Trip to Japan

How to Make Sushi

Posted on 01/07/2017

How to Make Sushi

All Your Biggest Sushi-Making Questions, Answered

(source: Williams-Sonoma Blog)

It’s well-known that in Japan, cooks train for years (and even decades) to become master sushi chefs—and that explains why so many of us think sushi is best left to the experts. But if you think you can’t make the delicacy at home, then you’re missing out: With just a few tips and tricks, you, too, can be enjoying your own sushi at home.
Before you get started, read through our list of the top five biggest sushi-making questions. Then grab a bag of sushi rice, some quality fish, and our DIY sushi kit, and get rolling.

What makes sushi rice different from plain white rice?
Rice is a critical part of sushi—so much so that the term is a Japanese portmanteau of two different words (su, meaning vinegar, and meshi, meaning rice). Sushi rice, or shari, as it’s called, is both made using a specific grain variety as well as in a specific cooking style. Sushi rice is prepared using a short-grain white Japonica rice (often labeled “sushi rice” in the United States) that’s cooked in dashi (Japanese sea stock), seasoned with rice vinegar, sugar and salt, fanned to eliminate moisture and served barely warm with fish and vegetables.

What does it mean when a market sells “sushi-grade fish”?
If you see a fish labeled “sushi-grade” or “sashimi-grade,” this is the store’s way of indicating that the cut is the highest-quality fish they’re offering, and one that they feel confident consumers will be able to eat raw. Note, however, that there are no official regulations or standards for this designation—which means that they’re more marketing terms than anything else. (The FDA does have a regulation maintaining that all fish eaten raw, especially parasitic fish, should be frozen first for safety measures.)
To verify that your fish truly is safe to consume raw, ask your fishmonger details: Where did the fish come from? How old is it? What are the freezing conditions that the seafood has been subject to? Examine it for freshness—bright eyes, firm skin, translucent flesh and an inoffensive smell are all good signs—and keeping mind that fish intended to be eaten raw should either be frozen for seven days at -4ºF, or flash-frozen for at least 15 hours at -31ºF.

How come rice always sticks to my fingers when I make sushi?
Part of the joy of sushi is the sticky texture of the rice, but if you find that grains of rice tend to stick to you as much as they stick to one another, you’ll want to keep your hands wet to prevent rice from getting all over them. One way to keep your hands wet is to moisten them with a clean, damp towel; another option is to keep a small bowl of water (or a mixture of half water and half vinegar) nearby, dipping your fingers in whenever sushi assembly gets messy.

My sushi winds up looking more like a burrito—what did I do wrong?
Over-stuffing your sushi roll is one of the most common beginner sushi-making mistakes. If you find that you don’t have enough nori, or dried seaweed, to completely cover your roll, then chances that you’ve put too much filling into your rice. To prevent this from happening, add no more than three fillings, and be sure to leave at least an inch of space on the edge of your sheet of seaweed for sealing the roll. Gently squeeze to tighten the roll before slicing it into pieces.

Should I serve my sushi with pickled ginger and wasabi like restaurants do?
In America, it’s not uncommon to mix extra wasabi into soy sauce and use it for dipping (and perfectly OK to do at home—it is your table, after all!). That being said, this practice is often considered verboten in Japan, as the sushi should already contain the perfect amount of wasabi and seasoning.

If you like, you can serve sushi with pickled ginger on the side. It’s meant to be a palate cleanser, and consumed in between pieces of sushi only.

Sushi Vocabulary:

(source -

Nigiri-zushi is the best-known variety of sushi; it consists of a piece of fish or seafood (or vegetable or even meat) placed on an oblong finger of lightly vinegared rice, often seasoned with a dab of wasabi. Fish is usually raw; shellfish is sometimes cooked. When fish roe or sea urchin is the topping, the whole ensemble is wrapped in dried seaweed (nori) to keep it intact; this is called gunkan-maki (literally "battleship wrap"). Nigiri-zushi is actually a regional specialty of Tokyo, and it's also known as Edomae-zushi, "Edo" being the pre-1868 name for Tokyo.

Maki-zushi is made with a bamboo mat, which is used to form strips of tuna, cucumber or other ingredients along with a mass of vinegared rice into long, seaweed-covered rolls. The rolls are then cut into slices. Futo-maki is a variation where the roll is much fatter than usual, and traditionally filled with egg custard, pickled gourd and bits of vegetables.

Temaki is similar to maki-zushi, except that it's made by hand and the finished cone-shaped product is eaten by hand, with or without soy sauce.

Sashimi is an assortment of sliced raw fish served on a platter with shredded radish and other garnishes. It's often served as an appetizer with drinks.

Chirashi consists of sashimi and chopped vegetables arranged over a bowl of rice. It usually comes as a set meal, in price levels based on size and quality of ingredients.

Oshi-zushi is a specialty of Osaka, made by pressing a layer of fish (highly vinegared and sometimes lightly steamed) onto a layer of rice in a large wooden mold. Afterwards, the oshi-zushi is removed from the mold and cut into bite-size rectangular pieces.
Inari-zushi is rice and chopped vegetables stuffed into a pouch of fried tofu; it can sometimes be found in outdoor food stalls, grocery stores and department stores.

The first three types of sushi can be ordered individually, or in various set meals. Sashimi and chirashi-zushi are generally ready-made assortments (although if you're at the counter you can order most sushi items as sashimi). Oshi-zushi is generally found in the Kansai region (Osaka and Kyoto).

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