We love seaweed, how about you?
People were confused when I told them my aunt Linda and I would be making sushi for January’s 24, 24, 24 event. “Isn’t that raw fish?” they asked, knowing I’m not a huge fan of animal foods. Technically, sushi is rice that’s been specially prepared with vinegar and a little sugar, and topped with or rolled with…something.
It could be a shaped piece of rice with a slice of lightly steamed bias-cut carrot on top, tied with a scallion. This is nigiri sushi.
It could be a fat roll of rice bound in nori (seaweed) and filled with imitation crab strips, tamago (japanese omelet), scallion, and cucumber. This is futo maki.
It could be an inside out roll, with the rice outside the seaweed, all enveloping imitation crab, avocado, and pickled beets. This is uramaki. But everyone calls it inside out roll.
It could even be dessert.
Other forms of sushi include battleship roll (gunkan), which we didn’t make, temaki, which we didn’t make, and hosomaki, or thin rolls, which we did make, but I didn’t get any closeups of. Thin rolls use half a sheet of nori and are filled with only one or two ingredients besides the sushi rice.
what’s in this post, and what isn’t
This post isn’t going to include detailed instructions for making sushi. One, I’m no expert. I just made it for the first time. Two, if I started giving instructions, I’d never stop, and this would run 2,000 words or more. What I will tell you is what’s involved, the accompaniments, how our experience went, and a few links where you can get more information if you’d like to give it a try yourself.
And a recipe for rice for dessert sushi at the end!
accompaniments and fillings we used
One thing that’s absolutely necessary is a bamboo rolling mat. We got ours for $1.99 at a Chinese grocery. Well, we also got two more in a sushi kit Linda found at Barnes and Noble. The kit contained the book Sushi with Style, which turned out to be a clearly-written, informative resource. There’s a bamboo sushi rolling mat at Amazon for $6 that includes a paddle if you have any trouble finding one.
Pink slivers of tangy ginger, these are meant to cleans the palate between bites of sushi. Right. Philistine that I am, I slap a piece of pickled ginger right on top of every piece of sushi I eat. It’s that good.
For this experiment, I made some pickled ginger of my own. Let’s just say that the inner, woody parts of ginger are not something you want to chew on, unless you really enjoy chewing.
Green, insanely hot horseradish. Sold as a paste or powder. The lady at the Chinese supermarket and the sushi book both recommend using the powder as it’s better tasting. I wouldn’t know. I won’t touch the stuff. We did make some and use it, though. It makes a good glue for pasting toppings to the rice in nigiri.
Toasted sesame seeds.
Nice for decorating the outsides of inside-out rolls. Like a dumbass, I bought the unroasted kind a while back so now I have to toast them myself. Hey, look at my shiny new pan.
A Japanese omelet made with, among other things, mirin, a sweet rice wine usually found near the vinegars in the store. Or the Asian section. I made one of these, too.
We used cucumber, carrot, scallions, pickled beets, and avocado.
Fish, raw and cooked.
We used imitation crab and raw tuna steak. I got to keep the leftover tuna to cook up later, slapped it in a lime-ginger marinade, pan-seared it, and it was good.
You need sushi rice, a medium-grain rice. We used brown rice because of the whole whole-grain dealy. After cooking the rice, you mix in a vinegar-sugar sauce that lightly flavors the rice and helps it stick together. I’m not going to get into all the detail, because there was all this anal-retentive dribbling of the sauce into the rice down the back of the rice paddle (yes, the paddle actually has a groove for this, it’s nuts), fanning of the rice to cool its delicate little toes, and speaking to the rice in hushed tones so as not to break its pretty little grains. However, the people at The Global Gourmet have a good how-to guide on preparing your sushi rice, and the technique for cooking brown sushi rice that I used — in a pressure cooker!
so, how did it go?
Linda arrived around noon bearing ingredients and her pressure cooker. I earned a well-deserved glower when I showed her the brand spanking new pressure cooker I had already borrowed from my friend Lori.
However, Linda’s old-school stovetop pressure cooker came in handy when the power went out just as I was about to get the rice going (it had been soaking, as instructed in the anal-retentive sushi rice instructions, for over an hour already). Twice. She took a batch of the rice to her house to cook on the gas stovetop.
Chubby gods smiled upon us and the power didn’t go out again, and we commenced work making the kitchen into a disaster zone.
As usual when we’re making something brand new to us, things were so hectic I didn’t get any nice step-by-step shots. However, I was able to sneak in a five-second breather to snap a pic of how rice looks spread on nori, ready for fillings. You’d just lay three or four ingredients lengthwise in the middle of the rice, next to one another, not on top, and use the mat to roll it all up.
Some fillings: steamed bias-cut carrot coins for nigiri, scallions, tamago.
The book offered a sushi rice recipe made with cream of coconut and rum instead of vinegar and sugar, and suggested trying dessert sushi. We didn’t have cream of coconut so I cracked open (get it? cracked? coconut?) a can of coconut milk and got some of the coconut cream that had solidified from that. We seasoned a batch of rice with it and shaped it into nigiri.
Instead of wasabi, which would be pretty damn gross with fruit, the “glue” we used was strawberry jam, boiled cider that I had in the fridge (don’t ask), or apple butter.
The fruit toppers were slices of kiwi and mango, and we topped those with flaked coconut, a slice of candied ginger, and/or coarse sparkling sugar.
sisterhood of the traveling sushi
Linda posited that we made a good $60 of sushi. This was kind of a lot for two people, so we took the show on the road, first to my sister’s.
After some trepidation, not only Jennifer, but her husband Dale, who isn’t the sushi type, tried several varieties. I was pretty shocked. The dessert sushi was a hit, as was the inside-out roll with crab, avocado, and pickled beet.
Maggie snubbed the sushi, instead making up a bowl of some soggy cereal and pretending to be shy for the camera.
Afterwards, we took some over to Mom and Dad’s, and Mom gamely tried a bit as well.
is this really something you want to do at home?
Absolutely! Don’t be frightened by our scary messy kitchen pic. That was from making like, a dozen? kinds of sushi, including both a sweet and savory rice. The actual technique isn’t that bad, nor is it very time-consuming. If you’re trying sushi for the first time, like I did, pick two or three varieties to try, and don’t stress too much over the rice. In fact, dessert nigiri might be just the ticket. You can make it up pretty quickly, it’s light on rolling technique, and looks absolutely stunning.
And on that note, I’m going to leave you with the recipe for dessert sushi rice.
rice for dessert sushi
Adapted from Sushi with Style by Ellen Brown.
2 cups hot cooked medium-grain rice
1/3 cup cream of coconut — the kind you mix sweet drinks with
2 tablespoons rum
Whisk together the cream of coconut and rum in a small bowl. Put hot rice in a medium bowl. Sprinkle cream of coconut and rum mixture over the rice, and gently mix in to avoid breaking the grains.
Once it’s mixed together, carefully turn over small sections of the rice to help it cool and allow steam to escape. The rice is ready to use once it’s cooled enough that it’s not giving off any steam.
Suggestions: shape rice into rectangular nigiri shapes, and top with sliced fresh fruit such as mango or kiwi. “Glue” fruit to the rice using jam or nut butter. Top with candied ginger, sweetened flaked coconut, or sparkling sugar (sugar will melt; do this immediately before serving).