Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sushi 101

Now that my oldest son is in school all day, I've had to learn the art of making a lunches for him that, hopefully, doesn't come back home in his lunchbox or end up in the trashcan. The kid isn't real big on the standard American sandwich and he has never been much of a meat eater. What is a mother to do with a picky eater away from home?

Fortunately, I have a cook book that had how to make basic sushi. I first dabbled with making sushi just for fun when he was still a baby. It was more for a take along lunch to the local Cherry Blossom Festival. (Which happens in July long after the Cherry trees are done. I really have no idea why they scheduled it this way.) He loves to eat sushi for lunch which is really nothing more than nori, steamed rice, and bonito flakes, but he feels like a king when I send it with him.

Now I'm not talking about the raw fish type of sushi mind you. We live rather land locked and getting good sushi fish isn't cheap. This is really just your basic sushi roll. You can add any ingredients you like. I personally make mine with whatever I have on hand, asparagus, cucumber, carrot, bonito (cured and shaved tuna), anything really as long as you can cut it long and narrow so that it will fit inside your nori and rice roll. Now my son doesn't really like true sushi rice, but I am including the sushi rice recipe that I use when I make it for just me and my husband. All you will need is a sheet of nori (preferably toasted and labeled for sushi), steamed medium grain rice (you need it to be sticky), your filler, a very sharp knife, and some way to roll it. I use an old bamboo place mat that I picked up from either Target or Pier One. You can find sushi mats, but you could get away with just using wax paper or plastic wrap as long as you get a good and even press to your roll.

Lay your sushi mat out on a flat surface and line with either plastic wrap or wax paper. I prefer unbleached wax paper. Lay a sheet of nori on top with the rough side facing up. This sheet just happened to be half size because it was for my son's lunch. One sheet of nori will make up to 10 rolls, depending on how you cut it.

Spread out your rice onto the nori, remembering to leave a little space at the far end so that you can seal it.

Position your filler. Today's choice was bonito flakes. Don't get carried away here, as too much filler will make it hard to roll, causing the roll to fall apart when you pick it up.
Begin to roll your sushi. I use a combination of rolling the mat and pulling out the wax paper as I push forward. This takes the most practice. Believe me, it use to take me half an hour to make a sushi lunch. Now I can make it in five minutes.

This is what your mat looks like while you are rolling. Make sure to press firmly over the whole roll. It is also a good idea to let it set a minute before cutting. This allows the moisture from the rice to soften the nori which helps it to stick everything together.

The above picture is after I let it set for about a minute. I take it out of my place mat and set it on a cutting board. You need a very sharp knife for this part. The rice is very sticky and the faster you cut through it, the cleaner your edges and your knife will be.
Cut through the paper, this helps to make for a clean cut.

Unroll the sushi from your paper and serve. We like to use only wheat free tamari, but traditionally you add wasabi. Be careful when adding wasabi to your tamari as a little goes a long way. Enjoy.

Su-Meshi aka Sushi Rice
originally from 'Japanese Cooking' by Emi Kazuko

3 cups of cooked medium grain rice-I prefer Calrose
40 ml or 8 teaspoons unseasoned brown rice vinegar
20 ml or 4 teaspoons sugar (I use light brown cane-but it gives the rice color. Also, I never pack my brown sugar.)
5 ml or 1 teaspoon sea salt

  1. In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, sugar, and salt until well dissolved.
  2. Add to the rice and mix using a wet spatula. Do not smash the rice.
  3. If you have a fan, use it to cool off the rice for a glossy sheen. Otherwise, let it cool enough to work with.

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