There’s something really special about good sushi that Emily and I both enjoy. When you’ve got perfect rice and super fresh fish, you get something so amazing that you almost forget there’s no bacon involved. Unfortunately, maintaining an addiction to sushi can easily get out of control, and before you know it you’re deciding between paying rent and going for that extra plate of chirashi. What does one do in such a dilemma? Well, I’ve been making it myself about once a week since our hiatus began, and I think the results have been pretty tasty and relatively cheap.
Making perfect sushi rice is a craft that is mastered over many, many years. Seeing as I’ve made it about half a dozen times, I’m not going to pretend that I’m doing everything right, nor am I going to pretend that I can teach those reading everything there is to know about sushi. I will give some basics that have helped me make rice that is at least as good as a decent sushi bar. First, you need rice specifically for sushi; this means short grain. Short grain rice has a lot of starch, so it needs to be rinsed so it’s not too sticky. I like to put two cups of sushi rice in a bowl, add about four cups of cold water, and run my fingers through the rice to separate all the grains so each is rinsed. Then you run it through a sieve and repeat. You’ll see a lot of cloudy water come off at first, but after about 4-6 times, the water becomes much clearer. I know this seems excessive, but this is crucial to have the proper texture. Next you let the rice drain in the sieve for about 20-30 minutes, then you throw it in a heavy sauce pan and add enough cold water to cover the rice by about 0.5 in. Let the rice soak for 30 minutes, then heat until it boils, lower to a bare simmer and cover for 20 minutes. Then it’s done right? No way! Don’t open that lid during the 20 minutes, or for 15 minutes after because the steam continues to cook the rice. Once the rice is done cooking you cool the rice quickly by putting it into a large, non-reactive container and stir it gently with a wooden spoon. Having a friend fan the rice helps cool it faster. As you cool the rice, add the sushi-zu to taste.
Sushi-zu is the seasoned rice vinegar used to give sushi rice that delicious balance of sour, sweet, and salty. I’m sure there is some perfect balance of the ingredients, but I mix them according to my preferences. In a small saucepan, slowly heat 0.25 cup of unseasoned rice wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 2 teaspoons of salt. As soon as the salt and sugar dissolve it’s done and you can let it cool before adding it to the rice.
Now that you’ve got your rice under control, it’s time to get some good fish. As long as you get fresh, quality seafood from a reputable fish monger you should be safe. I tend to trust Whole Foods, Sun Fat Seafood, and Nijiya Market. Nijiya Market is a pretty awesome store in Japantown; they carry really obscure ingredients as well as high quality seafood. So far I’ve only bought salmon, ahi, and octopus and all were excellent. I’ve also been tempted by their uni (sea urchin roe) and toro (fatty tuna), but that’s when the habit starts getting pricy. This place is really cool and worth checking out even if you don’t buy anything.
Fish and rice. That’s all you really need. If you want to get funky and make some rolls, that’s cool too; that’s just not what I like about sushi. My favorite thing to make is chirashi (sashimi scattered over rice) as it’s really easy to make and eat. Overall, making sushi is really fun as well as a bargain; it’s also easy to tweak what you’re doing to keep improving. If anyone out there is even remotely interested in making their own sushi, I highly recommend it.