First, let’s get this out of the way.
Not all sushi is raw fish.
Ok, there, I said it.
In fact, many of the most popular sushi choices are NOT raw fish but cooked fish, cooked shellfish like crab, shrimp or lobster or, raw vegetables.
Yet when most people who don’t know much about sushi are asked why they don’t like sushi, the common response is: “I don’t eat raw fish”.
Sushi (pronounced soo-shee) is one of Japan’s many delicacies and probably THE most well known. Its Japanese origin is (from a historical culinary perspective) rather recent, meaning about 1895 to 1900. In contrast, some Chinese dishes go back as far as the Han dynasty (about 200 BC), which ironically, is about the same time chopsticks were invented.
The word sushi translates to sour. Why sour? It’s because classic sushi (rolls) use cold cooked rice seasoned with seasoned rice vinegar. From there, it can take many shapes each with their own names.
Sushi Rolls are perhaps the most popular. They are made with seasoned rice, nori (a dried seaweed wrap) and whatever filling you desire. The most popular sushi roll is probably the California Roll which is (generally) filled with, cucumber, avocado and an artificial krab meat mixture. Sushi Rolls are also called Maki Sushi.
Nigiri Sushi are bite size shapes of the cooked rice mixture each topped with a slice of raw seafood.
If you leave out the rice altogether, bites of raw fish are called Sashimi.
One constant throughout all of these choices are the condiments. The standard issue is Soy Sauce, (I prefer low-sodium), Wasabi (a spicy horseradish), and pickled ginger. Depending on where you go to enjoy sushi, additional sauces (such as Ponzu, a citrus accented soy sauce) or other condiments can be offered.
But you don’t have to go out to enjoy sushi, you can make great sushi at home and it’s easier than you think.
Before you get started there are a few things you’ll need.
Cookware & Supplies:
• A small saucepan with lid (to cook your sushi rice) or a rice steamer. Now I’ve read many articles which lead you to believe it’s nearly impossible to make good sushi rice in a saucepan…Nonsense, I do it all the time. But if you’re inclined to go out and spend $50 plus bucks on a luxury item like a rice steamer that you may rarely use and then look for some place to store it…well, who am I to ruin your fun.
• A very sharp knife. Hopefully one with a long, slender blade. However, the sharp part is the most important.
• A small bamboo mat, (which you’ll wrap with plastic film then use to roll your sushi into a tube shape) while not absolutely essential, is something you can buy cheaply at a cookware shop and as such, nice to have. Having said that, you can make do (in a pinch) using a small kitchen towel (again wrapped in plastic film).
• As far as other utensils, a wooden spoon can be your “rice paddle” and you’ll likely have a mixing bowl for mixing your sushi rice.
• Short Grain Sushi Rice….it’s in nearly ANY grocery store. And some bags even state that it’s for sushi so there’s no guess work involved.
• Nori (Seaweed Sheets)…again, it’s in just about ANY grocery store with an Asian aisle. You’ll find it within feet (if not inches) of the sushi rice.
• Japanese Rice Wine…this you’ll need plus some granulated sugar for seasoning the cooked rice.
• Sesame Seeds (preferably toasted which you can do if you don’t buy them that way). They are usually sprinkled on the finished sushi roll, it is an “inside out roll” meaning the rice is on the outside of the finished roll, not the inside.
o Soy Sauce
o Pickled Ginger
• Last but MOST important are your filling ingredients. While I don’t think I need to say much about using fresh produce (avocados, cucumber, carrot etc.) it is absolutely ESSENTIAL to use the freshest, highest grade of fish and seafood you can get your hands on. This is where I would spend all of my time, efforts and money. Beyond the health issue, fresh fish and shellfish just taste a whole lot better. Visit the most reputable fish market you can and tell them what you’re making and ask for their best. If you’re beginning your sushi making with the ever popular California Rolls there is no concern since it uses Surimi (a processed fish) which comes frozen and is fully cooked.
As I mentioned, the most popular sushi roll is the California Roll and that’s honestly the best place to start.
Here is a standard sushi rice recipe. After you measure your uncooked rice I like to place it in a strainer and rinse it well before placing it in my saucepan and adding the cooking water. My easy peasy trick is that if you have at least 1 inch of rice or more in your small saucepan, just add enough water so that when you place your finger in the saucepan and touch the rice, the water is above the rice up to your first finger joint (about ¾”). That trick works for any amount of rice in nearly any size pot you’ll ever use.
Sushi Rice Recipe
This makes enough rice to make about 8 plus standard sized sushi rolls.
3 Cups Raw, Uncooked Sushi Rice
3 ¼ Cups Water (or you can use my trick)
Either use a rice steamer and follow the directions or use a small saucepan, bring the rice and water to a simmer, then cover tightly and turn down to the very lowest setting and allow to cook for approximately 15 to 18 minutes or until the water has completely been absorbed into the rice and the rice is tender. Be careful not to have too high of heat or it can indeed scorch on the bottom. Also, do not stir the rice while it is cooking.
After the rice is cooked, turn it out into a mixing bowl and allow to cool 15 minutes while covered. In the meantime, heat together in a microwave oven until dissolved:
1/3 Cup Rice Wine Vinegar
3 TBSP Granulated Sugar
Then sprinkle over the rice and fold in, over and over with a wooden spoon. This will mix in the seasoning and develop some of the stickiness in the rice which will help it hold together while making your sushi rolls.
As far as all of your filling ingredients, with very few exceptions, everything should be cut in long thin strips, slightly more slender than the standard fast food French fry. This shape helps the ingredients to stay locked in when you eventually cut the long roll into disks.
The process of rolling sushi isn’t very hard but much easier to watch than to explain, so I’m attaching a video link below to a couple of websites for you to enjoy.
Making sushi is easy, fun and a wonderful homemade treat.