Pieces of colorful fish draped over small mounds of rice (nigiri) or wrapped up in seaweed with vegetables and rice (maki), sushi has to be the first thing I think about when someone says “Japanese food”. But, of course, while sushi is wildly popular in North America and other parts of the world, it isn’t exactly an everyday meal that would be eaten with any sort of regularity in Japan – mostly because it can be quite expensive to eat sushi in Japan.
Sushi of all kinds are featured in anime… from bento lunches and convenience store meals, to homemade meals and even on conveyor belts in a “sushi-go-round” restaurant, sushi is versatile and varied. I was most recently inspired by the K-On! Movie (that’s where all the screencaps in this post are from, except for the rice bowl at the top of the post) to write some posts about sushi and how to go about making your own.
In the K-On! Movie, Yui and the band are visiting in London and decide to try out a “sushi-go-round” restaurant. But, when they enter the establishment, they’re confronted by the manager and, not knowing what he’s saying, end up playing music for the restaurant patrons, in a case of mistaken identity… and all the while, delicious and fancy looking sushi are shown cycling round and round on the conveyor belt… Oh, yum….
But, where to start with making your own sushi? Well, how about with what all of these maki and nigiri have in common, and which forms the base of almost all sushi: seasoned sushi rice!
About the recipe:
Seasoned sushi rice (also known as shari) is easy to make and can be used in many different types of maki and nigiri. I won’t be posting tutorials or recipes for actually making sushi today, since it requires a bit more explanation than I would like to include in a single post. Please look forward to more sushi recipes in the future, though!
In Japan, sushi rice can be seasoned by using a pre-made powder or liquid solution, or using a mixture made from scratch. Either way, when making the seasoned sushi rice, make sure to fan your rice to cool it down as you mix in the sushi rice seasoning – enlist help from a friend if need be!
It’s also important that you do not squash or break the rice grains up when mixing. One way to prevent this from happening is to use a flat rice paddle (or a spatula), and “cut and fold” the rice, as if you were gently folding in egg whites in a cake recipe. Using a flat spatula or rice paddle rather than a spoon will give the rice fewer grooves and corners to get stuck in, and the blunt edge of the tool will help minimize the amount of broken rice grains.
You want your sushi rice to be full of glossy whole rice grains, with the seasoning evenly distributed and absorbed into the rice…
Sushi rice should be served slightly warm or at room temperature. To prevent the rice from drying out, place a dampened paper towel over the rice, touching the rice grains directly. The paper towel may need to be wetted again, as it gradually dries out.
About the ingredients:
Japanese short grain white rice should be used to make this recipe. Do not substitute any other types of rice, because the taste and texture will simply not be the same. Compared to other types of rice, Japanese short grain white rice is stickier and more glutinous, which allows the rice to stick together and keep its shape – especially important for nigiri. Remember to also wash your rice thoroughly. The rice can be cooked in either a rice cooker or on the stove in a pot.
Rice vinegar is more mild than standard white vinegar, and is a pale yellow or clear color. It can be found in many standard grocery stores. It’s a great staple to have on hand for recipes other than just sushi rice.
Mirin is a kind of rice wine mixed with sugar, to create a very sweet condiment. It is also readily available in many standard grocery stores.
Makes 6 servings
- 5 cups white sushi rice
- 2/3 cup rice vinegar
- 3 tbsp mirin
- 4 tbsp sugar
- 4 tsp salt
1. Wash and cook rice.
2. While the rice is cooking, combine rice vinegar, mirin, sugar and salt in small bowl. Let sit, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is completely disolved.
3. Place the hot, cooked rice into large bowl. Gradually pour mixture over rice, about 1/4 cup at a time, using a “cut and fold” technique to gently fluff the rice and distribute the seasoning evenly throughout the rice. As you add in the seasoning, fan the rice to cool it down.
Taste the rice as you go to ensure the seasoning is evenly mixed, and the rice is sufficiently flavoured.
4. Allow rice to cool to room temperature, placing a damp paper towel over the rice to prevent it from drying out.
5. Use sushi rice for your favorite maki and nigiri.