The creation of sushi is an art and in Japan becoming an itamae of sushi requires years of on-the-job training and apprenticeship. The following is only meant to be a glimpse into the world of sushi by explaining how I make sushi rice.
Usually when I mention that I like sushi people say, “I don’t like raw fish.” There is such a misconception about what sushi is. Let me explain:
There are five different types of sushi: maki, uramaki, temaki, sashimi and nigiri. The first three (maki, uramaki and temaki) are my favorite kinds, none of which contain raw fish; so if you go to a sushi bar you can order one of these and you might find out you like sushi. My go-to-sushi is the California roll (which is maki sushi) it has cooked crab, cucumber and avocado in it wrapped with the sushi rice and seaweed. Recently I discovered soy wrappers and I really like to use those in place of the nori (seaweed wrappers) in some of the rolls to give them a variety of color and texture.
I often make Maki Sushi (seaweed-wrapped) at home or uramaki (rice on the outside); because we don’t have sushi quality fish where I live so I have never tried making the nigiri (fish on a ball of sushi rice) or the sashimi (fish on it’s own) – but I did try it when I was in Japan and I really liked the tuna. I found I did not like the squid as much, but only because of the texture. It makes a difference if the fish is really fresh; it doesn’t taste fishy at all and is very soft and tender.
I have only tried making Temaki (sushi hand-rolled into a cone shape) once, but that was when I had a Japanese exchange student living with me and she helped me with the shaping.
To make the rice is really very easy if you have an electric rice cooker. You can also make it in a pot on the stove, but you have to watch it more closely. I always use a cooker when I cook any kind of rice. I purchased one a few years ago and never looked back!
3 rice cooker cups uncooked polished white short grain rice
water to come up to the 3 cup mark on rice cooker
Rinse 3 rice cooker cups of uncooked Niko Niko rice (or other good quality polished white short grain rice) three or more times, until the water is almost clear. I use a special rice bowl that one of my friends sent me from Japan – but the one pictured below would work just as well.
Never let the rice soak in this milky water, or the cooked rice won’t taste fresh.
Strain and let rest in a strainer for 30 minutes in summer and 1 hour in winter. This produces a firm rice which is perfect for tossing with the seasoned vinegar later.
Place rice and water in rice cooker according to directions that came with your rice cooker.
Wrap the lid with a towel so condensation doesn’t drip back into rice; this also helps to make a tight seal between the lid and cooker. When rice is done cooking let sit for an additional 15 minutes.
Loosen the edges of the cooked rice away from the rice cooker and transfer the cooked rice all at once into the Hangiri tub or a colander set over a non-reactive bowl*.
With a large circular motion, quickly pour seasoned vinegar evenly over the rice. If using a colander and a bowl pour any drops of dressing collected in the bowl back over the rice, and toss it again. Toss the rice thoroughly by cutting into it vertically with the spatula, and then lifting the rice and turning it over. Be careful not to mash the rice. The tossing should take less than 2 minutes and allows steam to escape. While tossing and folding the rice you should fan it using a handheld fan or a small electric fan. This facilitates quick cooling, which gelatinizes the surface of the rice, giving it an attractive, glossy appearance. Stop fanning when there’s no more visible steam.
Collect the seasoned/tossed rice in the center of the tub, shape it into a mound, and cover it with a moist cotton cloth until you are ready to use it. Sushi rice may be made in the morning for use later in the day.
Store the rice in a container with a tight-fitting lid in a cool room.
6 Tbsp. rice vinegar
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan.
Stir and heat until clear. Do not boil.
Remove from heat and let come to room temperature.
The seasoned vinegar can be kept in the refrigerator for several days, but you should return it to room temperature before pouring over the hot rice.
This is enough vinegar for 3 Rice Cooker Cups of uncooked Japanese rice
*Note – Hangiri tub – made of unfinished samara cypress wood. The wood absorbs moisture and retains heat. A good substitute for the Hangiri is to put the cooked rice, all at once, into a non-reactive colander that has been placed over a non-reactive bowl. You do not want to use metal for either the colander or the bowl as it will react with the acid in the seasoned vinegar.
From here you can make a variety of sushi.
Japanese Rice Washing Bowl
Electric Rice Cooker
Hangiri Tub or large unfinished wooden salad bowl (see *note and photo above)
Sushi Making Kit
Camp Chef Sushezi Roller
Plastic Bag Sealer