenols (raisins), and dietary fiber (prunes and almonds).


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