Sushi, arguably one of the two most well-known, and well-loved, Japanese dishes in the world (the other being ramen) refers to an array of rolled vinegar-seasoned rice dishes which may or may not include seafood or seaweed. Generally, when sushi is rolled with nori (dried seaweed) outside, it is makizushi or futomaki. When the nori is inside rather than outside in a rolled sushi, it is uramaki. There are numerable sub-varieties.
In my family, everyone is good at making sushi except me. That really means I never tried. They’re all so good at it — all I need to do is wait and then eat. The sushi in the photo above was made by my husband, Speedy. The ones below were made by our older girl, Sam.
Our younger girl, Alex, is just as good.
Is it hard to make sushi? It takes practice, definitely, but the first hurdle to overcome is to stop mystifying sushi. It’s just rice doused with rice vinegar, the filling can be anything (although there are traditional fillings if you’re particular about being authentic) and the most common ingredients are available in most grocery stores. And equipment? Well, the bamboo mat — makisu — is helpful but it’s more traditional than essential. Sometimes, we misplace our makisu and my girls go right ahead and make perfectly rolled sushi without it.
How do Speedy, Sam and Alex make sushi? Let’s start with the rice. Japanese rice is used for making sushi. Short-grained and sticky (but not as sticky as Southeast Asian glutinous rice). Can some other rice be substituted? Well, if the starch content of the rice you use is all wrong, the grains will either fail to stick together OR stick too much together that the individual grains are indiscernible. Neither is sushi. So, it’s Japanese rice.
How is the rice cooked? First, rinse the rice several times until the water runs clear to get rid of the excess starch. Then, cook in a pot (a rice cooker is just fine) in minimal amount of water. Minimal? Yes, meaning just enough to cook the rice through — generally, 1 and 1/4 c. of water for every cup of rice. As soon as the rice is done, transfer to a wide shallow bowl (a tray will do), add a splash of rice vinegar and a pinch or two of salt, mix gently then allow to cool just until almost at room temperature.
You may have seen a lot of cooking videos or cooking shows where, to cool the sushi rice, the cook mixes the rice with a paddle with one one and fans it with the other. Some say this step is essential to give the rice a glossy appearance. I doubt it because the fanning part has never figured in sushi-making in my family and the rice grains are glossy just the same. As far as I know, just prevent the rice from drying out while cooling and you can dispense with the fanning part. How to prevent the rice from drying out? Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel. AND use the rice as soon as it is cool enough to be rolled.
The following photos show the making of futomaki. By Sam.
A nori sheet has a dull side and a shiny side. The rice is spread on the dull side. So, lay the nori flat on the makisu, dull side up. Spread rice on the nori to within about a half inch from the edges (that’s for neatly sealing the sushi).
Lay your filling or fillings on the rice. Middle or edge? That depends on how you want the cross section to look.
Now, start rolling using the makisu as a guide. To describe the rolling process, you roll with one motion, you stop, you pull back the rolled portion a bit, applying pressure, to make sure it’s a tight roll. You roll with another motion, do the same thing, until you reach the opposite edge.
About cutting the roll. You need a knife, of course. Sharp and a bit wet. Sharp so that you cut through the roll with single swift motions. Wet to prevent the rice from sticking to the blade. You may need to wet the
rice knife after every few slices.
And that’s how to make sushi. Considering how overpriced they are at Japanese restaurants (including pretend Japanese restaurants), it makes sense to just make sushi at home.