Negimaki, Japanese beef and spring onion rolls are sushi-type meat rolls – the prettiest meat dish you can find. My version is made with lean veal escalopes flattened thinly, wrapped around spring onions and marinated in teriyaki sauce.
Negimaki sounds uncannily like a type of sushi and very rightly so. It’s sushi for people who don’t like raw fish and are still hungry after several seaweed-wrapped rice rolls. Together with chicken ramen, negimaki is the salvation of the folk visiting sushi joints only because the partner is mad about katsuo.
It is traditionally made from beef, sliced thinly and flattened thinner. I watched a very long video of a Japanese chef unrolling miles of thinly sliced beef and arranging it side by side to form a negimaki canvas (it was unbelievably boring. Have those people not heard of time lapse?), to then roll up the beef around spring onions (very slowly, several times).
Since it’s the prettiest meat dish I’ve ever seen (meat is horribly unphotogenic), I was very taken with the idea. The cut of beef to use stumped me though: too good and it’s wasted by flattening and overcooking; too tough and it will be tough. To compound the difficulty, cuts of beef differ from country to country so what they use in Japan (wagyu, I bet) might not translate into Aberdeen Angus. I went for veal as a compromise thinking along the lines of escalopes: tender when flattened.
I’ll be honest: it’s a lot of faff. Forty-five minutes from start to finish but it’s a hell of a finicky forty-five minutes. Making a wrap out of animal muscle is not the easiest of tasks, plus you need to blanch the spring onions, otherwise they’ll be stringy. Then the frying – it’s the type that leaves a neat clean circle where the frying pan was, with the rest of the kitchen splatted with fat. But when you’ve done it all, rested the meat rolls a little and go on to cutting them into little sushi-like packages – ahhhhh and wow. It’s pretty food!
And it’s a great wow-factor party snack especially that it can be prepared ahead and served at room temperature. If you want to make it for a special dinner à deux, serve it with plain or glutinous rice, or more sushi rolls.