(Look! I’m not dead and actually posting things! Amazing and astounding isn’t it? All it takes is a little faith and nagging ye non-believers.)
My “little” (almost out of high school) sister came and visited me for a couple of weeks in June so I had a brief creative spree.
My sister is a long time partner-in-crime/making-stuff-buddy, but since we don’t live close by anymore, we have to make the most of our visits. One of our favorite activities is culinary experiments. We save up recipes we want to try for the once or twice a year we get to hang out. She is an avid follower of many bento blogs, so our list is heavily weighted towards Asian food these days. One of the first things we decided to try our hand at this time was some homemade sushi. I am a long time sushi aficionado, but my sister is still trying to decide if she likes it.
Making sushi at home really isn’t that difficult and the internet provides a wealth of information to help you figure it out. Contrary to popular belief, sushi does not actually have to contain raw fish or even fish at all and with the rising popularity of such foods, the international section of many grocery stores have most of the ingredients. My sister and I found everything we needed at my local chain grocery store. There were even overpriced cute little kits. You probably won’t find all the ingredients to do super traditional rolls, but you can find enough to try your hand at it and end up with something tasty. All you really need is short grain or “sushi” rice, vinegar, and seaweed. Of course if you do have a good Asian store nearby, I would recommend going there instead so you don’t have to pay the exorbitant “specialty item” prices of the grocery store.
For guidance on constructing and filling our rolls, we turned to one of our favorite food blogs Just Hungry. This blog contains a wealth of basic and practical Japanese cooking information as well as interesting cultural tidbits. The author has several very handy articles about sushi, these being the ones we referred to:
- How to make Japanese-style plain rice and sushi rice – proper rice preparation is critical for this adventure
- Ehoumaki (ehou maki): Lucky long sushi roll for Setsubun no hi – basic rolling filling technique for sushi rolls, plus some easy filling ideas
- A sushi roll bento, plus how to make sushi rolls without a sushi mat – in case you don’t have a sushi mat
Arming ourselves with a bowl of sushi rice, seaweed sheets, and some very sharp kitchen implements, my sister and I intrepidly set forth on the business of actually constructing the rolls. Since we were limited to what we could find at the local grocery, we kept our fillings pretty simple. We made four different rolls, filled as such:
- “Philly” roll – smoked salmon, cream cheese, a tiny bit of chopped onion
- “Too cheap to buy crab, but already have shrimp” California roll – cooked shrimp, avocado, cucumber
- “Whatever I feel like” roll – canned tuna (mixed with mayo), cucumber, carrot
- “Kinda like a sammich” roll – Havarti cheese, salami, carrot
All in all I felt this experiment was pretty successful. The rolls turned out pretty cute and were reasonably tasty too. Personally I like little bite sized rolls better, so I next time I would make them smaller. I felt there was a bit too much rice to filling, but that’s something easy to fix with experience. I would also probably add some lettuce or other greens to add a bit of color and make them prettier. If you decide to try your hand at making sushi too, here is my sage noob advice:
- Buy the right rice — Being an uncultured American, I never really paid much attention to different types of rice. It turns out it’s a big deal when you are making traditional Japanese food or sushi. The variety used for sushi is a short grain white rice that is much stickier than long grain varieties like Jasmine or Basmati. I had never used this kind of rice before and I was amazed at the difference in texture. So remember, despite the convenience of long grain rice, don’t cheat or you will be frustrated and disappointed.
- Don’t worry about fancy ingredients — Sushi is really only a “fancy” food in the U.S. Elsewhere it is a cheap and convenient food that you can fill with everyday ingredients. If you are at a loss for easy fillings, I would suggest looking up kimbap recipes. Kimbap (or gimbap) is a Korean food that is quite similar to sushi that is often packed for lunches and picnics and has simple fillings. Of course, if you know a good place to get sashimi grade fish and you can afford it, there’s no reason not to try that either. I’m just a cheapskate. Maybe someday I’ll splurg and try it with some fresh and tasty tuna (*nom, nom, nom*)
- Ugly food still tastes good — If this is your first attempt, it’s rather likely your rolls will be unsightly. It takes a little practice to roll them up neatly. Either way they will still be tasty (assuming you filled them with tasty things). If you are having trouble, I would suggest checking out some of the sushi making videos on YouTube. Visual aids usually help me figure things out.