I’m a big lover of Japanese food, and an even bigger lover of the mythology behind it. You must have seen the episode of ‘The F Word’ where Gordon Ramsey goes to a Japanese restaurant to learn the art of sushi? The real point that caught my attention, apart from the head chef berating Gordon – hard to not smile, was the rice washer, who’d been doing as much for 3 years! Apparently this is a typical feat for anyone wishing to become a sushi pro. Fantastic. Talk about dedication.
The only down side to this is it gives the impression that sushi is not something you can make at home. This week, I found this not to be the case. So here are a few tips on how to make some damn good sushi.
What you’ll need:
- A thick based pan with a tight fitted lid. You can also use an electric rice cooker
- 2 cups of japonica rice or ‘sushi rice’
- 2 1/4 cups of water
- Japanese rice vinegar
- Nori, ready toasted seaweed paper
- Any ingredients you want to go in the middle! Avacado, spring onion, de-seeded cucumber, smoked salmon and crab sticks are all common. I would recommend against using raw fish unless you know what you’re doing – it must be sushi or sashimi-grade fish only.
This is the most important part to making good sushi, and is often overlooked by newcomers to Japanese cooking. Sushi actually means flavoured rice – not raw fish, as is commonly believed. It’s also the longest part of the process, but don’t cut any corners!
To make 4 cups of rice you’ll need a pan with a thick base (so it doesn’t stick) with a tight fitting lid, 2 cups of sushi rice, 2 1/4 cups of water.
Step 1: measure out the rice into a pan and wash vigorously until the water turns milky white. Drain and refill with fresh water. Repeat this process a few times.
Step 2: Drain the water, but leave a little bit. Now rub the grains together carefully, as if you’re polishing them, but don’t rub too hard or you’ll end up with mushy rice. The point here is to get more starch out.
Step 3: Add more fresh water and repeat step 1 until the water is almost clear when draining.
Step 4: Drain in a fine mesh sieve, and leave for up to 30 minutes. The point here is to dry the rice out and make sure all the waters gone.
Step 5: Measure the water into the pan and leave to soak for 1/2 hour to an hour. The older the rice, the longer you should leave it. Time for a few beers I say!
Step 6: Time to cook. Bring the water to the boil, when its boiling place a tight fitted lid on the pan. Cook on a high for 1 minute, reduce to a medium heat and cook for another 4-5 minutes. You should be able to see the rice at the surface by now. Reduce to a low heat and cook until there’s no water left (around 10 minutes.) The point here is for the rice to absorb the water, so don’t remove the lid.
Step 7: This step is essential to ensure you don’t end up with mushy rice. Remove from the heat and drape a cloth over the pan for around 10 – 15 minutes. This will draw the water out.
Step 8, the final step: Put the rice in a bowl, and pour 1/4 of a cup of sushi vinegar into it. Now turn it with wooden spoon, mixing in the vinegar, taking care not to break the rice. Use a similar method to one you’d use when mixing egg whites into cake batter. Whilst you’re doing this, get a friend to fan the rice and keep going until the vinegars absorbed. Taste for preference.
The fun part
When your rice is cold, you can move on to the sushi roll. This parts great, fun for kids, families and friends alike.
Step 1: Place some cling film over your sushi matt. If you want to make Californian rolls (so the rice is on the outside) put your nori sheet shiny side up. If you want to make simple sushi rolls (this is easier) place your nori sheet shiny side down. In case you’re wondering – there is a shiny side, so look harder!
Step 2: Wet your hands (if you don’t do this, you’ll know about it), get a ball of rice and spread it evenly over the sheet. Leave a 1 inch margin at the top to seal the roll. For Californian rolls (rice on the outside) you’ll now need to turn your nori sheet over, so the rice is face down on the matt. For simple sushi rolls, keep the rice facing up.
Step 3: Place whatever ingredients you’d like to use along the middle. I’ve used smoked salmon, avacado and spring onions in the example below for Californian rolls.
Step 4: To roll, slowly fold the end of the matt closest to you over the filling and tuck in. Stretch the end of the matt furthest away from you, so it tightens your grip around the sushi roll. This should leave it looking like this:
Step 5: Move the sushi roll towards you, and continue until the sushi roll is nearly complete.
Wet the 1 inch margin you’ve left before completing the roll, so it seals.
Now place the roll on the chopping board and cut into slices with a sharp knife. And voila, you’ve made sushi, serve with soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi sauce. Taste good don’t it?
As usual, email us any recipes and, if we like them, we’ll give them a go and write up a review!