On Making Our Own Sushi
If I could offer you one piece of advice to boost your culinary confidence it would be: make your own sushi. In all the foods I love to eat out at restaurants, sushi always seemed the least attainable in my own kitchen (takeout notwithstanding). So this past weekend when David had the great idea to make our own sushi, I was amazed at our delicious results. We are by no means masterful sushi chefs but at least now we know that if it’s sushi we crave, restaurants aren’t our only option.
The secret to making good sushi is starting off with good quality ingredients. Fresh and quality are key when it comes to sushi because if you think about it, you’re not doing much else to the ingredients to doctor them up. So the first thing you need to do is decide what kind of sushi you want to make. What kind of fish will you be using? What type of prep – fish by itself (sashimi), atop a pile of rice (nigiri) or rolled up in seaweed and rice (maki roll)?
I for one cannot enjoy my sushi meal if it doesn’t have a salmon component (can you tell?). I can never get enough salmon nigiri or salmon maki rolls so when I found out the fish store we were going to had tons of sushi grade salmon, I was a happy camper. We purchased a pound of fresh sushi salmon, and a small piece of yellowfin tuna and went on our way. Just look at that piece of fish – it looks like heaven.
As complements to our fresh fish, we chose to stuff our maki rolls with mango, avocado and cucumber. In all the sushi I’ve had out, those are my three favorite sushi stuffers and they’re all easy to buy at your local grocery store or market. You also might want to go grab a santoku knife if you don’t already have one. We picked one up for $3 at Target and it really helped us cut the fish into thin strips, perfect for sushi.
When you get back to your kitchen, the first thing to do is prepare your sushi rice. Of all the ingredients you’ll be using, this of course takes the longest and I will say that this was one of our biggest challenges. Prior to this sushi adventure, I had heard that making sushi rice was not an easy task but before now I never realized how much skill went into it. Sushi rice, a short grained Japanese rice sometimes called Calrose, requires cleansing and soaking before being boiled and seasoned with rice wine vinegar.
Our book instructed us to wash the rice until the water becomes clear and not cloudy. After 3 or 4 rinses, we still had clouds in our water but decided to let it begin the soaking process. After an hour of soaking, we let it come to a boil for 15-20 minutes and then let it simmer until the water was gone. In the end, we seemed to have an abundance of perfect looking sushi rice. We then piled our mound onto a plate to give it a good seasoning and did a final taste. The seasoning gave it some good flavor but the texture was a bit…well, crunchy at times.
But we now had this massive amount of rice that couldn’t go to waste and a bunch of delicious ingredients waiting to be made into a maki roll. We sliced each ingredient into thin long strips so that they could each become a part of every piece.
We then lined a bamboo mat with a piece of seaweed, spread out some rice on top and then laid our thin long strips of salmon, mango, avocado and cucumber in the center of the rice. We started off with too much rice and too little salmon but eventually got it down to the perfect ratio.
It all would have tasted perfect if it weren’t for that darn crunch in the rice so we eventually decided to just eat the fish and veggies right out of the roll. There we were eating raw pieces of fish and cut up veggies and we were perfectly content. It still amazes me that completely uncooked ingredients, veggies and fish in their simplest form, can provide the tastiest most satisfying dinner. If that’s not an ode to simplicity, I don’t know what is.
For the nigiri, we used a plastic contraption to shape the rice, dabbed a touch of wasabi paste and spread beautifully cut pieces of fish on top. The nigiri which eventually became sashimi (nigiri sans rice) was so delicious, it was literally a dream come true. No joke, whenever I go to sushi restaurants I really just want the waiters to bring me a never ending plate of salmon nigiri but my wallet always tells me no. But if you buy it yourself, the larger portion of salmon is much more affordable.
So if I haven’t said it enough, I was in heaven. A weekend filled with homemade sushi (and more homemade pizza!) left me stuffed and much more confident in the kitchen. Hey, if David and I can make sushi, we can all conquer our fears in the kitchen. And if they don’t always turn out quite the way you imagine (like this pasta incident), it’s always worth trying just for the experience.