Sushi was once a rarity in the western world. Now, this great Japanese food is available in supermarkets and specialized restaurants in cities across America, Canada, Europe, and beyond. Looking at the beautiful artistry of a perfectly made nigiri or futomaki, you might think that sushi is challenging to make. However, with a few simple tools and ingredients, you can learn to make sushi at home. The benefit of making your own sushi is that you know exactly what’s in it, this is ideal if for people with specific dietary needs or allergies.
Sushi does not mean raw fish; it means seasoned rice. It’s possible – and normal to make delicious sushi with no fish at all. Sushi rice is available at Asian shops and many larger supermarkets. If you live in a rural place, try online shops, and get supplies sent to you.
A word of warning: although the techniques for making sushi are straightforward, don’t be tempted to try making sushi with the wrong type of rice. Sushi rice and the seasoning that flavors it cannot be replicated by using other rice types such as basmati.
To make the rice, follow instructions on the packet. The cleanest and easiest way is to use an electric rice cooker.
To make authentic sushi, find sushi seasoning. Essentially sushi seasoning is a sweet vinegar mixed into the rice while warm. The most likely places to find the seasoning will be where you saw the sushi rice. However, you can make a version of it yourself. Mix granulated sugar and salt in with the vinegar and stir to dissolve. The amounts of sugar and salt are down to personal preference but as a rough guide two tablespoons of sugar and two teaspoons of salt with ½ a cup of rice vinegar. Alternatively, try a cider vinegar which works well with sushi rice.
Make ½ a cup of sushi seasoning for every 3 cups of uncooked sushi rice. Once cooked, this rice will expand a lot and will quickly make enough sushi for a banquet.
What other supplies you get depends on how authentic you want to be, and your personal budget. As many sushi making supplies are only made in Japan, the cost of buying them increases the further away from Japan you live. Here is a list of supplies and alternatives if you can’t find them.
For the following recipes, we will assume you have traditional supplies. Exchange for the alternative if needed.
Temaki is the most straightforward sushi to make. They look a little like ice cream cones and are meant to be eaten as soon as they are made.
Nigri are small balls of rice topped with fish slices called sushimi, flattened prawns called Ebi in Japan, raw or cooked vegetables, or a slice of sweet omelet called Tamago. For home sushi, you can top your nigiri with anything you like.
Gunkan translates to a battleship because they look a little like tiny boats. To make them, begin by making the same rice ball into a boat shape as with the nigiri.
An easily recognizable sushi shape is the maki. The maki is made using the bamboo Yutaka rolling mat and will take time to learn.
Futomaki are a larger version of the maki. They have more fillings and are about twice the diameter of a maki. Follow the same instructions as the maki, but use a whole sheet of nori rather than a half.
Successfully making a futomaki is an advanced skill. Do not expect to get it right the first time! However, even an unsuccessful futomaki will taste just as nice as a professionally made one. Eat up and don’t let any go to waste.
Real sushi chefs use specialized knives to make sushi. Although not essential, if you enjoy raw fish in sushi, then investing in a filleting knife will make preparing fish into manageable filets easier. For making the beautifully thin slices of fish called sashimi chef use the purpose-built shobu-bocho knife. To replicate the cutting power, use your sharpest knife. Don’t be surprised if a regular knife doesn’t work so well; the Japanese versions are expertly made from folded steel and cost hundreds of dollars!
Most home chefs only need to slice maki into bite-size pieces. For this, have a sharp knife and aim to cut the roll in one slice pulling the knife down and towards you. Wipe the blade clean after each cut to stop the rice residue making the edge sticky.
Once you have prepared your sushi and are ready to serve, arrange the finished sushi onto a platter or chopping board. Give each person a smaller plate with a pea-sized ball of wasabi and a walnut-sized portion of ginger. You can have a dish of soya sauce too, but this isn’t essential.
Do not worry about chopsticks! Japanese people don’t always use them for sushi but do make sure your hands are clean. Each person selects several pieces of sushi, about four is right. Take your time and appreciate all the flavors. Try eating a little bit of the ginger to cleanse your pallet between types of sushi. If you use soy sauce or wasabi, go easy! Soy is a strong salty flavor, and wasabi is very spicy.