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Friday, July 2, 2010


Just 8 Simple Steps: How to Make Sushi

When it comes to preparing something delicious, cheap, and relatively nutritious, I really have to endorse sushi. Sushi is a delightfully delicious bit of Japanese cuisine that can be really intriguing and satisfying to prepare yourself. Going out to sushi bars can be fun, but expensive. If you learn how to make your own sushi, you'll be able to save money, eat great and keep the kitchen cool in the summer, because don't forget-sushi uses RAW fish. That means no cooking, which means a nice cool kitchen :)

What You Need

Sushi can have many different ingredients, but usually comprises of a few base ingredients. You'll need special short-grained Japanese sushi rice, nori, (flattened sheets of green algae) and ingredients to put in the sushi roll. You'll also need some rice vinegar, sugar and salt for seasoning the rice. You can get all of these things at a well-stocked local supermarket except for the nori, which you may need to go to an Asian market for. If you don't live near an Asian market, you can look online for a sushi food supplier. You will also need a very sharp chef's knife or santoku. A bamboo mat is useful, but not necessary, and can also be found at an Asian grocer. Some common condiments for sushi include soy sauce for dipping, wasabi paste (the spicy green stuff!) and pickled ginger (which helps clear the palate between different sushi).

First Step

The first step is prepare the sushi rice, since it takes the longest. You need to rinse the rice until the water is clear and then let it sit in water for around 30 minutes. The soaking makes water to soften the rice grains and will make the rice cook properly. I find that 2 cups of rice prepares around 4 full maki rolls (or around 32 pieces of sushi).

Second Step

While the rice is soaking is an ideal time to prepare your materials. The most common essential ingredient is raw fish. Common species used include yellowfin tuna, salmon, squid or eel. Make sure your fish is very fresh (never frozen!) and preferably sashimi-grade. Go to your fish market and ask if they have sashimi-grade fish. If they doesn't know what you're talking about, go somewhere else! I like to buy all my fish at the Asian market because I know it's fresh and is of the proper quality for making sushi. In addition to fish, sushi often contains other ingredients to add different flavors or textures like avocado, cucumber, green onion, cream cheese and spicy sauces. Feel free to get a little inventive when it comes to putting ingredients into your sushi roll, as long as you keep it under 3 ingredients or so. I've also had delicious vegetarian sushi rolls that featured bananas, sweet potatoes or tofu. You're going to need around an 8' long strip of each one of your ingredients. How thick you cut them depends on how many ingredients you want in your roll, but i find around 1/4th inch square is pretty good for three ingredients.

Third Step

Next you need to work on the rice. The rice should be prepared in a rice cooker which will make perfect rice AND keep your kitchen cool, but if you don't have a rice cooker, you'll have to make do with a microwave or stovetop. Preparing Japanese sushi rice in the microwave can be very difficult and I would strongly suggest you use the stovetop method if you don't have a rice cooker. Place the rice in a medium sized pot with the water level just slightly above the rice level. Bring the rice to a boil, stirring frequently. Do NOT let the rice stick to the bottom or side of the pan. After the water level is down below the rice level, cover the pot and put it on low heat for 8-9 minutes.

Fourth Step

While the rice is cooking, you can create the rice seasoning from the rice vinegar, sugar and salt. It's this mixture that gives sushi rice its distinctive sweet and sour flavor, so it's very important to get this right, but thankfully, it's not especially {tough|tricky|difficult] to get right. When I'm preparing 2 cups of rice, I like to use 3.5 tablespoons of vinegar, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of salt. Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar and salt dissolve. Do not let the mixture start to boil; it should never get that hot. Stir the mixture to try to make the sugar and salt dissolve completely and then keep it on very low heat until the rice is ready

Fifth Step

When the rice is done, remove it from the pot into a wooden bowl. Treat the rice carefully-you don't want to damage any of the grains. If any rice is stuck to the side or bottom of the pot, leave it. You don't want any crispy rice in the sushi. It's important to use a wooden bowl because the vinegar seasoning is about to be poured in and the vinegar may react with the metal. With the rice in the bowl, drizzle the seasoning over it and cut it in (don't stir!) with a wooden spoon. You are just trying to coat the grains of rice with the mixture. If you stir too much, you may damage the grains.

Sixth Step

Let the rice cool for a while. You need room temperature rice to work with when making sushi. I like to use this time to prepare the rest of my ingredients if I haven't done so already. I also like to clean up the kitchen at this time (you'll be shocked how much mess you've made in the last 5 steps). In a sushi restaurant this would be the time when a chef's assistant will actually fan the rice to help it to cool down more quickly.

Seventh Step

When the rice is cool, take a small ball of it and spread it over the bottom 5/6ths of the nori, which should be on the bamboo mat if you have one. Nori has two sides, a shiny side and a rough side. Make sure you position the shiny side down. The rice should be spread thinly enough to still see little bits of green through the rice, although you can spread it thicker than that if you have only one ingredient. When you have only the little bit of nori left bare at the top, you're good. It helps to spread the sticky rice by keeping a small bowl of water nearby to dip your fingers into, so they don't stick and get messy.

Last Step

Position your ingredients near the middle-bottom of the nori. Roll up the bottom half of the nori over the ingredients. If you have a bamboo mat, use it to make sure the roll has equal pressure applied on it and is packed tightly. Continue shifting the bamboo mat to roll up more and more of the sushi roll. When you reach the part with no rice, you can roll it over and seal it with a bit of water. Then, use a sharp knife to cut the sushi roll in half. A slight sawing motion is needed and it helps if the knife is dipped into hot water first. Double up the two halves and cut THEM in half to make quarters, and each quarter in half to make eighths. Arrange your sushi rolls on a plate and serve with soy sauce, and wasabi and ginger if you desire. Enjoy!
David Fishman is a blogger and sushi lover from Atlanta, GA. Visit his website How To make Sushi At Home and follow him as he blogs about awesome sushi recipes, more in-depth instructions about how to make sushi, places to get sushi equipment, amazing pictures of homemade sushi and the ongoing story of his journey to become a sushi master. You can also submit pictures of YOUR homemade sushi and he'll feature them on his site.


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