My long-time readers know how much I absolutely love Asian cuisine. I love all things Asian—Japanese, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese. That being said, my top favorite is definitely Japanese. As a little girl, I loved going to the Hibachi restaurants and thought that was all there was to Japanese food. When I met Paul and we started dating, he took me to authentic Japanese restaurants and exposed me to so many dishes he loved from when he was stationed in Japan in the Air Force. I couldn’t believe the flavors and different dishes and how delicious it all was.
That was the first time I had had sushi, and I was hooked from my first bite. Imagine my surprise when Paul told me he knew how to make sushi and would teach me. It might seem daunting, but believe me when I say that making sushi rolls at home is not difficult. You just need a few tools, fresh ingredients, the right kind of rice, and some patience as you get the hang of it.
Making sushi at home is infinitely less expensive than eating out—and the added bonus is you can control the quality of the ingredients and make it to your specifications. We used to make sushi often with our kids—they loved to customize their sushi rolls. Guess what? They still love it when they come home and we have “sushi night.” So, get ready for some tips to make the best sushi rolls ever.
Twenty-five years ago, you had to seek out sushi-making equipment and ingredients, but not anymore. Pretty much every grocery store carries almost everything you need to make terrific sushi rolls.
So, the main tool you need to make sushi rolls is a bamboo rolling mat. I have seen these in grocery stores as well as stores with good kitchen-tool departments. Of course, you can also order one online for less than $10. A sharp knife for cutting the rolls is also nice to have.
Now let’s talk about the rice. You must use short grain rice for sushi — not the long grain kind. Long grain rice will not stick together like sushi rice will. My favorite brands are Lundberg Farms, Nishiki and Kokuho Rose. Once you have the right kind of rice, you need to rinse it thoroughly. Put the rice in a fine mesh colander and run cold water over the rice, stirring with your hand. You will see the water go from milky to clear. Now, let the rice drain really well, shaking the colander a few times. To cook the rice, nothing beats a rice cooker — every Japanese home has at least one rice cooker, so take it from the experts. If you don’t have a rice cooker, you can still make good sushi rice — the secret is to not remove the lid while the rice is cooking. Also, make sure your measurements are precise. While the rice is cooking, heat the rice vinegar, sugar (or honey) and salt on the stovetop or in the microwave until the sugar dissolves. Set aside to cool slightly.
When the rice is done, put it in a large bowl and sprinkle it with the vinegar mixture. Fold the rice with a paddle or a wooden spoon — do this gently, making sure all the rice is coated. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside until you are ready to roll.
Your sushi roll fillings are only limited by your imagination and taste preference. My favorite toppings include avocado, cucumber strips, steamed carrot strips, steamed asparagus, herbs such as cilantro, basil and mint and spicy mayonnaise — a combination of mayonnaise with sriracha or mayonnaise with wasabi paste. If you are going to use raw fish, make sure you have an impeccable source and the fish is sashimi grade. Cut into strips. Serve the sushi rolls with soy sauce, wasabi paste, and pickled ginger. Let me know how your sushi-making turns out!
4 sheets Nori (seaweed sheets, cut in halves)
Strips of avocado
Strips of cucumbers
Steamed strips of carrots
Steamed asparagus spears
Cilantro, mint and/or basil leaves, minced
Sushi Rice (recipe follows)
Spicy mayonnaise mixed with sriracha
Spicy mayonnaise mixed with wasabi paste
Toasted sesame seeds
Soy Sauce with wasabi paste
Place half of the nori sheet, shiny side up, on the bamboo sushi mat. Spread a thin layer of sushi rice on top, leaving a 1-inch border on the edges. In the middle, add toppings of your choice, being careful to not overfill the rolls. Carefully roll the seaweed up and then, using the bamboo mat, continue to gently roll the mat over the sushi roll until it is tight. Wet your knife slightly and cut it into 8 pieces. Squeeze some spicy mayonnaise on top and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve with soy sauce with wasabi paste.
2 cups short-grained rice, rinsed well and drained well
2 cups water
1/4 cup rice vinegar
4 teaspoons sugar or honey
1 teaspoon sea salt
If using a rice cooker, add rice and water to the cooker and press start. If cooking on the stovetop, add rice and water to a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then cover, turn heat to simmer and let simmer for 20 minutes. Do not remove the lid until done.
While rice is cooking, heat the rice vinegar, sugar or honey and sea salt to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
When rice is done, pour into a large bowl. Sprinkle the vinegar mixture over the rice, folding the mixture to coat all of the cooked rice. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside.