Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Make Your Own Sushi!

You can't go wrong with my non-fail Sushi Rice Recipe, and photo steps for rolling Norimaki and Uramaki Rolls, so why not give it a go?

Not only is it delicious and impressive to serve to dinner guests, you can make it to suit everyone's tastes - or even better, people can have a go at rolling their own - it's great fun to do with a partner, or older children, for something a bit different!

This quantity easily serves 4 as a main, much more if for nibbles/starters/side dishes. Total calorie count for the rice (including dressing) 1,187 - therefore, rice (only_ per serving, between 4 people as a main would be 297 calories each. However, bear in mind that the fillings are in very small quantities, and very low fat, so you won't be going much higher than that when you've made it, if you make it in rolls.

Below, you will find the ingredients to make enough sushi rice for a four person main meal (or starters/sides/snacks for double that). Sushi does not have to be rolled up in seaweed (Toasted Nori Sheets), it can be served simply, with ingredients all scattered on the top, or some mixed in, in a big dish for people to help themselves to - so there's no need to worry if wrapping things up isn't your forte. Plenty of ideas below!
I have provided a non-fail recipe for perfect sushi rice (if you follow the instructions!), along with some photographs which I hope will help if you want to make Nori-maki or Urimake rolls (the most well-known), which are great fun to have a go at! If you want to know a little more about it before you start, you can always have a look in the usual place.

Ingredients for sushi rice

300g sushi rice (or similar short grain, preferably Japanese short grain) [1029]
[Optional flavouring – piece of Kombu (size of a postcard), or a kombu knot]
330ml water (very important to measure this out)

For the sushi vinegar mix

6 tbsp rice wine vinegar [36]
2 tbsp (caster) sugar (can be reduced or omitted) [122]
1 tsp fine sea salt

(serving suggestions and filling/topping suggestions further below)

Equipment needed
Large pan with tight fitting lid, for boiling/steaming rice. This is all, if you would like to make ‘scattered sushi’ (like a rice salad, except dressed sushi rice with lots of toppings thrown on top – traditional home cooking). Rolling mat (cost pennies) for sushi, if you want to make rolls. Pastry brush to moisten Nori seaweed if you want to make maki rolls (or could use fingertips, but more difficult).

This might look long, but don’t be put off! Once you’ve done it once, you’ll see it’s easy, it works, and the only reason this is long is because I wanted to explain why you do things, and which ones are important… (don’t take the pan lid off!).

First of all wash the rice. You could do this by putting it in a sieve, then either putting it in a large pan of water, and swirling it around with your hand in the water, then changing the water until it stays clear.

Otherwise rinse well under running water. Drain the rice, and if you have time, leave it for half an hour to absorb the excess water (desirable, but not essential).

Meanwhile, put the vinegar, sugar (if using) and salt into a non-reactive jug or bowl (not metal) and stir until dissolved. Set aside.

Put the rice and the 330ml water into a large, heavy-based pan with a tight-fitting lid. (If you’re using Kombu - which is entirely optional, not necessary - make a few snips in it with some scissors, to help let the flavour out when it cooks, and add this at the same time.) Put the heat on low/moderate and bring to the boil. DO NOT OPEN THE PAN LID AT ANY POINT! DON’T BE TEMPTED!!! As soon as the rice comes to the boil (you should be able to hear it bubbling), turn the heat UP (yes, up! To build up steam) for a further 3-5 minutes, again not removing the lid at any point. Turn the heat off, and leave the rice to steam for 10-15 minutes. (this is why you don’t take the lid off at any point, as you will lose the heat/steam/water in the pan, and this is what will give you perfect, sticky but firm sushi rice).

Start adding the vinegar mix, and cutting it in (you can transfer the rice to a wet bowl if you like to make it easier – a wet wooden bowl works best, with a wet wooden spoon, to stop it sticking). Cutting in is a bit like the motion of folding in, cutting through the rice and turning it. If you want to be really traditional (and look a bit insane), put a fan on it to cool it down as you’re adding the vinegar and stirring. Or just keep going until it starts to look glossy and has cooled down a bit.

So, you should have yourself some perfect sushi rice now! Cover it with a damp towel while it finishes cooling down, and put to one side until you need it.

If you’re eating it the same day you make it, you shouldn’t need to refrigerate it, as the vinegar will preserve it. If not, you can store it in the fridge, and it will keep for a few days, but it does  become slightly harder and lose a little flavour. Try to serve it at room temperature, when you do.

Things to do with sushi rice and ways to serve it
The easiest thing is to serve it scattered with other ingredients (Chirashi sushi), like a rice salad. This is a popular way for it to be served at family gatherings. Ingredients can be cooked or uncooked, mixed in and/or scattered on the top, there are no set ingredients, and they tend to be seasonal. So you can use almost anything you fancy! Filling, fast, and easy to make.

Then there is Maki sushi, which are the rolls of sushi most people are familiar with. Norimaki are the rolls which are wrapped in seaweed (toasted nori sheets, available in supermarkets), but you do not have to roll them in seaweed, you can also roll them in thin omelettes, blanched carrot or daikon (Japanese radish / mooli) slices, or even cucumber slices.

Uramaki are the ‘inside out’ sushi rolls, with the rice on the outside (sometimes rolled in toasted sesame seeds, or fish roe), and the seaweed holding the fillings on the inside.

Nigiri sushi, are the little rectangular shaped blocks of sushi, with toppings. They can be molded into ovals or balls with wet hands, but it is tricky, and they are usually made with a little rectangular mold (you can pick plastic ones up for pennies, or just use old-fashioned ice-cube trays or similar), pressed between the palms of the hands, then draped with a topping – usually fish, seafood or egg.

Temaki (hand roll) are the cones with the sushi on
the inside, and the other ingredients showing out of the top of the cone. Need to be eaten quickly after making (unlike chirashi, maki, uramaki or nigiri which can be made ahead, and can last for a few days in the fridge, if stored properly) or the nori (seaweed) goes soggy.

There are more varieties, but these are the most common. Instructions (with stages photographed) are below, for Norimaki and Uramaki sushi rolls, along with some ideas for Chirashi toppings.

Sushi is usually served with soy sauce (use tamari if you're avoiding gluten/wheat) – interestingly, traditionally (with topped sushi, e.g. nigiri) the sushi is turned upside down, so that only the topping is dipped in the soy sauce, because otherwise the soy soaks into the rice (which is already seasoned, and will fall apart in your hands if it gets soaked in soy! I think we've all been there, haven't we...) – but if this too tricky, it’s also acceptable to dip some sliced ginger into the soy, and use this as a brush to season your sushi. Wasabi is often served as a condiment, but traditionally the sushi chefs put it into the sushi (e.g. a tiny smear inside rolls, or under the toppings) and it is/was considered the chef would season it correctly.  Pickled (sushi) ginger is also commonly served as a condiment.

Fillings and toppings for sushi
Important: first of all, if you’re going to use ‘sashimi’ – or ‘raw fish’, as we know it, you must buy super-fresh ‘sashimi grade’ fish (e.g. tuna, salmon etc.). The EU forbids the use of fresh raw fish for sashimi, and stipulates that it must have been frozen for at least 24 hours at temperatures below -4F/-20C, so fishing boats/suppliers/restaurants etc. of sashimi make sure they have bought properly treated fish, or frozen it themselves.

If you want to freeze your own fresh fish from a reputable supplier in order to use as sashimi, or take your chances with raw fresh fish, that’s up to you. Personally, I buy fresh tuna and fresh salmon, and eat them both seared (rare in the middle, as well as home-curing and smoking my own salmon and eating it without incident), but that is my own choice, so please be sensible about your choices, especially if you yourself, or anyone you are serving food to may have a compromised immune system (e.g. elderly, pregnant, young children, on specific medications etc.). You can always use pre-bought smoked salmon etc. as a compromise. OK, that’s the health and safety stuff out of the way…

You can be as creative as you like, or you can google for ideas for fillings and toppings inspiration and recipes. Even those perennial favourites of some 5:2 dieters, The Hairy Bikers, have a couple of sushi recipes of their own out there! See here for their take on it!

The more traditional fillings/toppings would include things like:
Fish and seafood: (sashimi grade) raw salmon, raw tuna, snapper, mackerel, squid, octopus, eel (and smoked eel), prawn/shrimp, scallop, sea urchin (!), crab, soft-shell crab and fish roe (eggs).
Eggs: In Japanese omelette form – both as a topping, a filling and as a thin omelette to wrap sushi in. Quail eggs (raw) as a topping.
Vegetables (and fruits): Cucumber, asparagus, pickled daikon and other pickled vegetables , bamboo shoots, carrots, yams, gourds, pickled plums (umeboshi)  Japanese vegetables not readily available here (but see below for modern fillings).

More contemporary fillings include many of the above, plus additional fillings/toppings such as:
Meat and fish: Seared beef slices, duck, teriyaki chicken/beef/eel, crispy salmon skin, tempura prawns/shrimp/soft shell crabs, smoked salmon, tinned tuna (mixed with mayonnaise) and crab sticks.
Vegetables (and fruits): Avocado, bean sprouts, okra, lettuce/leaves, red pepper (and cucumber and carrots [nice julienned and quickly soaked in a little vinegar and mirin/sugar , for a pickled taste] in abundance).

The best thing to do if it’s your first time having a go, is cook the rice and cool it, prepare a few fillings (or toppings if you’re feeling confident about shaping some nigiri, or if you’d like to just make some simple ‘scattered sushi’ – ideas beneath the rolling instructions), by slicing up an assortment of vegetables you like, with some sliced (or flaked/shredded) fish (or meat/slices of omelette), and have a go at it, with company, and a couple of bamboo rolling mats – it’s quite fun, and children enjoy it too. You could even just serve it all with bowls, and let people put the rice in the bottom of their bowl and help themselves to which toppings they’d like as a social affair, with condiments. If you want to make sushi rolls for your friends, rather than with them (for a dinner party), you can make them the day before and they will keep quite happily in the fridge.

Just remember to have a bowl of water beside you when doing it, as sushi rice sticks to dry hands like glue, and you’ll need to keep dipping in as you go.

Making your own sushi rolls
So, here’s how to roll it, if you want to have a go! Well, at least... ‘this is how I roll’…ho hum! (I'll get my coat!)

Rolling ‘Norimaki’
You need a sushi/bamboo rolling mat, some cooked and cooled sushi rice (recipe above), some toasted nori sheets (supermarket, and they keep well) and some vegetables/fish/seafood/meat/omelette sliced into strips (see fillings and toppings for suggestions – plus one of the photos at the top is my set of cobbled together prepared ingredients! You don't actually need an awful lot, for this quantity of rice if you're putting it in rolls).

You also need a bowl of cold water (to keep your hands wet, to brush the seaweed to seal it at the end, and to wet your knife for slicing), a pastry brush if you have one, the very sharpest knife you own and some optional wasabi paste.

Set everything out, with the bowl of water right next to you. Put a sheet of Nori (seaweed) with the shiny, smooth sidedown in the middle of your sushi mat. Put 2-3 heaped tablespoons of  rice onto the bottom of the seaweed sheet, and wet your hands and spread over the bottom third of the sheet using the spoon and your hands (see Fig. 1). You may need more or less depending on the size of the sheet, and how thick you want the roll to be (you could also cover ¾, if you want a spiral effect inside your roll, be creative!).

Make a dent/groove in the middle of the rice you’ve spread out, from side to side (Fig. 1), and if you want to, spread the tiniest smear of wasabi along it (especially good for salmon and cucumber rolls).
Carefully lay the vegetables and/or fish/omelette/meat along the groove (Fig. 2).

Fig. 1. Putting the rice on.           Fig. 2. Adding fillings.  


Fig. 3. Rolling with the mat.        Fig. 4. The roll before slicing.

Wet your fingers again, then take the edge of the sushi mat nearest you, lift upwards and carefully over the rice (you might want to hold the vegetables in place, while you do this, until you touch down on the other side of the rice!). Keep your thumbs gently pressing down as you go, until you’ve gone over the top of the rice (a bit like making a swiss roll), then push the mat down, and crimp it in near the bottom where the part of the mat is touching the bottom of the roll (see Fig. 3) to tighten and secure the roll so far. Don’t be afraid to give it a good, firm squeeze or two, you want to pack it tight, and secure what you’ve done in an even cylinder, before you give it the final roll and seal it – a loose sushi roll will be really difficult to slice and go out of shape.
Don’t be afraid to lift up the mat, to have a look at the roll at this stage, and tuck anything in that might have fallen out, and give it another quick squeeze! Once you’re happy, lightly brush the remaining exposed nori sheet (on Fig 3, you can see the rest of the Nori sticking out – you just need to lift up the rolling mat to lightly moisten the inch or so you can’t see that hasn’t got rice on it, and moisten the whole lot) and carefully pull the top end of the sushi mat away from you, whilst gently pressing down, to ensure the roll is firmly rolled up and closed (don’t tuck the top of the sushi mat into the roll!. Give it another good squeeze with the mat, making a cylindrical shape. Hopefully, you will end up with a relatively neat sushi roll (Fig. 4), ready to slice – or store in the fridge, prior to slicing. (See middle photo at the top, for partially sliced nori-maki)
To slice: You need a really, really sharp WET knife, and you’re not supposed to ‘saw’ it – if your sharpest knife is struggling, slightly dampen the seaweed with a moist pastry brush to make it easier to get through, and you can even use a slightly serrated knife if you must, holding the sushi, and gently going from side to side if you can’t get straight though, but try not to rip up the seaweed after all that hard work! Make sure your knife is clean after each slice, and wet it again, to get a clean cut, otherwise it will just stick. Then admire the pretty results of your work, and serve with soy sauce, pickled ginger, and (optional) wasabi!

Rolling ‘Uramaki’ – ‘inside-out Maki’
Put the nori, shiny side down on the sushi mat (if you’ve got 2 sushi mats, this is slightly easier in a minute!). Spread rice over the top 2/3 of the nori (Fig. 1) with a spoon and wet hands, and sprinkle with sesame seeds, or roe (fish eggs) if desired. Then put a sheet of clingfilm over the top, put your second sushi mat on top of that (or a plate or board) and turn the whole thing over (sideways, keeping the rice to the top). If you only had one sushi mat, take it off the top, and slide it under the cling film.

Add your first layer of filling at the bottom of the nori (Fig.2, I used avocado), slightly dampen the first inch of the nori, and roll it over the first layer.

Fig. 1. Putting on the rice.       Fig. 2. Adding the first layer.

Fig. 3. Rolling and 2nd layer.     Fig. 4. Adding the final layer.

Then add the next layer, right next to where you’ve rolled up the first layer (Fig.3, you can see carrots dressed in rice vinegar and mirin here). Again, slightly moisten the nori next to the layer, and roll it over again. If you want to add another layer, repeat again (Fig.4, I added omelette and salmon, purely because I had it leftover!) and add further layers as you wish, but stop before, or when you reach where the rice is, so that everything can be wrapped within the rice underneath.

When you’ve finished adding your layers and wrapping them, it’s time to start rolling the rest with the rice. Slightly dampen the rest of the nori, then using the sushi mat to guide you, take the clingflim over (Fig.5 making sure you don’t accidentally tuck it into the roll), and carefully but firmly finish rolling it, making sure it’s not loose.

Once you have finished rolling, if you want to make the roll even tighter, make sure the clingfilm is wrapped all the way around it, then twist the ends of the clingfilm (Fig. 6), hold onto them, and roll the sushi away from you to tighten it. At this point, you can refrigerate whole until you want it, and slice just before serving, or if you want slice and plate up.

Fig. 5. Starting the final roll.     Fig. 6. Rolled up, and tightened.             

Fig. 7. Slicing up the roll.          Fig. 8. The sliced roll.

Personally, I find it easier to leave the roll wrapped in cling film, and carefully slice through the film (wetting the knife each time), and remove the film from each piece as I slice it (Fig. 7), being careful not to leave any little pieces of film on the slices. This leaves you with the pretty impressive finished article (Fig. 8). Easiest eaten whole, with fingers!

Chirashi sushi (scattered sushi)
Simply spread the cooked sushi rice into the bottom of a large serving dish (swirl a tablespoon of rice vinegar around the bowl first, to stop the rice sticking), and top and serve!

By far, the easiest way to serve sushi, and you can top it with a scattering of whatever you like (see toppings/fillings above for ideas).

Ideas for combinations to share could be
Steamed broccoli, asparagus and/or beans (cut into small florets / 3cm lengths) (approx. 200g), scattered with a couple of eggs cooked as an omelette then cut into ribbons (or cooled scrambled eggs), a scattering of toasted sesame seeds, and some finely shredded nori strips to garnish. Sprinkle with light (or dark, or tamari if you want gluten free) soy sauce, and a few drops of toasted sesame oil.

Teriyaki chicken, griddled or grilled spring onions chopped into 3cm lengths, cooked edamame beans or steamed sugar snap peas/mangetout, julienned carrot marinated briefly in rice wine vinegar and a pinch of sugar, any remaining teriyaki marinade/sauce boiled down to drizzle over the top. Scatter toasted white sesame seeds on top.

Marinated tofu pieces, cooled roasted squash/sweet potato with soy-honey glaze and sesame seeds, sesame-miso green beans (see recipes) and sliced red radishes.

Smoked, or sashimi salmon, cucumber and avocado half-slices, scattered cress, mizuna leaves and snipped chives with a drizzle of light soy sauce.

Slices of seared marinated tuna, finely sliced or julienned daikon (or sliced red radishes) and carrot marinated in equal quantities of lemon and soy, steamed mange-tout cut in half on the diagonal, wakami soaked and rinsed and placed in small piles, scattered with toasted white sesame seeds.

Anything you fancy, or have leftover, be creative! Have fun trying to make some sushi, whether it’s with your friends, or family, or children, or on your own making it for having people over to eat it, or for everyone’s lunchboxes tomorrow, for something a bit different.

1 comment:

  1. It’s nice to see how your post does not only give out recipes on how to make sushi. It also gives a little background about the different kinds of sushi, which I think is very helpful. Sushi is a great dish to serve at family gatherings. It’s delicious and classy. Thanks for sharing! :D
    Eddie Munoz @ Mikuni Sushi


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