As a college student, I often find myself in situations involving air travel, whether to return to my childhood home for the holidays or to embark on a spring break adventure to the next veg-friendly city on my list. Consequently, as a health-minded vegan, I also often engage in travel meal planning—yes, a growing number of airports now offer a surprising bounty of respectably nutritious options free of animal products, but I’d rather guarantee myself a nourishing meal by crafting it beforehand than risk subsisting on an overpriced bag of mixed nuts and an apple for lack of better selection. Besides, can you remember the last time you spotted kale in an airport food stand? Taking the time to pack healthy travel meals alongside your socks and crossword puzzle books will help to ensure your control over an important aspect of your otherwise unpredictable journey, as well as offer you the opportunity to extol the virtues of a veg lifestyle to curious passengers who inquire about your delicious-looking food.
Though I often throw together a salad in a Tupperware to serve as my airplane lunch, bulky rectangular containers do tend to occupy valuable packing real estate in modestly sized carry-on luggage. Luckily, I’ve discovered the perfect vehicle by which to provide the hungry, health-conscious traveler with a meal loaded with whole grains, plant-based protein, and oodles of veggies: sushi. Simply roll together brown rice, strips of tofu, and julienned vegetables in a square of nori seaweed, skip the step of slicing the roll into pieces, and wrap the sushi “cigar” in saran wrap to unobtrusively slip into your bag. When your stomach grumbles while on the plane, simply whip out that sushi roll and start munchin’ for a one-handed meal packed with nutrition.
This particular recipe features a delectable Thai-inspired tofu marinated with coconut milk and lemongrass, but you can certainly use any baked tofu you like, including store-bought for added convenience. Feel free, as well, to change up the veggies to suit your preferences.
Brown Rice Sushi with Coconut-Lemongrass Tofu—Oil Free, Low Sodium.
Makes 4 sushi rolls (can be easily doubled or halved).
Scoop about 1/2 cup rice onto the bottom-middle section of the nori. Spread the rice either with your hands or a spoon to evenly cover the whole sheet, leaving a 1-inch thick strip of nori rice-free at the top.
Lay the torn kale leaves in a single layer onto the rice about ½-inch away from the bottom of the nori to span the entire width of the sheet, then cover them with the julienned carrots and the strips of tofu.
Flip up the front veggie-less 1/2-inch of the nori over the veggies with the bamboo mat.
Continue tightly rolling the sushi, pressing evenly on both sides of the bamboo mat. Roll up in saran wrap and pack in your carry-on luggage.
Coconut-Lemongrass Tofu—Oil Free, Low Sodium.
Once you’re ready to prepare the tofu, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the tofu in a single layer in the skillet and cook for 5-7 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat.
I hope I’ve inspired you to take charge of your travel meals to ensure a nutritious, more enjoyable journey—though I can’t promise anything for preventing flight cancellations or delays. Safe travels!
Until next time, Ali.