My girlfriend, Tasha, invited me over to make sushi with her. You can make sushi at home?! Well, no, you’re not going to make professional level sushi. Sushi masters go through an apprenticeship that lasts about 10 years. But, making perfectly imperfect homemade sushi that you’ll be proud to bring to the table is definitely doable. Here’s that first sushi we made together.
I was hooked! I ordered a rolling mat kit to make my sushi and a darling little panda rice mold to turn the extra rice into cutie pie pandas for my kids’ lunchboxes. The second time I made inside out rolls and loved the way they turned out. I ordered a big bag of nori sheets to fuel my fun. The rolling kit is really the only equipment you need. I’ve had a Zojirushi 10 cup rice cooker for years, and I absolutely love it, but you don’t need one.
Later on, I was playing in Maangchi’s Real Korean Cooking and discovered gimbap, a delicious Korean dish with seasoned beef and vegetable rolls.
Then I found another type of sushi, hand rolls, in Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking (Morimoto). They’re a much more casual handling, so I thought they’d have wonderful party potential. If you had all the ingredients plated, guests could make their perfect roll.
We were just down at Disney. The Japan pavilion has a few restaurants, drummers, a museum of cuteness, and a huge store. It’s fantastic in there. My husband and I enjoyed a little sake tasting and bought a beautiful sake set and citrus sake to take home. My kids ordered sushi so many times on our trip. They were in love and I wanted to step up my game for them, so I thought I’d order a stand alone sushi book, The Complete Book of Sushi.
I was so excited when I saw the range in the book. Composed sushi bowls?! I’d never even heard of that!
The book started with an interesting history lesson. Sushi, like so many wonderful things, started from the necessity of preserving food. They packed layers of fish and rice, and let it ferment for 9 months. They ate the fish and threw out the rice. When someone figured how to speed up the process, the rice could be eaten, too. The flavor was desirable, so someone figured out how to get some of that fermented flavor in less time by adding vinegar to the rice, the beginning of the sushi that we know and love.
Then the authors talked out etiquette. You probably know that the tips of your chopsticks must be separated from a table surface by a chopstick rest, your plate, or a napkin. But did you know that the tips of them must point to the left? It’s considered bad luck to have them right facing.
Okay, I’ll get to my full review of the book afterwards, but first I wanted to share a few recipes from the book with you to try. Thank you so much to Tuttle Publishing for giving me permission!
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Tips for making perfect sushi rice
1 To successfully make sushi rice, choose short or medium grain rice; this has the right texture, taste and consistency to cling together without being too sticky when cooked.
2 A rice cooker is highly recommended as it produces perfect rice every time. The absorption method in a saucepan or microwave also works well, but avoid the rapid boil method.
3 Rinse rice 3–4 times before cooking to remove excess surface starch that could make the rice too sticky. Drain for 15 minutes.
4 Cool warm rice using an electric fan on lowest setting.
5 The standard rice cup provided with a rice cooker = 1 cup (5 oz/150 g) uncooked rice; 1 metric cup (8 oz/ 250g) = about 1 1/3 cups (7 oz/220 g) uncooked rice. Be sure to use the same cup to measure rice and water.
6 The texture of cooked rice is a matter of taste and varies with the age and storage conditions of uncooked rice. For a softer rice texture, cook the rice with a little more water. For a firmer texture, decrease the water amount.
7 Sushi rice is cooked with slightly less water than rice served as a side dish. It is slightly firmer and chewier than plain steamed rice.
3 cups (20 oz/600 g) uncooked short grain rice
3–3 ¼ cups (24–27fl oz/750–815 ml) water depending on age of rice and texture preference (see Tip number 6 above)
8 tablespoons (3.5 fl oz/120 ml) rice vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Makes about 9 cups (about 3 lb/1.5 kg), depending on how densely rice was packed.
For additional flavor, add a piece of konbu or a little sake to the rice while it is cooking. For variety, add grated lemon zest, finely chopped fresh herbs, roasted nuts, toasted sesame seeds, pickled vegetables, wakame (seaweed) or finely grated fresh ginger to cooked sushi rice.
Tip for making black sushi rice
Follow the steps for white sushi rice on page 45, with the following variations: at Step 1, combine uncooked short-grain rice with 3 tablespoons of uncooked black rice. At Step 4, combine salt and vinegar, but add 1 tablespoon mirin and only 2 tablespoons sugar.
Brown sushi rice
2 cups (13 oz/400 g) uncooked short grain brown rice
2 ¾–3 cups water (22–24 fl oz/685–750 ml), depending on age of rice and texture preference (see Tip number 6 above)
¼ cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
Although short grain brown rice does not cling as easily as short grain white rice, its nutty flavor and chewier texture make an interesting alternative.
Rinse brown rice once and cook as white sushi rice until most liquid is absorbed, about 30–35 minutes. Remove from heat and stand, covered, 10–15 minutes longer. Combine ingredients of sushi vinegar, stir into rice and fan to cool.
1 Put rice in a bowl, fill bowl with cold water and mix gently with hand. Drain and repeat 2–3 times until water is nearly clear.
2 Leave rice under cold running water for a few minutes.
3 Drain well for 15–30 minutes or put rice and measured water in rice cooker or saucepan and let stand for 30 minutes.
4 To make sushi vinegar: Combine vinegar, sugar and salt, stirring well until sugar dissolves. Mixture can be gently heated to dissolve sugar and make the vinegar slightly milder. Set aside until required.
5 To cook rice in a rice cooker: Measure rice. After rinsing, put rice in rice cooker and add water to the required cup measurement marked on inside of bowl in rice cooker. Cover and switch to cook. When cooker switches to keep warm, let stand with lid on to complete cooking process, about 10 minutes.
6 To cook rice in a saucepan: In a medium saucepan bring rinsed rice and water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, on low heat until all water is absorbed, 12–15 minutes.
7 Remove from heat and let stand with lid on to complete the cooking process, 10–15 minutes. Note: Rice can also be cooked in the microwave or steamed in a bamboo steamer.
8 Spread rice out in a large, preferably flat-bottomed, nonmetallic bowl or tub
9 Using a rice paddle or wooden spoon, slice through rice at a 45 degree angle to break up any lumps, while slowly pouring sushi vinegar over rice to distribute evenly. You may not need all the vinegar.
10 Continue to slice, not stir (as it squashes the grains), lifting and turning the rice from the outside into the center.
11 Fan the rice so it cools to body temperature, turning it occasionally, 5–8 minutes. Cooling gives good flavor, texture and gloss to the rice. If rice becomes too cold it hardens; do not refrigerate.
12 To stop rice from drying out, keep covered with a damp cloth while making sushi. Alternatively, keep in a nonstick surface rice cooker.
Step-by-step inside-out sushi rolls
Makes 4 rolls (32 pieces)
4 nori sheets
3 cups (15 oz/470 g) sushi rice (see page 44)
8 teaspoons ocean trout roe or tobiko (flying fish roe)
1–2 cucumbers, cut into thin, lengthwise slices
1–2 avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
8 jumbo shrimp (king prawns), cooked, shelled, veins and tails removed (see page 101)
4–8 lettuce leaves, torn or sliced (optional)
1 Cover a rolling mat with a sheet of plastic wrap, folding it over edges and attaching it to back of mat. Turn mat over so plastic-covered side is facing down. Lay 1 nori sheet on rolling mat. Use about ¾ cup (4 oz/125 g) rice to cover nori sheet, starting with a ball of rice at bottom and then spreading it out. Cover nori with rice right up to edges. Spread about 2 heaped teaspoons roe over rice, using the back of a teaspoon.
2 Pick up rice-covered nori by corners, quickly turn it over and place upside down on bamboo rolling mat.
3 Add lettuce, if desired. Place sliced cucumber along center of nori. Add avocado, then shrimp. With your hands held over base of mat and pressing in on ingredients with your fingers as you go, roll mat over ingredients, leaving ¾ inch (2 cm) of nori visible at far end of nori end of roll.
4 Press gently to mold roll together. Lift up mat, roll back a little, then roll forward to join nori edges. Use gentle pressure to firm and mold completed roll into shape, either round, oval or square.
5 Using a sharp knife, cut each roll in half, then cut two halves in half again. Then cut four quarters in half to make 8 equal-sized pieces. Cut gently to maintain shape.
New Yorker rolls with spicy sirloin
Makes 8 pieces (This makes 1 roll. I multiply it by 4 for a family dinner. ~Jen)
canola oil, for deep-frying
1 scallion (shallot/spring onion), finely shredded
1 carrot, peeled and finely shredded
Thai basil sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon fish sauce
2 fresh Thai basil leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 oz (60 g) sirloin, thinly sliced (I put it in the freezer for 20 minutes to make really thin slicing much easier. ~Jen)
¾ nori sheet
1 cup (5 oz/150 g) sushi rice (see page 44)
2 fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon wasabi paste
1 Fill a tempura pan or deep-fryer one-third full with canola oil and heat over medium-high heat to 365°F (185°C). Fry scallion until golden brown. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat with carrot. Set aside.
2 To make Thai basil sauce: Combine rice vinegar, fish sauce, basil and sugar in a bowl and mix well. Set aside.
3 Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a frying pan over medium heat, and cook sirloin, turning once, until rare, about 3 seconds. Transfer sirloin to a plate to cool.
4 Place nori on a bamboo sushi mat, glossy side down. Place sirloin slices over three-quarters of nori, toward the front, and with wet hands spread sushi rice over sirloin. With your index finger, smear wasabi and garlic across center. Top with cilantro.
5 Using your index finger and thumb, pick up edge of sushi mat nearest to you. Place remaining fingers over fillings to hold them as you roll the mat forward tightly. Press gently and continue rolling forward to complete roll. Gently press mat to shape and seal roll. Unroll mat and transfer roll to a cutting board.
6 With a dampened knife, slice roll in half. Place 2 pieces side by side and cut them in half; then cut each half again, wiping knife after each cut. Top 4 pieces with fried onion and remaining 4 pieces with carrot. Serve with Thai basil sauce.
My review of the book….
The Complete Book of Sushi
By Hideo Dekura, Brigid Treloar, and Ryuichi Yoshii
This is a fantastic book of sushi. They did such a wonderful job on it that I ended up reading the intro chapters before the recipes even began, and really got into the story of how sushi came to be and how it changed over time. Neat read! There’s a terrific range in this book. There’s a beautiful photo for each recipe.
The recipe chapters are thick sushi rolls, thin sushi rolls, inside-out sushi rolls, topped rice sushi, hand-wrapped sushi rolls, tofu pouches, battleship sushi, sushi in a bowl, sushi soups, decorative sushi, sashimi, new-style sashimi, and sauces, condiments, and accompaniments.
The only potential drawback are some typos here and there, but it’s easy to figure out what it should say from the finished pics.
My thoughts and pics on the dishes we tried:
1) New Yorker Rolls with Spicy Sirloin – p 176. These are just delicious, and the perfect sushi if you’re entertaining someone who’s not a fish fan! We loved the simple garlic and wasabi smear inside. The crispy fried carrots and scallions on top are such a fun and yummy garnish. I just shredded them with a knife, but see there’s a cool scallion shredder on Amazon for a handful of change, so I just ordered one.
2) Smoked Salmon and Asparagus with Cream Cheese – p 92. We loved these. There’s wasabi running through the center with the cream cheese, and the dill makes it so cute!
3) California Rolls – p 52. Classic avocado, cucumber, and shrimp, but this version has a little caviar smear through the center, which is so pretty and gives an extra flavor dimension, too.
4-5) Sushi Rolls – p 50. These are the first listed in the book and they’re filled with omelette, cucumber, pickled radish, beni-shoga (red pickled ginger), kampyo, and wasabi. Wonderful rolls, and they give 5 variations on the filling.
6-7) Black Rice Rolls with Apricot Glace – p 169. I love these. The apricots are rehydrated in water, sugar, mirin, and Grand marnier. The rice gets a thin stripe of chile paste that balances out that sweetness.
8) Seasoned Tofu Roll – p 134 with Seasoned Tofu Pouches – p 134. These are wonderful. My kids loved them so much, they asked me to make them again right away for their lunchboxes. The tofu simmers in dashi (stock), sugar, sake, and soy sauce. The flavor is just lovely. The scallions are supposed to be tied on top. Mine weren’t long enough, so I just wrapped scallions around and secured them with a toothpick for a few minutes until they held their shape.
9) Inside-Out Sushi – p 84. I love the aesthetic of inside-out rolls. They have the added bonus of being sticky on the outside, so you get an additional garnish opportunity. In this case it’s cute caviar. I made wasabi leaves and ginger roses on page 46 for a tasty flourish.
Some others I have flagged to try: Salmon and Avocado Roll – p 58 * Asparagus and Sweet Red Pepper Sushi Rolls – p 66 * Pickled Plum and Brown Rice Sushi Rolls – p 73 * Shrimp Tempura Rolls with Basil – p 77 * California Rolls with Crabmeat and Avocado – p 86 * Cajun-Style Spicy Rolls – p 87 * Kampyo and Snow Pea Rolls – p 90 * Thai-Flavored Papaya and Vegetable Rolls – p 93 * Broccoli and Bell Pepper Cones – p 117 * Ruby Grapefruit and Apple Mint Cone Roll – p 121 * Tempura Sushi Rolls – p 122 * Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls with Black Rice – p 125 * Blueberry Sushi with Honey Chile – p 131 * Seasoned Tofu Roll – p 134 * Avocado and Papaya Wedges – p 168 * Triangle Rolls with Dried Mango and Jumbo Shrimp – p 183