Today calls for a special post, since I am very proud that the 100th follower has just joined this blog! As it happens we made sushi last night, and blogging about that will certainly be special as this will be the longest post yet with over 40 pictures!
Making sushi together is a lot of fun, and although the sushi will probably not be as good as sushi at a specialized sushi restaurant, home-made sushi will taste much better than ready-made refrigerated sushi. It is not a coincidence that I like Japanese food besides Italian, as both rely to a great extent on the quality of the ingredients. This also applies to sushi: the quality of the rice, nori seaweed, wasabi, soy sauce, pickled ginger, and last but certainly not least the fish all make a difference. Your skill will define how the sushi will look, but the taste will to a great extent depend on getting the right stuff. And thus it pays off to go to a specialized store to obtain the ingredients, rather than picking them up from the local supermarket. Always tell your fishmonger that you will eat the fish raw, so that he can advise which fish is the fresh enough to eat raw.
The two most common types of sushi are nigiri sushi and nori-maki sushi. Nigiri sushi, “hand-shaped sushi”, is rice with fish on top, while maki sushi, “rolled sushi”, is fish or other ingredients with rice rolled in nori seaweed. Nigiri is easier to make although the fish on top needs to be visually perfect, whereas nori-maki is more difficult to make but the ingredients rolled into the center do not have to look as nice.
We made tuna, scampi and cucumber sushi. You could substitute for many other kinds of fish or vegetables, whatever you like and is available fresh. Locally caught fish like mackerel, sole or sea bass can also be really good on sushi.
For 16 nigiri and 32 maki (4 rolls)
For the rice
500 grams (1.1 lbs or 2 cups) sushi rice (short-grain)
625 ml (2 5/8 cups) water
5 cm (2″) square piece of konbu seaweed (optional)
50 ml (3 Tbsp plus 1 tsp) rice vinegar
40 grams (3 Tbsp) sugar
13 grams (2.5 tsp) salt
For the sushi
a bamboo mat for rolling sushi
4 sheets toasted nori seaweed
300 grams (2/3 pound) sushi-grade tuna
8 very fresh scampi
4 Tbsp mayonnaise, preferably Japanese (optional)
Japanese soy sauce
For the rice I follow the instructions from the book “Japanese cooking: a simple art” (Shizuo Tsuji, 1980).
Put the rice in a heavy-bottomed medium-sized pot and add the water. Put the konbu on top. Heat over medium heat and remove and discard the konbu just before the rice starts to boil. The konbu adds a subtle flavor to the rice and can be omitted.
Cover and bring to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes over high heat, 5 minutes over medium heat and finally 15 minutes over very low heat. Turn off the heat and let it stand for another 10 minutes. Do not remove the lid during any of these steps.
Toss the rice with a flat wooden spoon or rice paddle using horizontal strokes, while someone else is fanning. You can use a nice Japanese fan for this, or a tray like we did, or a folded newspaper. (Or an iPad, since we don’t have any newspapers anymore since I started reading the newspaper on my iPad…) Continue to do this until the rice is at room temperature, about 10 minutes.
First make sure that the bamboo mat has the flat side up and the round side down. Put the nori on the bamboo mat with the shiny side down and the perforation in the same direction as the threads that hold the bamboo mat together.
Put some water and rice vinegar in a bowl, and wet your fingers with this “hand vinegar”. Keep wetting your fingers in this bowl when needed, otherwise the rice sticking to your fingers will drive you crazy. Don’t make your fingers too wet, because the nori should not become wet (you will find out why when that does happen: it will wrinkle and become mushy).
You can use pure wasabi on the sushi, but the stuff is quite strong so if you don’t distribute it evenly you may end up with some sushi pieces with too much wasabi and some with too little. To work around this, mix mayonnaise with wasabi in a small bowl.
Cut the bad-looking ends off the maki. Use a sharp knife and wet it with the vinegar water to prevent the sushi from sticking too much to the knife. Cut the roll into halves, the halves into quarters and the quarters into eights to obtain 8 pieces of sushi with an even thickness.
The second type is tuna nigiri. Cut the tuna crosswise in slices about 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) thick. Trim to make nice rectangular slices and keep the trimmings for making tuna maki later. Use the nices part of the tuna steak for the nigiri, making 8 slices.
Sushi can be eaten with your hands, or with chop sticks.
Sushi is outstanding with Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé, minerally dry sauvignon blanc from the Loire valley in France. A good Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé even stands up to the pickled ginger.