Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sushi rice

I've made sushi (and sushi rice) many times over the years, but this weekend I was finally able to conquer the technique to great rice! I dare not say I was able to master the sushi rice, because there are chefs that literally spend their lives perfecting this very "simple" technique. But after reading various recipes and watching multiple You Tube videos, I have to say I was finally able to produce rice with both excellent flavor and texture!

Buying pre-cut sushi-grade fish means my sashimi looks awesome!
Now that I've tackled the hardest part of sushi, my next goal is to get better at rolling. My biggest problem is overfilling the rolls (more fish! more avocado!), so some pieces are literally busting at the seams. But that just gives me more reason to practice making (and eating) sushi! And let's be honest--I'm not charging anyone for my meal here so as long as it tastes good, which it did, that's all that matters.

Each roll may not have looked perfect, but arranging the
sushi on a platter really brings out the simple beauty of this dinner.
Usually when I buy sushi-grade fish I get a small piece of tuna at Whole Foods. But this time we went to Joong Boo market in Chicago and got a package of 4 different types of sushi-grade fish (salmon, tuna, yellowtail, and smoked salmon). Not only was it half the price of Whole Foods, we had a variety of fish for our meal! All we needed then were a few other veggies (plus a bottle of sake and rice wine) and we were set for the evening.

Since we had a variety of fish, I made 4 different types of rolls.
  1. Oshinko (pickled Japanese radish). I love this sushi roll for its simplicity and salty/vinegary/sweet crunch! Find oshinko at your local asian market (it looks like this.)
  2. Spicy tuna with cucumber and avocado. To make the spicy tuna (or spicy anything) just finely chop the fish and add a touch of Sriracha and mayonnaise, to taste. (Kewpie mayo is excellent if you can get your hands on some!)
  3. Salmon with cucumber. 
  4. "Mexican" roll, which was probably my favorite. It's a combination of yellowtail, avocado, jalapeno, and cilantro and topped with very very thinly sliced lime (or lemon), peel and all. The peel can get a bit bitter and tough, but if you slice it as thinly as possible the flavor just melds into the dish. I think the citrus on top is an essential flavor component of the roll, although the boy didn't love it. So I hope try it... and if you don't like it, just take it off!
Though making sushi at home does take a little bit of investment into some of the ingredients you'll want on hand (nori, ginger, wasabi, rice vinegar, etc), it ends up being eons cheaper than going out to dinner. And it's a hell of a lot more fun too!

Yours in waiting for the day she can make sushi again,

Sushi rice, adapted from No Recipes, Morimoto, and other resources.

You should definitely read the full write-up from No Recipes. His step-by-step directions and photos cover a lot of details that I may not describe here. 

Rinsing the rice is essential to remove all that excess starch. Do not skip this step, and make sure to rinse until the water is running almost clear. 

To soak or not to soak? The recipes I found online were pretty split between soaking the rice and not soaking the rice prior to cooking. I soaked mine, so I can't say how the texture is different if you don't soak the rice. I'm sure your cooking vehicle (rice cooker vs stove top pot) and quality of rice will have a bigger impact, so it sounds like you could skip the soaking step if you felt inclined to do so.

Watch videos on how best to cool your rice down to get a sense of the technique. Here are a few that I watched on how to best cool the rice down (one, two, three). This step makes a HUGE difference in the texture of the rice, so take a few minutes to watch how other people do it. In the past my mushy sushi rice came down to the fact that I was cooling the rice by dumping it into a medium sized bowl, so the steam couldn't properly escape. Although I don't have a hangiri (the wooden bowl traditionally used to cool and season the sushi rice), I just used a large 9 x 13" glass baking dish. Sure, a wooden bowl might be preferable as it pulls away some of the moisture from the sushi rice, but what's more important is to have a container large enough so the rice can be spread out to cool (and not steam and turn to mush).

When seasoning your sushi rice the amount of liquid will seem like a lot. And it is, as you end up using ~1/4 cup seasoned vinegar for every ~2.5 cups of cooked rice. But trust me, it's fine. The rice will soak up all that delicious sweet/salty vinegary liquid and give your sushi rice that flavor that is so essential to a delicious maki roll! One more note about the vinegar seasoning: I saw a lot of different ratios out there for vinegar:sugar:salt. For example, Morimoto says 4:2:1 while No Recipes says 4:3:0.3. I didn't want the rice too sweet so I used the sugar ratio as recommended by Morimoto. But I've used the full 4:2:1 ratio in the past and it's a tad heavy on the salt to me. So ended up on a ratio that was 4:2:0.6!

My directions are for a stove-top rice method. The No Recipes link above can be useful if you are going to prepare your rice in a rice cooker.

This recipe is enough rice to make 4 - 5 sushi rolls (serves 2+ people)

250 grams (~1 1/4 cups) rice
1 1/4 cups water

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 TBSP sugar
2 tsp kosher salt (I used Morton's)

  1. Put the rice in large bowl and wash with cold tap water. Using your hands, gently rub the rice to remove the excess starches. (The water will be so cloudy from the starch that you won't be able to see the rice in your bowl!) Immediately drain the rice, rinse, and repeat the process another 4 - 6 times, or until the water is mostly clear. 
  2. Fill the bowl up once more and let the rice sit for 30 minutes.
  3. After soaking, give the rice a final rinse and drain in a fine-mesh sieve for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the rice to a large heavy bottomed pot and add water. Heat the pot over medium high and bring the water to a boil. Once the water is boiling immediately cover your pot with a tight fitting lid and turn the heat down to low. Cook the rice on low for 15 minutes.
  5. Once the rice is done, turn off the heat and let the rice steam for an additional 10 minutes.
  6. While you wait for the rice to cook, combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Microwave until the sugar and salt is just dissolved. 
  7. Once the rice is done, dump it into a very large bowl or large baking dish. Holding a wooden spoon directly over the rice, pour the vinegar mixture over the spoon, while moving the spoon around. (Watch the videos in my notes section above for a better description of this step, which helps distribute the vinegar evenly across all the rice.)
  8. Using broad flat wooden spoon in one hand and a fan or piece of cardboard in the other, gently combine the rice and vinegar using a side-to-side cutting motion with the edge of the spoon while fanning the rice. (The side-to-side motion is used to separate each grain of rice, so the vinegar penetrates every surface without mashing the rice. The fan is used to cool the rice and evaporate any excess liquid evaporate quickly, which gives your rice a nice shine and prevents it from getting mushy.) The rice is done when the surface is no longer wet and slippery, the rice is fluffy, and each grain is very shiny. It will still be a little warm, but it should not be hot.
  9. Spread the rice out over the surface of your bowl or baking dish, and cover with a damp towel until you're ready to use it.


Jenniffer said...

Your sushi looks great! I have tried making it before and it's incredibly hard.

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