|Everything You Need To Know To Make Sushi At Home!
If I could choose one food to eat for the rest of my life… sushi might just be that food. On any given day, at any given moment, if you ask me what I’m in the mood for, I will say sushi. Always.
The Brother and I are the only ones in our family who like sushi, and whenever we’re together we try to make a little time to go out to eat, just the two of us. For Christmas he got me a sushi kit, equipped with nearly all the things I would need… just add fish. Can I just say I am the luckiest sister ever?!
I’ve made sushi once before with friends, and have always meant to make it myself… but since those friends have moved away, and I don’t know many people who enjoy sushi, it’s never been something I’ve been willing to do all by my lonesome. With all the tools I need on hand, though, I no longer have any excuses!
Last week was the first Friday of 2013, and the beginning of my quest to expand my culinary know-how. My goal for this year is to make an informative blog post every Friday about whatever I’m learning at the time. Right now I’m calling it ‘FAK Fridays’, which stands for “Feeding my Appetite for Knowledge”, and is also a nod to the term FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). Suggestions for a better acronym are welcome.
- A Brief History Of Sushi
- Sushi Vs. Sashimi
- What Is Sashimi Grade Fish & Where Can I Buy It?
- About Sushi Rice
- Condiments and Accompaniments
- The Equipment / Tools You Will Need
- How To Cook Sushi Rice
- How To Slice Sashimi
- How To Make Maki (Sushi Rolls)
- How To Make Nigiri
|Sashimi grade salmon (left) and tuna (right)
Another option is to check your local Japanese or Asian Market, if you’re lucky enough to have one nearby. The fish may be presented as fresh (thawed), but more often can be found vacuum-sealed in the freezer section. Fresh fish should be purchased the day, or night before, it is going to be used, and kept refrigerated at all times. If your fish is frozen, keep it that way and thaw it in the fridge the night before you’re ready to use it.
WHAT IS SUSHI RICE? Sushi rice is a short-grain variety of Japanese rice, or sometimes short-grain California rice. It is most often white, but can also be found in brown varieties. Here in the States it is typically (and conveniently) labeled “sushi rice”.
Sushi rice, and other short-grain varieties, contain a lot of starch which is what gives sushi it’s sticky quality. To prepare, the rice is rinsed very thoroughly to remove excess starches on the outside of the grain (believe it or not, the rice has far more starch than we want, and if it were left un-rinsed, it would become a gluey mess) and then cooked either on the stove, or in a rice cooker. It is then folded with a mixture of seasoned vinegar (called Sushi-Su) to give it it’s characteristic flavor and the proper texture for making sushi. The finished rice is called “Sushi-Meshi“. I’ve provided instructions below for cooking the rice on the stove, but if you have a rice cooker feel free to follow the directions provided with it.
SUSHI CONDIMENTS & ACCOMPANIMENTS: Sushi is almost always served with three basic things – soy sauce (or tamari, also known as shoyu), wasabi paste (which, here in the States, is actually a mixture of horseradish, mustard powder, and food coloring… but that’s okay, because it’s also what we’re used to getting in most restaurants), and pickled ginger (gari). Here in America, it is common practice to stir a small amount of wasabi into a shallow dish of soy sauce, and then dip the sushi lightly (fish first, if there’s fish on the exterior of the rice) into the sauce (although this is frowned upon by sushi purists). A piece of sushi is meant to be eaten in one bite, two at most. The slices of pickled ginger are meant to be eaten in between pieces of sushi as a pallet cleanser (although here in the States, many of us like to put the ginger right on top of the sushi and eat it all together — something that would probably be cringed at by most sushi-chefs). These items can be found either in Asian Markets, or in the International isle of your regular grocer.
Other sushi condiments include sauces, such as Eel Sauce (called Tsume, used to top Unagi and other rolls), and Spicy Mayo (used in spicy salmon or tuna rolls), just to name a couple of my favorites. These are only a couple of the many sauces that can be found inside, atop, or along-side sushi.
In addition, rolls of sushi are often rolled or topped with toasted sesame seeds or fish roe (eggs). There are many different types of roe used in sushi, but some of the most common are Masago (capelin roe), Ikura (salmon roe), and Tobiko (flying fish roe). You can find these in many Asian markets, or at specialty fish stores.
EQUIPMENT / TOOLS YOU WILL NEED:
- A bamboo sushi mat, called a Makisu (or a bamboo place mat would probably work, as well)
- Plastic wrap (such as Saran Wrap)
- Sushi-rice, or other short-grain rice
- Rice cooker, optional (I made my rice on the stove and provide directions below)
- Rice vinegar, sugar, and salt for making the Sushi-Su (the vinegar solution for flavoring the rice)
- Large wooden, glass, or ceramic bowl for mixing the rice, along with a wooden spoon or rice spatula (sushi experts will tell you that any kind of metal will mar the delicate flavor of the vinagered rice, though if it does, I doubt most of us are sensitive enough to tell. If you do choose to use metal, be sure it’s stainless steel and NOT something like aluminum or cast iron, which will react with the acidity and create very noticeable off flavors)
- Very sharp, non-serrated knife (it is important to have a sharp knife for sushi, especially if you plan on slicing raw fish)
- Sheets of nori seaweed (this is available in the International isle of common grocers, as well as Asian markets)
- Small bowl with 10 parts water and 1 part rice vinegar (or about 1 cup water and 2 TBSP vinegar – this is called te-zu, or hand-vinegar, and is for dipping your fingers and knife into to keep the rice from sticking)
- Fresh vegetables of choice (cucumber, avocado, bell peppers, asparagus, spinach, mushrooms, etc.), for filling rolls
- Sashimi-Grade fish, or cooked fish, or crab meat, or cooked shrimp, or cooked tofu, or scrambled eggs, etc., for filling rolls
Note: you may also need a pair of fish tweezers, used for plucking the pin-bones from fish fillets, but in my experience most sushi grade fish will be sold already de-boned.
|First rinse, the water is very milky | scrunch gently to rub the grains together | final rinse, the water is mostly clear
4. When the rice is finished cooking, transfer it to a large, non-metallic bowl. Large wooden bowls (called hangiri) are traditional, but glass or ceramic will work as well. Just use the widest non-metallic bowl you have, as the rice will need plenty of room. You will also need a rubber spatula, wooden spoon, or rice spatula (again, the important thing is that it is non-metallic).
Pour about half of the sushi-su (vinegar mixture) evenly over the rice, and fold it in with your spoon or spatula. Make vertical slashes down into the rice with the edge of your spatula, then scoop the rice up the side of the bowl and over itself. Work gently so as not to mush the rice together — the goal is to separate the individual grains so that the rice is coated evenly, and isn’t too dense.
While cutting and folding the rice with one hand, use the other to fan the rice (if you don’t have a hand-fan, a paper plate or piece of cardboard will work… I just grabbed the package of nori to fan my rice with!). Fanning the rice helps it cool faster, and creates a glossier finish and more desirable texture.
1. Sashimi Grade fish can almost always be purchased pre-cut into a long rectangle, which is easy to slice into strips for sashimi or sushi. If your fish is not cut this way, you may need to fabricate (prepare it) yourself. I won’t go into all the details of filleting fish, but for mine it was necessary that I remove the skin (by making a horizontal incision near the tail, tilting the blade down towards my cutting board, and working the blade back and forth up the length of the fillet to separate the meat from the skin). I then sliced off the thinner sides of the fillet (which I cut into lengths to use in sushi-rolls) and was left with a rectangular piece of meat. You may also need to run your fingers up and down the surface of your fish feeling for pin-bones — if you feel any bones, use fish tweezers to pluck them out.
Once your rice is cooked and all of your ingredients are cut into thin matchsticks (here I’m using bell pepper, carrots, cucumber, and avocado) you’re ready to roll. Have an area where everything is easily within reach, including your rice and a small bowl of te-zu (1 cup of water plus 2 TBSP rice vinegar). You will also want to have a clean towel or dish cloth nearby for wiping your hands and knife blade as needed.
|Have your mise en place ready! (Is there a Japanese word for mise en place?)
|Here I am making a roll with the nori on the outside. Note the space between the rice and top edge of the nori – this will ensure that the roll will seal properly.
|Here I am making an ura-maki, a roll with the rice on the outside. Here the nori is covered all the way to the very edge with rice, this way when one edge of the roll meets the other the rice will stick to itself to seal the roll shut.
3. Place whatever ingredients you like in a line down the middle of your rice/nori, overlapping each other slightly. Don’t add too much, or your roll may not seal shut — I suggest not using more than three ingredients, at least in the beginning. If you’d like you can smear a little wasabi, Japanese mayonnaise, or other sauce down the center of the rice to add a little extra flavor.
After your first roll or two, you’ll start to get a feel for how much rice to use, how damp your hands should be to keep it from sticking, how many ingredients will fit, and how tightly to roll. Before long, you’ll be a sushi master!
Of course, rolls aren’t the only part of a sushi plate…
|Making Salmon Nigiri
|The Anatomy of a Sushi Plate