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Sushi - Lesson 6
submitted by: Deborah Alves


Excerpts from Sushi, by Mia Detrick

"Eventually you may want to prepare sushi at home, if only to tide you over on the night when your favorite sushi bar is closed. You can learn a great deal about technique from watching your chef, although he will make it look easier than it is.

Rice is the common denominator of all sushi, and a proper batch of rice is the pride of every Japanese cook. Faithful adherence to the recipe will guarantee you perfect results, provided you start with the right ingredients. Our familiar long-grained rice will not do. It cooks up dry and separate, and it is impossible to eat with chopsticks or form into sushi pads. The Japanese use short-grained rice, which clings together nicely and has the satisfying chewy texture sushi gourmets love. It is available in Oriental markets.

To make sushi rice, you will need a three-quart heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid, a wooden bowl, a spatula, and something to use as a fan. You may want to own a shamoji, the broad wooden paddle used in Japan to mix the rice, or a Japanese paper fan, although a shirt cardboard or folded newspaper will do as well. Ultimately, you may wish to purchase a gas or electric rice cooker, available in Japanese stores. These take the guesswork out of rice cooking.

Japanese cooks sometimes vary the following recipe by adding a tablespoon of sake to the rice water, or changing the amounts of sugar and vinegar to suit their tastes. Dried, packaged konbu, "kelp," is available in Japanese markets along with regular rice vinegar and sushi su, a rice vinegar made just for sushi rice and already flavored with salt, sugar, and MSG.

  • 2 cups short-qrained rice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup rice Vinegar
  • 3" square of konbu
Thoroughly rinse the rice until the water runs clear, about five minutes, and let it drain in a colander for an hour. Usually, Japanese rice is coated with a cereal powder that must be washed off, even though the package may say it isn't necessary. When the rice is cleaned, put it into the pot. Clean the seaweed with a damp cloth and cut fringe into one side to help release the flavor. Bury it in the rice. Add the water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the seaweed just as the water boils or it will flavor the rice too strongly. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for five minutes, then reduce to low and cook for fifteen minutes without removing the lid, even for a peek. When the rice makes a dry crackly sound, remove it front the heat and let it stand covered for another ten minutes.

While the rice is cooking, combine the salt, sugar, and vinegar in a small saucepan. Heat and stir the mixture till the sugar is dissolved, then allow it to cool.

Turn the rice out into a shallow wooden bowl. The wood helps absorb the moisture. Do not use anything metal, as it may react with the vinegar and create a bad taste. Add the vinegar dressing a little at a time, cutting it into the rice with the rice paddle or spatula [1]. Use a horizontal motion to keep from bruising the soft rice grains as they cool. Every so often, dip the spoon into cold water to keep the rice front sticking to it. While you're stirring the rice with one hand, cool it with a fan held in the other, which will make it glossy [2]. An electric fan or a live assistant makes this process easier. It takes about ten minutes either way.

Sushi rice can be kept for several hours at room temperature, covered with a damp cloth. It should not be refrigerated and should be eaten the same day it is made. When you are ready to make the sushi pads, have a little bowl of vinegar water (one-third vinegar, two-thirds water) ready to dip your fingers into to keep the rice from sticking to them. Put a couple of tablespoons of rice into your right hand and press it firmly into an oval shape, using the first two fingers of your left hand [3,4]. Remember, this little maneuver only took the chef a couple of years to perfect."

I hope you enjoyed this series on Sushi. If you would like to see another series featured, why not e-mail me and let me know what you are interested in.

In the meantime, as they say in Japan, Arigato & Itadakimasu!

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