For the first cook of the post Japan period, it's surely appropriate to start with what is probably the best known Japanese food, sushi. As we alluded to on Wednesday, there are about five varieties. I exclude sashimi from that, as no rice is involved. Today's version, makizushi, is so called because you use a makisu, a square bamboo mat, to roll it. You also use a mat for the "inside out" sushi, often known as an American roll, where the rice is on the outside. But let's begin at the beginning.
You will need-
- a bamboo mat
- nori seaweed
- Japanese sushi rice
- rice vinegar, and
- your fillings of choice
Let's start with the fillings. The sky (or more usually the sea) is the limit. Normally you will use at least three, having regard to flavour, colour and consistency. Something fishy generally takes up the first slot. Bizarrely, at our lesson in Kyoto we used seafood sticks, sometimes inaccurately called crab sticks. I have sneered at these in the past, but they are properly fish based, mostly pollock and hake. Prawn or lobster are excellent, and you can also use fish roe, though that is often reserved as a garnish for each slice. Avocado, while not traditionally Japanese, is often found, but the surprise to me for their bright yellow colour were strips of Japanese style omelette. After the omelette stooshie on social media a few months ago, I hesitate to raise the topic, but there is a third way to make an omelette, which we'll feature some day.
On the consistency front, cucumber is very common, but you could use peppers or celery. Just remember that any content will have to be in a piece, or pieces, long enough to span the width of the nori. You need each slice to contain bits of all your fillings.
Prepare your filling first, covering it up to avoid it drying out or discolouring. Nori has lines on it and a shiny and less shiny side. Put it on the mat, shiny side down, the lines running parallel to the thread holding the mat together.
Prepare your rice. It must be proper sushi rice. I'm assuming you don't have a rice cooker. I don't normally use the slow cook, water immersion method to do my rice, but I recommend it here. The recipe I have uses 400g of rice. In fact you will need only about 150g of rice for one matful.
Rinsing the rice is essential. Do this about four times until the water is running almost clear. For 400g of rice use 480ml of water. Always keep the ration at 1:1.2 rice to water. In an ideal world add a slice of kelp. I added some nori, not realising that it would melt, so I had to scoop it out at the end. Bring to the boil on a high heat, then lower the heat right down, cover with a tight lid, and cook for 8 - 10 minutes until the water is almost gone, making sure you don't burn it.
Dissolve 2 tbsp of sugar and 1 tsp of salt in 4 tbsp of rice vinegar. When the rice is cooked, transfer it to a large bowl and stir in the vinegar dressing. You want the rice to be still warm when you start working with it, but not too hot. Traditionally you fan the rice to get it to the optimum temperature. Have a bowl of water to keep your hands wet - the rice is very sticky.
Put a couple of large spoonfuls on to the nori, starting at the bottom and leaving a gap at the top. Teacher Mielko advised a 3cm strip: others say as little as 1cm is OK. Spread the rice evenly, then place your fillings horizontally in the middle. Wet the uncovered nori strip with water so it will stick. Using the mat, start to form a tight roll. When you reach the uncovered strip, adjust the mat so that the final strip doesn't get caught. Once you have your roll, you may want to give it another squeeze, starting from the top of the mat.
Place your sushi sausage on a board with the join at the bottom. Using your sharpest knife, cut it into 8 pieces. Make sure you are cutting, not pressing, and wipe the knife blade after every slice or every other slice.
Serve with soy sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi if you must.
Sushi developed in Japan's Edo period in the mid 19th century. It was regarded as fast food - nearly a century before McDonald's - and even in etiquette crazy Japan it is permissible to eat with your fingers.