Before you can make sushi for you and your friends you need to get some basics under your belt.
You will need cooked Sushi Rice, Pickled Ginger, Wasabi, and of course the fillings.
Below are the methods for cooking Sushi Rice, Pickling the ginger, using the wasabi and finally putting it all together.
Preparing Sushi Rice (Shari or Sushi Meshi).
Rice cooked for sushi should be slightly harder in texture than for other dishes. You will need approximately one cup of cooked rice for each roll. It is easier and better to make too much rice than too little. Every recipe for sushi rice is different, but they all work. You might find a recipe on the bottle of rice vinegar, on the bag of rice, or on the package of nori.
Most recipes call for rinsing the raw rice until the water runs clear, but I often neglect this. The reason it is rinsed first is to remove talc from the rice. Most rice seems to be coated now with some sort of cereal starch, rather than talc, so rinsing could be omitted. They also suggest letting the rinsed rice drain in a colander, or zaru, for 30-60 minutes. It’s up to you. Just promise me one thing — that you will not use instant rice, converted rice, or brown rice. The rice you use should be short-grained rice, from a reputable brand.
A fairly consistent recipe is to use equal amounts of rice and water, which will make the same number of cups of rice as the total of the rice and water. Another book mentions adding water until it is one inch above the rice, but I would go with the one-to-one ratio. The rice and water are brought to a quick boil, boiled for 1 minute, covered, simmered for 20 minutes, and let stand for 10 minutes after removing from the heat. It is optional to add a piece of kombu (seaweed – from the genus Laminaria, or kelp) to the water and rice while it is brought to a boil, then removed. Another option is to add a few drops of sake or mirin to the water, but it will make little difference when the vinegar is added afterward.
Put the hot rice in a large bowl and pour sushi vinegar evenly over the surface of the rice, mixing it into the rice with quick cutting strokes. You should use one tablespoon of vinegar per cup of rice. Fan the rice at the same time to cool the rice quickly. What I often do is pour the vinegar into the pan and stir it in, then spread the rice out on aluminum foil on a cookie sheet to cool. If you are keeping track of the terminology, a hangiri, handai, or sushi oke is a rice cooling tub, and a uchiwa is a rice cooling fan.
If you cannot find sushi vinegar, you can make your own.
To make sushi vinegar, combine 1/3 cup white vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir to dissolve everything, and remove from heat.
Pickled Ginger (Gari or Shoga)
In a sushi bar, you will be given a small heap of pickled ginger as well as a small glob of wasabi. The purpose of the wasabi is to mix with soy sauce in the small dish that included with your place setting. (Start with small amounts of the wasabi, mix it with the soy sauce, and sample. Repeat until it tastes more like the wasabi than the soy sauce, or until it tastes “right” to you.) The ginger is used to cleanse the palate between bites of sushi. It does not take a lot of the ginger to cleanse the palate, so the small pile should be enough for several rolls. If you consume all of either, by all means ask the sushi chef for more.
People have asked if the ginger root in grocery stores is the same ginger that is pickled for sushi. It is, and up until now I have recommended that you buy it in jars at Asian markets. I recently found a recipe for making your own pickled ginger, and will share that with you.
8 oz. (250 g) ginger root
3 fl oz (90 ml) rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons mirin *
2 Tablespoons sake **
5 teaspoons sugar
Mirin is a very sweet rice wine used only for cooking. You can substitute a teaspoon of sugar for a Tablespoon of mirin, or an equal amount of sake.
Sake is a rice wine that often accompanies sushi. Dry sherry is a potential but inferior substitute.
Scrub the ginger under running water as you would a potato for baking. Blanch in boiling water for one minute and drain.
Combine mirin, sake, and sugar in a small pan. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Cool.
Place the ginger into a sterilized jar and pour the cooled vinegar over the ginger. Cover and keep 3-4 days before using. Will keep refrigerated for up to one month.
The pale pink color develops as it ages, however, you might want to add a small amount of red food coloring.
Japanese Mayonnaise (Tamago- no-moto)
I usually find it easiest to buy Japanese mayonnaise, from either an Asian market or from a supermarket. It normally comes in a convenient plastic squeeze bottle. Several people have asked about a recipe for this mayonnaise, and I recently found the following one.
3 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1-1/2 oz (50 g) white miso *
1 cup salad oil
salt to taste
sprinkle of white pepper
a pinch of grated yuzu**, lime, or lemon peel
* miso is salty paste of fermented soy beans. It is available in Asian markets and some health food stores. White miso is used for soups and dressings.
** yuzu is a Japanese orange used only for its rind. Kaffir lime used in Thai or Malaysian food is an alternative, as is lemon or lime rind.
Beat the egg yolks and lemon juice with a wooden spoon in a bowl. Continue to beat, adding the salad oil a few drops at a time until the mixture begins to emulsify. Keep on adding the rest of the oil, then stir in the miso and the seasonings.
Refrigerate in a squeeze bottle.
Hints and Tips
The number one hint or tip is this: rolling sushi is a self-correcting process. If your first roll does not turn out quite right, eat it to hide the evidence and roll another, which will be much better. If it has been a while since you made a roll, the first one may leave something to be desired, but it will all come back to you, like riding a bicycle or playing a piano (if you knew how to do those activities in the first place).
Rice doesn’t stick to nori, or roll does not stick together when rolled.
You most likely did not use enough vinegar in your rice. The rice should be very sticky, annoyingly so.
Roll is too thick, or does not hold together well.
You probably used too much rice, or packed it down too tightly. The rice should be spread on the nori to within about 5/8-inch of what will be the outer edge, should not be squished onto the nori, and should not cover the nori completely. You should be able to see nori between the rice kernals, perhaps 1/4 to 1/3 of the space should be open to the nori below the rice.
Cucumber can be cut into larger chunks which are easier to work with. Try quartering the cuke lengthwise, removing the seeds, then cutting the flesh into a few large pieces about 1/4-inch thick by 3/8- inch wide. The length of the pieces should be half the width of the nori.
The thick-skinned black avocadoes are easier to work with. Cut in half and remove the pit. Then cut each half into half again. Using a paring knife, slice the avocado in the peel, then run the knife just under the peel to cut the slices from the peel. It is easier and faster than peeling the avocado and then slicing it.
Place a square of plastic wrap on between the nori and the bamboo mat when making rolls. This will keep the rice and messy ingredients out of the mat and make it last longer. (Washing a bamboo mat is NOT recommended, it warps when it dries.) Peel the plastic wrap back with the mat as you roll. When you are finished, wrap the roll in the plastic wrap and put the roll in the refrigerator. When you are finished making several rolls and are ready to serve them, unwrap them and slice them.
Important Tip: Keep the knife very moist to prevent sticking, remoistening before each cut.
First cut the roll in half, then fold the two halves together and cut into thirds (6 pieces) or quarters (8 pieces). Sushi bars usually serve the roll sliced into 6 pieces, but 8 is easier. Turn the pieces on end and arrange on platter.
Tip: Sometimes, if the end pieces are quite uneven, the ends are cut off at the one-third point and stood on end. Then, the other section is cut in half at a slight angle. All pieces will then look more alike when stood on end.