Cooking is one of the few activities that tantalizes and challenges all five senses. It is thus not surprising that it ranks high on the list of most creative activities. It is also a satisfying task, both during preparation and when you enjoy the result of your efforts. It’s a good idea to try new dishes and cuisines, and explore flavors and recipes. If you think sushi is something that is to be eaten in a restaurant where the itamae, who has years of experience in this culinary art, prepares your food, you are not totally correct. Sushi can be prepared at home. And guess what, its fun to do so.
When you think of sushi you may think of delicious and delicate flavors. You may also think of an expensive bill for the meal. When you make sushi rolls at home you can keep the cost of the feast low, and thoroughly enjoy both, the cooking and eating.
There are many different forms of sushi, but at the heart of the dish is the sushi rice and the topping or filling that you choose. The sushi may be presented in several ways, including a roll. The roll is usually prepared and then cut up into bite sized portions. Sushi is essentially a finger food and every bite is meant to offer the palate a wonderful experience.
Maki Sushi or Sushi Roll
The maki sushi or the rolled sushi is one of the most popular forms of sushi that is enjoyed in the Western world. The history of this style of sushi is rich and interesting. It can be traced by to the 13th century Kyoto temples where monks prepared and relished their vegetarian maki sushi.
When you are learning to make sushi rolls you need to acquaint yourself with the many different types of maki sushi. You will probably be trying your hand at the futo maki or the ‘fat roll’. It generally uses a vegetarian filling which may include sprouts, daikon radish and carrot. You can get creative with your filling, but do try to use no more than three options.
The hoso maki is a thinner roll and uses only one filling. The temaki, also called a hand roll is conical in shape. It is closed off on one side by the noori sheet and on the wider end the filling is visible. The ura maki is an inside out roll and best tried when you have gained a little confidence with making sushi rolls.
Things You’ll Need
- Noori sheet
- Bamboo mat
- Sushi rice
- Vegetable, chicken or fish filling
- Rice vinegar
- Wasabi powder
- Two small bowls
- Dry kitchen towel
It’s All in the Rice
Much to the surprise of first time sushi chefs the secret to making great sushi lies in the rice. Sushi was initially invented as a technique for fermenting fish. When it was time to eat, the rice was thrown away. Over time and with changing fermenting techniques sushi rice gained a prominent place in this dish.
It is vital that you only use sushi rice as it has just the right amount of starch and sugar, which make it sticky. When you are buying the rice, the brand doesn’t matter. What is important is that you opt for sushi rice and not use any other type of rice. You can conveniently buy sushi rice at grocery stores, supermarkets or even shop online. To serve about six people you will need to use two cups of raw sushi rice.
Packaged sushi rice is processed and often rice starch powder may be added to it. This makes it essential for you to rinse and wash it a few times until the water comes out clean. You can place the rice in a sieve and then place it in a bowl. Fill the bowl with water and rinse the rice well. Remove the sieve, throw the water, then replace the sieve in the bowl and fill it with adequate water to wash the rice again. Once you have washed the rice at least three to four times, allow it to drain in the sieve for about 10-15 minutes.
If you are cooking the rice on a pot then fill it with 1:1 proportion of water. Allow the water to boil and then cover the pot with a tight lid and allow the rice and water to simmer for 15 minutes. After this, turn off the heat but don’t remove the lid for another 10 minutes. Patience is a key ingredient in cooking and bears delicious results.
While your rice is cooling down, it is time to prepare the shari-zu which is essentially rice vinegar, seasoned with salt and sugar. Don’t buy seasoned rice vinegar; instead make the shari-zu yourself. For two cups of uncooked sushi rice take four tablespoons of rice vinegar, to this add eight teaspoons of sugar and one teaspoon of salt. As you get accustomed to making sushi rice you may want to change the proportions according to your taste.
Transfer the cooked sushi rice to a wooden or glass bowl and gently spread with a wooden spoon. Avoid using a metal bowl as the vinegar may react with it. Drizzle the shari-zu over the rice and gently spread it onto the rice grains. Do take care not to mash the rice grains. The idea is to make certain that the shari-zu flavors all the grains consistently. Cover the bowl or container with a moist kitchen towel.
How to Make a Sushi Roll
When you are ready to make a sushi roll you need to roll out the bamboo mat, and line it with plastic film. This will keep your mat clean. Keep a plate ready for the sushi roll. This way when it is ready you won’t have to go looking for a clean plate to transfer it onto. In a small bowl put some wasabi powder, mix in enough water to make a thick paste.
It’s time to lay a noori sheet on the mat. Do keep in mind that when you touch the noori sheet, your hands should be dry. Feel both sides of the seaweed sheet, the rough side should face you when you lay it on the mat. The smooth side should touch the mat’s surface. This way when you roll the mat and remove the sushi roll the smooth side will on the outside.
Before you handle the sushi rice you need to wet your hands. In a small bowl of water add some rice vinegar (unseasoned), this is known as te-zu. It will ensure that the sushi rice doesn’t stick to your hands. Your hands should be moist and not dripping wet. It’s a good idea to keep a dry kitchen towel at hand when you are making sushi rolls.
When you are ready to place the sushi rice on the noori sheet gently lay it equally across the sheet, taking care to leave the upper margin of 2 cm free. Experts suggest that you take a quantity that you could make into a ball with one hand. Also leave the edges free so as to make rolling easy. You may like to add a touch of the wasabi in the middle of the roll, horizontally.
It’s time for the filling. You can add one to three fillings in each roll. Do bear in mind that when it comes to a sushi roll, less is more. Make certain that the vegetables you use are finely chopped and the chicken, meat or fish you use is well shredded. Place the fillings on the wasabi and against it. It’s time to roll the bamboo mat, gently, but tightly, taking care not to bruise the filling or spill it out. Release the mat and allow the roll to sit with the seam down for a few minutes. Create all your sushi rolls before you are ready to cut them. When you are ready to serve, dip the knife in the te-zu before you use it. This will ensure that the knife is left clean as the sushi rice will not stuck to it. You should try to cut portions no bigger than one inch. The pieces should be cut parallel to one another. Serve your sushi rolls with plenty of pickled ginger.
Sushi chefs spend seven years learning to prepare sushi properly. Of this tenure two years are dedicated to making sushi rice. When you are first trying to make sushi rolls it is important that you are patient. It is a good idea to make sushi with a friend or your partner. It is an activity that needs to be done in a leisurely and unhurried manner. It is best to serve sushi fresh. Refrigerating the sushi rice or the rolls will take away from the texture and flavor of the sushi. However, if you have no choice and need to prepare the rolls in advance wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate them. Take the rolls out much before you need to serve them and cut them into pieces only when you are ready to serve.