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Making Sushi


stagis
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XiaoLing, what's your particular safety concern here? I don't think refrigerated fish that was previously frozen is suddenly going to develop parasites, and chances are if you've observed safe handling guidelines you're not going to be subjecting yourself to bacterial or viral infection. The only real issue, then, is freshness -- and that you can judge with your nose. If the fish still smells good, eat it. You can be sure that most sushi restaurants don't throw out all their unused fish at the end of the day.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Thanks Fat Guy, I guess I was just concerned with whether or not the fish would be safe to eat raw tomorrow since I read some where that it should be eaten that day. I just don't want to make anyone sick.

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Fat Guy is right -- your nose is the best equipment available.

But if you're really concerned, sear it. Just don't do it tonight; do it tomorrow right before service. Bacteria will be on or near the surface. Since it's been frozen or refrigerated, presumably since it was processed (probably at sea), those bacteria are cold and sluggish. Searing now will just wake them up to multiply overnight. Let them sleep another eighteen hours, then fry 'em.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Obviously, the problem with leftover sashimi, kept in the fridge overnight, is that it can never be as good as it was. For example, maguro akami (lean tuna) will turn opaque and will taste stale. To prevent your sashimi from degrading, I still recommend that you keep it as zuke (simply put the sashimi in a container and add some soy sauce).

As a native Japanese, I cannot find it in my heart to cook sashimi-grade fish in any way.

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  • 1 month later...

Yesterday I was at the grocery store, about to buy some rice. I usually buy something called Texmati, from RiceSelect out of Alvin, Texas. It comes in a distinctive package -- if you've shopped in the better US supermarkets you'd surely recognize the squat, square, 36-ounce plastic jars. Anyway, in between the white and brown Texmati rices there was a "Sushi Rice" offering.

It got me thinking. I eat a lot of sushi, I opine about sushi in various outlets, I'm writing a book with a substantial section on sushi, yet I've never tried to make sushi. How hard can it be? I grabbed a jar of the RiceSelect Sushi Rice, which purports to be "100% all-natural Koshihikari rice."

This afternoon I took stock of what I had around and decided to try to make some rudimentary sushi. I wasn't interested so much in the fish aspect of sushi. I'm confident in my ability to go to a Japanese market, buy fish for sushi in pre-cut blocks, and slice off pieces of it. I was interested in the rice: how to season it and work with it to create nigiri and maki sushi. The term sushi actually refers to the rice: you can have sushi without fish (kappa maki, for example, is traditional in Japan) but you can't have sushi without rice.

This preference was also fortuitous, as I had no fish anyway. I did, however, have two avocados that had been ripening nicely on my counter. A bit of sushi trivia: the California roll was built around avocado because avocado's creaminess and fattiness make it an effective substitute for fatty bluefin tuna, which was hard to come by back in the day and also didn't appeal so much to Americans. Early attempts to swap avocado for tuna centered around avocado nigiri, but they switched to maki because the bright green nigiri was too much for people to handle. Me, I think the bright green of an avocado is cool looking -- I was looking forward to making avocado nigiri sushi.

At some point, I'll probably ask a sushi chef to teach me some basic technique, but for the purest first experience I decided to go it alone based only on what I've seen and heard, plus the directions on the jar of rice.

I started off by rinsing the rice. I put two cups (as in 16 ounces by volume) of rice in a stainless bowl, filled the bowl with cold water, and kept the water running as I swished the rice around with my slowly freezing hand. First the water became cloudy, but after several minutes of rinsing and swishing it ran clear. Apparently in the traditional Japanese sushi apprenticeship system you spend something like 40 years washing rice and mopping floors before you get to graduate up to doing anything with actual fish.

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I wasn't quite sure how to get the water out of the bowl of rice. I never rinse the rice I'm cooking for normal consumption, but I know rinsing is a big deal in the sushi universe so I did my duty. I tried to dump the water out but was losing too many grains of rice (this is big-time bad luck in Japan, I bet) so I considered a colander and finally settled on a large strainer. It seemed to work.

I then hauled out my trusty Zojirushi "fuzzy logic" rice cooker. When I got this thing maybe 13 years ago (it was a wedding gift, or maybe a pre-wedding shower gift) it was state of the art. Even Japanese people were impressed that I had one. Now, fuzzy logic is no big deal -- not that anyone ever knew what it was -- and the rice cooker culture has moved on to induction elements and cooking vessels formed out of single blocks of ceramic. Still, my rice cooker is pretty good. You know it's good because it takes about three times as long to cook rice as it would take to cook it on the stove. It goes through an elaborate pre-heating ritual for something like half an hour, then cooks the rice for a normal amount of time, then insists that you not open the lid for about ten minutes after the rice is done cooking. I added water in a ratio of 1.25 to 1 water to rice, per the instructions on the jar of rice and activated the rice cooker.

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While this was going on, I watched episode 11 of "Heroes" (as I said, the rice cooker is slow) and searched for the other things I'd need in order to make sushi. In my cabinet I found some seasoned rice vinegar that seemed to be the right stuff for sushi. In my refrigerator I had a bottle of soy sauce formulated for sashimi, that I got at the Hanahreum supermarket in New Jersey (Hanahreum is Korean but sells a ton of Japanese stuff). We got it a couple of years back because the crummy soy sauce they send with the takeout sushi we usually order gives my wife a headache.

I the realized I had no wasabi, but I was determined to move forward. I've read in an number of places that most of the so-called wasabi used at all but the best sushi bars is fake anyway: it's a powder derived from horseradish (which is a relative of wasabi but is not wasabi) and colored artificially, and restaurants mix it with water to make the green paste they pass off as wasabi. Well, I had no wasabi, but I had plenty of horseradish. Why not try it that way?

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Eventually the rice was done. I mixed together four tablespoons of seasoned rice vinegar and two tablespoons of white sugar in a little glass, then added that to the rice and mixed it in. I closed the rice cooker up and left it on warm while I plotted my next move.

My wife, Ellen, and son, PJ, were to arrive home any minute, and they were expecting me to have dinner ready. I decided to set up an improvised sushi bar at the the dining room table. I quartered an avocado. I peeled and cut about a quarter of an English hothouse cucumber into little matchsticks. I set out a finger bowl of horseradish and one of cold water, plus a towel, cutting board and small Japanese knife. I didn't have any sheets of nori, so I wasn't going to be able to make real maki, but I figured I could make a pretend maki with no nori. I also didn't have one of those wooden mats that are used for rolling maki, so I took a thick black manila catalog envelope and covered it in plastic wrap, figuring it would at least allow me to roll some rice around a filling.

I looked around the house for whatever Japanese service-ware I could pull together. A few years back, during a sale at the Takashimaya department store's New York branch (yes, they have sales at Takashimaya once every few centuries), we picked up his-and-hers chopsticks and chopstick rests (the female chopstick rest is a flat disc, the male is a long cylinder), as well as two little soy-sauce bowls, all for about ten bucks. A couple of years after that, during a sale at the Korin Japanese knife store (an event that occurs even less often than sales at Takashimaya), we got some really nice seafoam-colored square platters for just a few dollars each. For PJ I put out one of our nifty Studio Nova "Food Chain"-pattern plates.

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I was ready to make sushi. As my skeptical family watched (even our bulldog, Momo, seemed to have his doubts that this project could amount to anything), I cut a thin slice of avocado. Then I wet my hands and grabbed some warm rice. I fashioned it into what I thought looked close enough to the correct infrastructure for a piece of nigiri sushi, being careful not to compress it too much. I then put a small amount of horseradish on the rice, picked up the piece of avocado, and cupped it against the rice so that it kind of integrated into the whole. I had made my first piece of nigiri sushi. If you're Japanese, you can stop reading here. It ain't pretty.

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I proceeded to make about a dozen of these, passing them out to the family. I'd like to say my technique improved, but it didn't. I got faster, but every piece of sushi I made was just as ugly as the first.

If I'd been asked to guess in advance, I'd have said making nigiri sushi would be more difficult than making maki sushi. I'd have been wrong. My first attempt at maki was a disaster. I had no idea how much rice to use, how much to spread it out, how much filling to use, or how to roll it effectively. I wound up with some pieces of cucumber basically sitting in the middle of a "U" shaped log of rice. I didn't use nearly enough rice, something I'd have figured out if I'd thought for a few moments about the concept of circumference. I tried to patch up the roll with some additional rice, but it was a disaster.

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On my second attempt, I created a much larger sheet of rice before rolling. I was, at least, able to produce a cylinder of rice with the vegetables near the center.

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It didn't hold together very well when I cut it, though. I need to do a lot more experimenting, preferably with proper equipment.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I just had the leftover rice for breakfast, with a fried egg on top. It was great. I'd have to do a side-by-side tasting to be positive and to identify the attributes I like, but my impression is that the Koshihikari rice is tastier and more enjoyable to eat than the regular white rice I usually get at the supermarket. I may start using it just as my regular rice for eating, even though it's rather expensive -- it's not like I eat so much rice that it matters. I also thought it was much better than the rice I get in most sushi restaurants in the US. Not as good as a really good sushi restaurant, but better than most.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I mixed together four tablespoons of seasoned rice vinegar and two tablespoons of white sugar in a little glass, then added that to the rice and mixed it in

The proper procedure for Sushi Rice is somewhat more complex than that-you can look it up if you like.

I took a night schol course and it was easy and fun since then I've eaten fresh caught Salmon & Tuna many ways-all delicious. :wub:

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Okay, I've looked it up on like a dozen websites and about half of them seem to say to do what I did, and the other half say to heat the vinegar and sugar in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves. But since the sugar dissolved at room temperature, I'm not sure what the point of heating it would have been. What am I missing?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Okay, I've looked it up on like a dozen websites and about half of them seem to say to do what I did, and the other half say to heat the vinegar and sugar in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves. But since the sugar dissolved at room temperature, I'm not sure what the point of heating it would have been. What am I missing?

You reduce the vinegar somewhat by heating it and you cool the rice less when you add the warm liquid to it.

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Rapid cooling of the dressed rice is necessary to achieve the proper stickiness, without it the rice isn't the same.

Immediately after the rice is cooked, I add the seasoned vinegar and then I use an electric fan to remove excess moisture from the rice, until room temperature. I find that the seaweed gets tough if there is too much moisture in the rice. The rice breaks and gets gummy when over worked. A cutting motion, instead of mixing, is the recommended technique. Unless I've been doing it wrong as well?

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Shari (vinegared rice) making has been discussed elsewhere. Let me remind everyone that cooling the rice with a fan is the final step.

Here's a video showing how to make shari:

http://ichii445.blog42.fc2.com/blog-entry-376.html

Click the arrow to start the video.

1. Put just cooked rice in a wooden container.

2. Add a mixture of vinegar, sugar, and salt.

3. Mix well in a cutting motion.

4. Cool the rice, using a fan, to hitohada (human skin temp).

***

At many shushi shops in Japan, they often put a sheet of kombu for seasoning in the rice cooker before heating. They may also put some sake.

Also, they often deliberately mix komai (old crop) and shinmai (new crop) to get the desired texture. I googled and found that they mix up to 70% komai to shinmai.

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All this talk about sushi made me want to have temaki zushi (hand-rolled sushi), so I made it for supper tonight, using leftover rice. The rice is not Koshihikari but Koshiibuki (a relative of Koshihikari and cheaper).

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As I mentioned elsewhere, sushi is not synonymous with sashimi (raw fish). The fillings were atsuyaki tamago (Japanese thick rolled omelet), green perilla leaves, home-made umeboshi paste, cucumber sticks, fake crab meat sticks, canned tuna, cod roe, and cheese. The wasabi tube contains a small percentage of real wasabi. I especially like tuna and the combination of fake crab meat, perilla, and umeboshi paste as fillings.

I rarely make nigiri zushi at home, using raw fish as toppings. I know it's not worth the effort. When I want to have nigiri, I usually go to the supermarket to buy some.

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Steven

Keep in mind that seasoned rice vinegar already has the sugar and salt in it. Next time buy plain rice vinegar. The reason for heating the dressing is because a bit of kombu is usually included.

Try this version of sushi su:

500 ml rice vinegar (plain)

300 gr. white sugar = (10.7 oz.)

100 gr. kosher salt = (3.6 oz.)

2" sq. kombu

Heat until sugar is dissolved, and cool.

Monterey Bay area

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  • 1 year later...

Hope its not bad form to open up such an old thread again. I read this whole thread yesterday with much interest. So today when I was at the grocery store wandering around I saw some soy wrappers that caught my attention and I was inspired to try making my own rolls. (I am at home recovering from surgery and bored out of my mind) My husband is not crazy about nori and I admit I was attracted to the novelty of these.

http://www.sushilinks.com/soya-wrappers.html

I got some calrose rice, rice vinegar, imitation crab legs, an avocado and a cucumber and am going to give this a try today. I couldnt find a bamboo mat at my grocery store and couldnt go out looking for one, but I figured I could find something to make do with for today at least.

I will post pictures later.

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