Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sushi for the Un-Enlightened (or the Very Busy)

Sushi is something that Handyman is always asking me to make, and it occurred to me the other day that not everyone knows how to make sushi. This thought was especially brought home to me rather forcibly when I brought a plate of sushi to MOPS and got looks of bewilderment, skepticism, and even horror. So, I'm going to give you the easy 101 on sushi.

(Please note, if you are a sushi afficionado, you might want to look elsewhere for directions. The goal of this post is to help over-worked, under-paid, and unappreciated humans find a bit of zen-ness in their lives.)

First, let me help you get rid of some pre-conceptions about sushi. Sushi is not always raw fish; it's basically rice - rice with something added. Sometimes that "something" is raw fish, but it can also be as basic as rice with a few veggies.

Rice and veggies - not frightening, so stop being a ninny and try it. (If you don't like veggies either, just make a bowl of rice and pretend you're eating sushi. It's more boring, but then again that would be faster.)

Most of the ingredients you'll need you can find at your local grocery store, but there might be a few things that you'd need to pick up at an Asian Market or online.

You'll need: 1) rice vinegar (if this is too hard to find, apple cider vinegar will do),

2) veggies of your choice
(from top left and going clockwise, I have cucumber, carrots, green peppers, and crab - yes, I realize crab is not a veggie; use whatever veggies you like. My personal favorite sushi is just avacado, cream cheese, and carrots, but I didn't have any avacado or cream cheese on hand for the photo. Some combinations I can recommend are: crab, cucumber, carrot, and cream cheese; shrimp and avacado; salmon, mushrooms, and cucumber; or just cucumber and cream cheese if you want something truly simple.)

3) sushi nori (this you can sometimes find in the Asian aisle of your supermarket. Otherwise, find a local Asian market, walk in, look completely clueless, and whisper "sushi nori?" to the clerk, who will take pity on you and get you what you need. One bag is enough to make about 20 plates of sushi, so don't go overboard. Also, it lasts virtually forever; just keep it in a sealed ziploc bag when you're done. This stuff usually costs around $2 a package.)

4) bamboo mat for rolling the sushi (about $1)
5) decent rice. Please note, the word "decent". I have discovered to my horror that the stuff pawned off as "rice" here in the midwest is more accurately described as white shredded cardboard that could be used as packing filler. Good rice is imperative to decent sushi - and a reasonably happy life. You can either buy rice that's labeled "sushi rice", or look for such brands as Kukuho Rose, Calrose, or Nashiki. Again, you might have to go to your Asian Market for this, but trust me, it's worth it. (Follow the advice in the previous paragraph if you need help).

If you're up for the investment, buy a rice cooker. I got this one from my Mum when I got married, and it's been one of the most used appliances in my house, aside from the toilet. (Is that officially an appliance?) It's rather sad that I use my rice cooker more than my washing machine. At least my priorities are correct.
However you choose to cook your rice, just be sure that it's sticky and rather "gooey" when it's done. Remember, we're trying to avoid the cardboard filler alias.

Get out a big mixing bowl, and put about six cups of hot rice in it. Add your rice vinegar a teaspoon at a time, until the rice is slightly tart. Just slightly. We don't want puckered lips here, just a hint of tartness. Next, put in about 1/8 cup of sugar and taste your rice. Basically, you want a hint of tartness with a hint of sweetness. Keep adding vinegar or rice until you get it to your liking.
Use your bamboo mat, and put a leaf of sushi nori on it. Then, place a row or rice on the front of the nori.
Put your veggies combo on top of the rice, and then another layer of rice on that.
Use your bamboo mat to roll up the sushi in a "jelly roll" style. Every quarter turn, pull your mat tight so that the rice and veggies are nice and cozy inside. Don't worry, veggies are very liberal-minded; they'll cuddle up with anything.
When you've gotten to the end of the roll, open your mat. The sushi roll should pretty much stick to itself, but you might need to "glue" the rolled edge down with a bit of water dabbed on the edge. (Just get your fingers wet and run them along the dry edge of the nori).
Use a sharp knife (I'll spare you my Sharp Knife Rant for once), and cut the roll into wheels.
Ta-daaa! Sushi! Now, it's important for your state of zen and peace that you put it on a pretty plate (that is, if your children haven't broken them all yet). Serve with some soy sauce and a bit of wasabi if you'd like.
(Special disclaimer: wasabi is Japanese horseradish, and has the ability to blow holes in the Great Wall of China. Use a DAB of it and mix it with soy sauce, then GENTLY dip your sushi in it. If you lose all your nose hairs, just consider that an added bonus.)

This is the best picture I could get of my sushi, because Handyman was hovering over my shoulder trying to snatch my subject before I could focus the camera.

Now you've got your basic sushi making skills! Be wild! Be crazy! Add some yellow pepper if you're feeling especially daring!

Rice vinegar, 6-8 cups of rice, 1/4 - 1/2 cup of sugar, sushi nori, veggies and other optional fillers (crab, shrimp, fish), soy sauce, and wasabi.

(Other sushi recipe ideas can be found here.)


Flipfloppingmamma said...

Where I come from we fry our fish!

Sereknitty said...

So colourful, so pretty and artistic! I love how sushi looks on a plate, and have tried it a few times, but alas, cold rice leaves me, well ... 'cold'.

Twinmama said...

I didn't know sushi could be w/o raw fish! If sushi is your thing, wow, you made it simple...but I don't care for cold rice either.

We have a rice cooker and love how easy it is - I always thought rice was done on the stove, what a mess!

BTW, you can get Calrose rice at Super Walmart too.

adrienne said...

i <3 sushi! we get fancy and make tempura roll sushi! yummy!!!!!!
california roll and inari sushi.

dang, you are making me crave sushi!

TuttleTime said...

Thank you so much for posting this informative, educational, and ENTERTAINING post. I was reading it like little Peter reads that lion book (what's it called?) Anyway, I love the pictures and fancy ways you says stuff. It's hilarious. I have never ever braved making sushi for myself, but it looks so simple! I do know that the real art is keeping the roll nice and tights. Mike usually hates sushi, but perhaps if I make it, he'll eat it. He braves anything I take the time to make. :) Thanks again. You dazzled me. Ha! I love that word, "Dazzle." Ok, I think my meds are wearing off. goodnight.

Ellen said...

Ok. I am going to make this tonight because Dad and Nathan need a good nose hair burning!!!

Acornbud said...

Nice tutorial!

Anonymous said...

Despite living in CAsia I haven't attempted sushi...after reading I can't wait to try!, miss you guys, keep warm.

beadlizard said...

You inspired me. I know how to make sushi but have been buying it since we're within a few blocks of multiple Japanese restaurants. As a budget-cutting measure, we'll now be making it at home. The rice cooker will pay for itself after just a few meals! Thanks for the clear photos -- a good reminder so I don't leave out a step. --Syl

Nikki said...

Thanks for linking this chiquita!!!! I'll have to show this to bobby...maybe he'll actually try it. Or maybe we'll just go to Shogun LOL

Heather said...

i was one of the few moms who ate the sushi at the mops meeting! love the stuff!!

Hawaiian native said...

Why make it! When you can easily run out and buy it! There's sushi everywhere you go...