Thursday, August 20, 2009

DIY Sushi


So during my blogging hiatus, my brother made sushi for my mom one weekend while she was in town. I started taking pictures and convinced him to do a guest spot on my blog.

I finally got the slacker to come over and do it.

Here he is!

Hello! Thanks to the Melonhead for giving me a guest spot here.

If you're anything like me you know what it is like to be addicted to raw fish, especially salmon. You'll get a sushi craving one day and absolutely nothing else will do for dinner. The only problem being that it's an easy $20/person + tip for delivery to get your 'fix'. I was eventually fed up with spending that type of money on a regular basis and decided it was time to learn to make it for myself. As a disclaimer I have never taken an actual sushi class but have just picked up on how to make it from the friendly staff at my fish store. My method is what amounts to a very serviceable way of making sushi for yourself and is by no means the final word on the craft.

Let's get started...
The most important thing about sushi is the fish. Duh. But really, you need to get fish that is very fresh. Grocery store fish is not going to cut it. You'll have to scout out your area to find a fish market that gets daily deliveries and hopefully is fanatical about their trade. For those of you in the Chi I can recommend Dirk's, on Clybourn in between Fullerton and Armitage. They get fresh deliveries 6 days a week. These are also the aforementioned friendly staff that helped me get started.

The Rice:
Use some type of fancy rice here. Actual sushi rice is obviously great. I like to use Jasmine rice. Before cooking it rinse the rice a few times with water to get rid of residual white stuff. Bring to a boil 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice. Simmer for 15 minutes. Don't take the lid off once you start simmering. Some rice will stick to the pan but that's what we want here, that being said make a little extra to account for what will be lost.

Get a pan going on the side with 1/3 cup rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons salt for every cup of rice. Bring this concoction to a slow boil and stir until everything is dissolved in. Turn off the burner and cool. Once the rice is done, continue to simmer until it has absolutely soaked up all the water, dump into a large wooden bowl. Stir in the rice vinegar concoction. ***You do not have to add all the vinegar mix, do this step according to taste*** I personally do not use the full amount recommended. 1/3 cup is kind of the minimal amount of vinegar you need to coat the bottom of a pan. It's also the recipe I got online but like I said I think it's too much for 1 cup of rice, too vinegary. Spread the rice out on wax paper to cool.


While the rice is cooking start prepping the fish. Cut that salmon all delicious looking like in the picture above. I guess two and a half inches by one inch is a good estimate for our nigiri pieces. For rolls we're cutting cubes, maybe 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch and as long as possible. Tuna is another staple of sushi and I recommend some nigiri pieces of that as well. Fresh yellowfin tuna will have a nice rich, dark red color to it. You will need to skin the salmon and you'll need a sharp knife to do so. If you ask nicely perhaps your fish market will do it for you. If you're doing this at home be patient. Flip the salmon over, skin side up, and start working the knife under the layer of skin. Keep peeling back the skin as you go. You will want to get rid of the skin and the pink to reddish layer in between the skin and the orange salmon meat.

This would be a good time to say that you want a large, sharp knife for this ordeal. I give my knife a good sharpening every time right before making sushi. It helps to peel the fish, cut it cleanly and to cut the rolls at the end without squishing them down.

You can prep your fixings for the rolls at this time as well. Avocado and seedless cucumber are a must. Cut the avocado into long cubes. Skin the seedless cucumber and cut into long strips. A good spicy mayo is important. Dirk's makes their own and sells squeeze bottles so I'm not much help at the moment but there are plenty of recipes online to make your own. I also have some Hichimi Togarashi on-hand which is a blend of hot spices commonly used in making spicy sushi rolls. If your fish store caters to the do-it-yourself sushi crowd they will likely sell this as well. These basic ingredients have been enough for me so far.

Take your sheet of Nori (seaweed) and spread the cooled (still somewhat warm is a good thing, just not hot anymore) rice out on it with a spoon. This step will likely try your patience the most. You need to be careful not to rip the seaweed as you spread this sticky rice out onto it. I recommend prepping a few sheets at once and keeping them to the side so that you can make your rolls all at once without this time consuming step in between each one. For your first time I recommend cutting the nori in half for rolls that are easier to roll up as they are only half as long. The picture above uses this approach.

For the next step cheat. Take a piece of cling wrap and cover your bamboo mat with it. Hold it together on the backside with a piece of tape. This will really help avoid any disasters if you decide to give the inside-out roll a try (rice on the outside).

Lay your ingredients along the length of the roll. Cube-like lengths of fish, cube-like lengths of avocado, strips of seedless cucumber, whatever else you want. Add any spices or spicy mayo. I usually do a basic spicy tuna roll with the spice mix, spicy mayo, the seedless cucumber and an absurd amount of tuna. I always make the basic Alaskan roll as well, avocado and salmon. Again with lots of salmon, way more than you'd get in a restaurant, this is one of the reasons we are doing this at home. From there feel free to mix it up with whatever combinations of fish and fixings you want. I like to mix in yellow tail fish with tuna, avocado, cucumber and spicy mayo for a roll. Another good one is salmon, avocado, the spice mix and cubes of mango. The hot/sweet mix along with the salmon is becoming a new favorite roll of mine.

Now, carefully make the all important first turn. You don't need to get all the ingredients inside that first flip but they should all be rolled up after two full turns. You only get about 2 and a half or three full turns before the roll is complete.

Wrap the bamboo mat around the completed roll and give it some gentle pressure to firm it up. Remove to a cutting board and gently slice it up. Slide the knife underneath the sliced roll and transfer to a serving plate.

Nigiri pieces are easy, you just need to be okay with having your hands covered in sticky rice. Simply take some of the sticky rice and work it around in your palms to create a little ball of rice, smaller than the strips of fish you are about to lay on top of it. Place the fish on top and yep, it's that easy.


Chop sticks are optional but soy sauce is a must. Serve a small dish/bowl on the side for everyone. Dip your nigiri pieces and individual roll slices into the soy sauce. Edamame makes a great appetizer or side. You can pick up a bag of this in the frozen food aisle. Ability to work a microwave is all that is required to make it. You may also garnish your rolls and nigiri with pickled ginger and wasabi if you're into that sort of stuff. Pickled ginger is bought as is and wasabi is bought as a powder that you add water to. You end up with a paste that basically amounts to green horseradish. Some people like to add a little bit to every bite to kick up the spiciness.

So there you have it! Pour a glass of wine, sharpen that knife and bring your patience with you. I have found making sushi to be an enjoyable experience. You are guaranteed big, fat rolls with tons of fresh fish at a price that is less than that of any restaurant. Start small, making it for one or two and after practice you'll feel good about making sushi for a small crowd.

Finally, I've never liked that standard recipe format where they list all the ingredients at the beginning. It makes the recipe seem more like work and less like fun to me. So, I've highlighted as I've gone along all the ingredients and materials that I covered here. They are listed below for your reference:

Bamboo mat
Cling wrap

Sharp, large knife

Yellowfin Tuna

Nori (seaweed)
Seedless Cucumber
Spicy mayo
Hichimi togarashi spice mix

Rice, fancy rice
Rice vinegar

Soy sauce
Pickled ginger


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