Sometimes called maki or nori rolls, these bite-size packets are easy to master and even use a little low technology--small bamboo mats called makisu--that kids will enjoy. The mats, like other necessary items here, can be found at any Asian market, or even a well-stocked supermarket that caters to a diverse clientele. Whole sushi kits can be purchased on the Web, but generally these kits do not include fillings such as fish or vegetables.
KIDS' COOKING SKILLS: Use this recipe as an opportunity to teach children how to make rice and cut raw vegetables.
SIMPLE SUSHI ROLLS Ask your kids to measure 2 cups of sushi rice into a large bowl. As in many Asian cuisines, the rice is rinsed first, by stirring it in cold water, carefully pouring off the cloudy, starch-filled water and repeating--about three times in all. Set in a colander to drain for about 30 minutes. While the rice is draining, and then later, while it is cooking, you can prepare little piles or stations for sushi assembly. Set out a bowl of water to keep hands moist while spreading rice. If using wasabi, put a few spoonfuls in a bowl for easy access, and cover (and warn kids how spicy it is!). Cut sheets of nori in half, storing in a large zipper bag to keep moist.
VEGETABLE SLIVERS Older kids can help slice, if you are comfortable letting them handle sharp knives. For the sake of simplicity, this recipe only contains carrots and asparagus. But, realistically, you probably will want a greater variety of sliced vegetables on hand. Carrots are tricky because they are so hard. You might want to use mini-carrots, which are a little softer, or start with pre-cut carrot sticks and, depending on their thickness, slice them three or four more times, until they're almost thin enough to be translucent. They don't need to be long enough to run the full length of the roll. Asparagus are good because they don't need any real slicing, just one cut to make sure they are the same length (not width, length!) as the nori sheet. Make sure you cut off the bottom, not the tip, as that is the prized home of all the asparagus' richest flavors. The one thing asparagus does need, however, is a brief steaming. You can do this in a steamer over the stove or in a covered dish with a little water in the microwave on high. In either case, it should take about 2 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus.