Sushi... what exactly is it? There are many people around the world that have said it's either this or that or that and I am no expert on it either but to me sushi does at least mean it does *NOT* involve raw meat as many people seem to think but there are some that beg to differ with my thoughts on this as some sushi will also involve slices of raw salmon or tuna. Ok that is fine... but in the end it is still made with cooked vinegared rice known as Shan. Anyhow, the point being is that Sushi when made at home, can be any thing you want it to be or not be.
I'm not an expert in making this art and I don't strive to be but I also still love to eat Sushi because not only is it really healthy for you but it tastes really good when you have the right combination of ingredients going on. I sometimes like to also make these with a side order of freshly made Tempura style veggies (makes really nice seafood too though!). Not to mention, making it at home costs a mere fraction of the cost that you will go out to buy it already made for... oh and the fact that you can ensure that all ingredients going into it are 100% gluten free!
Tip #1 - This is where again my advice of keeping vinyl powder free gloves for kitchen use come in handy. But this time not only do you want to wear a pair of these while making this wonderful dish but you will also want to keep a bowl of cold water (doesn't have to be iced or anything, just cold from the tap will do). As you go on preparing these wonderful little treasures, you'll want to refresh this bowl of water from time to time.
Tip #2 - Make sure you have all the ingredients you intend to use for this prepared, set out before you in easy reaching distance. It's very much a PITA to get caught up in the middle of making these only to realize you left the layer of foil or what ever sitting on the other side of the kitchen or that you forgot you wanted to add cucumber but it's sitting in the fridge uncut.
Tip #3 - When preparing the rice, HAVE PATIENCE! This is what makes Sushi.... SUSHI! You need to have patience when rinsing the rice, when soaking it (if it's a kind that needs soaking), when cooking, when cooking, when working with it. I've even read or heard some where on the web that it is taboo to 'abuse' your rice in Japanese culture... they respect the rice and treat it with respect. Doing this means your rice will be just right and will produce the finest of what ever product you are making with it.
Tip #4 - When preparing your veggies and any meat that you will be putting inside rolled Sushi, you want to make sure they are slices thinly and all around the same sort of thickness. Too thick or too large of pieces will just result in un-even rolls or rolls that don't stay together at all. See the photos through out the directions.
Tip #5 - Don't get upset if your first attempt doesn't work very well. I've been making this a couple of times a year for a few years now and even I'm still not there. I get the idea of making really good rice, what goes together and not together but my rolling technique still sucks beyond words but hey I have fun doing it and so should you!
Tip #6 - For those of us (yes me included) that are a bit more cautious and don't wish to risk eating raw fish for one reason or another, you can substitute salmon lox (a bit more salty but at least cooked) for the sushi grade raw salmon but do *NOT* substitute the tuna for canned! Canned tuna vs fresh tuna, even cooked, are SO very different and does not make good sushi. If you rather not eat raw tuna, at least buy a nice steak of it fresh, cook it through (no pink/red centre), shred it with a fork and let cool before preparing your Sushi with it.
Tip #7 - Last one, just a tip that has come down from the times of rolling these, completely cover your bamboo rolling mat with plastic wrap! Don't 'tighten' it around the thing, just cover completely with enough give to allow the mat to still roll but that you don't have any of the wood exposed. This will keep your mat clean and give you an easy clean up in the end. These mats are very difficult to wash, are NOT dish washer safe and are held together by string if they are true Japanese Sushi mat. Doing this will just ensure your mat will last through out the years. On this note, when storing your mat, make sure it's stored in a dry dark place as to prevent it from absorbing any odors or moister which might cause mold to form.
Ingredients - Sushi Rice (see tip #3)
♥ 2 cups uncooked Sushi Style rice (most stores mark this as such rice now a days)
♥ 2 tbs sugar
♥ 2 cups uncooked Sushi Style rice (most stores mark this as such rice now a days)
♥ 2 tbs sugar
Ingredients - Filling/Meat Selection
♥ Sashimi grade salmon or tuna (this means that it's of a high quality, as fresh as you can get it and can be eaten raw without fear of getting sick from it. As your fish monger for sashimi grade or sometimes referred to as actually sushi grade)
♥ Salmon lox (see tip# 5)
♥ Cooked tiger pawns (large shrimp)
♥ Fresh cooked crab (most fish monger have this already, just ask for it)
♥ Japanese omelets (not recipe for this yet sorry)
♥ Halibut lox (another type of fish commonly sold in lox form)
Ingredients - Filling/Veggie Selection (see tip# 4)
♥ Bell peppers
♥ Bamboo shoots
♥ Green onions
♥ Green onions
♥ Water chestnuts
♥ Pickled ginger
♥ Wasabi paste (if you like it spicy!)
Directions - Preparing The Rice (VITAL STEP!)
This is most likely the most important part of the whole Sushi making process. Don't fear if you end up with a couple of thrown out batches of rice before you get this but just in the same you might be lucky as I was from knowing how to cook rice that you'll do just fine. Biggest word of advice is PATIENCE! (see tip# 3)
Firstly, make sure your rice is indeed rice intended for Sushi. Most stores now a days will have a section that is just for Japanese cooking and you'll find every thing you need for this adventure in it that area with exception of some of the veggies.
Most Sushi rices need rinsing before they are can be used to remove excess dust from it's processing. Basically what you want to do is strain it through a fine mesh strainer until the water that is coming off of the rice is no longer milky or cloudy but running clear as the water that went into it.
If the water still looks like this, keep rinsing... remember you want the water that comes out to be as clear as the water you put in
Let stand for a bit, this is not totally needed but it doesn't hurt either. When making this rice by stove top (for those of us that do not use rice enough to warrant having a rice cooker) use a heavy bottomed kettle for this. Do not use a light aluminum kettle for this as your rice will most likely end up burning.
Place rice into kettle and add as much water as needed to reach 1/2 inch higher then the rice itself. Bring to a full boil uncovered. If you use a gas stove, let the rice cook at a boil until the water as been absorbed just until the top of the rice and if you are using an electric stove simply skip the water reducing step needed in the gas stove directions and continue. Cover and turn the heat down to the lowest possible temperature. At this point, do NOT uncover for what ever reason for about 10 minutes. This is the patience part as well... uncovering it will result in losing the steam that is cooking the rice and may cause it to go flat. After this waiting time, return to your rice and it should be perfectly cooked and absorbed all of the water.
Again patience is required on this step, you have to remove the rice from the heat source and allow it to cool until it is slightly still warm. While waiting for this to happen mix the rice wine vinegar with the sugar in a small bowl. When the rice is still warm but no longer hot, drizzle over the vinegar mixture and use a pair of chop sticks to lightly toss the rice and vinegar mix until well disbursed. Again, more waiting... now you should let the completed Sushi rice sit until it is cooled completely. Working with warm rice is not going to work well as it is very very sticky at this stage, not to mention if you hit a spot that is still much too hot, you'll simply burn yourself. Have patience... this is the one place that it is really needed.
While your waiting for the rice to cool completely, this would a good time to prepare any of the veggies and meats you will be using. Remember to keep things kind of the same. Cut veggies in long thin slices, keep meats in small but workable sizes, if using bamboo shoots do not leave them whole but also slice them thinly. If using water chestnuts, make sure you buy the already sliced ones and then go about also slicing them thinly. If you are attempting this recipe, you at least have some skill in the kitchen already, use your common sense in what is a good size to go into a Sushi roll. If you think it's too big or too wide, chances are it is.
Once your rice is completely cooled, you're on your way to preparing you own rolls! Now I'm not going to go into what kind of roll is what kind of things or what not. I don't live in the 'it MUST be this way' type thinking when it comes to the kitchen. Yes some things need to be done certain ways such as measuring flour for a cake or the process needed to cook the Sushi rice in this dish but I have never been one to think that I must make a California Roll or what not. I just put in what I think will go good together and go from there. So with that said, don't expect to find recipes to make certain rolls... just go with your guts and put in what you think will go nicely together such as salmon with a bit of avocado or tuna with a bit of cucumber and ginger. This is YOUR Sushi... make what YOU want to of it!
Firstly, make sure you've prepared your mat (see tip# 7). Usually I work with half sheets of Nori (seaweed sheets for Sushi) but some prefer to use whole sheets. This is up to you and how much you are planning to add to each roll itself. If you want more inside the roll, then you will need more to roll, simple as that.
Lay out your sheet of seaweed on your mat shiny side down. You want the paler side for placing the rice on so that it sticks to the sheet better and that you have a better looking end result.
Now respect your rice on this part, do not 'mash' or 'press' your rice but spread it. Dip your fingers in the cold water (with or without gloves on) and using your fingers take enough rice to cover 3/4th of your sheet (not matter if you are using half a sheet or a full sheet) with about 1/4th inch thickness. Remember SPREAD the rice out, do not mash it down. You want a fluffy texture to this and if you start to mash or press out the rice with any thing but your fingers, you're likely to split the rice pieces and make a rice mash instead of keeping it in pieces.
Once the rice is spread out evenly, place your wanted ingredients along the short side closest to you from end to end. Place them side by side going up the length but do not add too much of any thing at one time. Remember, use your head on this one. If you think there is too much going into a roll, most likely it is. You just have to play with it and find what feels best for you.
Rolling is something I can't teach but will try to explain. You do *NOT* roll your mat up into a roll, the mat is used to add you in rolling your Sushi. If you attempt to roll you Sushi in your mat, you'll just find out the hard way that the mat is now part of your roll and that it didn't work very well (did that the first time making this). What you want to do is make sure your seaweed sheet is at the very end of the mat closest to you. Working gently, take the end of the mat and being to roll. Using your fingers on the other side where your rice is, make sure your ingredients are staying secure. Using the mat to add, begin to use it to roll the seaweed into a roll while allowing the mat to roll OVER the roll inside of it. Once you have your roll entirely together, use the mat that is rolled around the outside of it to apply some very light pressure to the roll that is inside to help seal and slightly form it.
Slowly unroll the mat and what you will be left with (hopefully) will be a wonderful little roll of Sushi made by your own wonderful hands. 100% gluten free and for only a fraction of the cost of what it would have been if you went to that new Sushi take away down the street.
I have found this best served for my tastes is a mild sweet chili sauce or a sesame sauce. The traditional way is to use soy sauce with just a bit of wasabi paste added to it, stirred with chop sticks and dipped. Remember though real soy sauce ALWAYS has wheat in it (for what ever odd reason) so if you do want to go this way, make sure you use Tamari Sauce instead... it tastes exactly as you would expect soy sauce to taste with all of its dark salty goodness (so to speak) but without the added wheat/gluten aspect. Then usually between each 'type' of roll that is eaten, one eats a small piece of pickled ginger to cleanse the pallet in order to enjoy the tastes of what each roll provides. As for me... I like it all!
I made these wonderful rolls for our Christmas Celebration in 2011 (yea yea I know, late in posting but does that tell you how long I hold on to some recipes?!). I don't have the finally cut open, laying on a plate type ending photos but basically in the end you want to cut off the ends just enough to get rid of the over hang (they taste pretty good too, so just nibble away as you cut *halo*). Take your roll, with a very sharp knife, cut it first in half, put the two halves next to each other and again cut in half. Repeat the process one or two more times depending how thin you want your roll pieces. This method allows you to keep all of your pieces the same thickness if you plan to serve this to guests or just simply want to make it look all pretty. When I make these again I'll make sure I grab photos of this stage and what the final result looks like when one is served.