Monday, March 24, 2014

The Great Sushi Experiment

The time has come for The Chef and I to take the plunge and learn how to make sushi. We LOVE sushi, but living at the Little Lake House out on the country means very few opportunities for sushi unless we drive into Des Moines. Take into account both of our love for cooking and learning new cuisines and a longtime desire to find a sushi class and you've got an adventure in the making.

You might remember a few weeks back we were so surprised to find nori and a sushi making kit at a very small town market in a nearby town. Since them we have assembled some ingredients to make an as yet unnamed roll all our own creation but it's going to have shrimp, avocado, cucumber, cream cheese and maybe some slightly steamed julienned carrot for color. Might even try tempura frying this roll. I've investigated how to make spicy mayo. We have plenty of soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi.

Finding rice was a bit of a challenge. I searched online, asked friends- got a lot of yes you can, no you can't, and you must always use...... Of course, no small town stores carried even short grain rice, so back to Des Moines we headed. Armed with a recommended brand to buy we quickly found what we were looking for. Rice and rice wine vinegar now complete our ingredient list. It's time to play with our food!

Since we are making our own rolls, and I am not a huge fan of nori, I have to decide if I want to leave it in or just skip it. I tend to lean towards skipping it BUT I'm not so sure my roll will turn out like I want it too. I guess I'll just leave it in and be a big girl. I have found that the flavor is less pronounced in a freshly made roll as opposed to a sushi "platter" that is premade in the deli of the grocery store. I love the other ingredients we're using so I'm sure it will be fine.

Before we get started though, let's get through some common misunderstandings about sushi. Sushi itself does not mean "raw" and in fact the vast majority of sushi I have tried contained nothing raw except vegetables. The word sushi describes the rice- the vinegar seasoned sushi rice that is sticky and holds the rolls together. Sashimi, on the other hand, IS raw fish- thinly sliced raw fish and seafood. Now there ARE types of sushi made with raw fish but it doesn't have to be raw. Some of the BEST sushi I have ever had contained tempura fried shrimp and mango, or a roll with tempura fried sweet potato- it was so delicious and sweet it was like dessert sushi. And not all sushi are rolls either- nigiri are small mounds of rice with a strip of fish or other topping laid on the top. Shrimp are commonly used for nigiri and you might be more likely to find the raw ingredients presented this way. The Chef and I always fight over the shrimp nigiri- it's both of our favorite!

Anyway....back to our sushi. We are going to start by prepping all our roll ingredients- cutting the veggies and shrimp into julienne strips, softening the cream cheese (not all rolls have cream cheese but I do like those that do). Once that is done we can start on our rice. I am following the cooking directions on the package for the water and rice amounts. While the rice is cooking you want to get your seasoning made. I am using the method of cooking my rice and seasoning from Alton Brown's  recipe on so if you want to follow along, just click and it will take you right there. Let's get started!

For the rice you will need:

2 cups sushi or short grain rice (I am using the Calrose brand-recommended to me)
2 cups water plus extra for rinsing rice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Now for the method:

Place the rice into a mixing bowl and cover with cool water. Swirl the rice in the water, pour off and repeat 2 or 3 times until the water is clear.

Place the rice and 2 cups of water into a medium saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Once boiling, reduce heat to lowest setting, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered for ten minutes.

Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl and heat in microwave for 30-45 seconds. Transfer rice to large non-metal bowl and add vinegar mixture. Fold thoroughly to combine and coat each grain with the seasoning mixture. Allow to cool to room temperature before using.

***Remember- these sushi rice instructions are property of Food Network and Alton Brown.

Now, we're ready to make our rolls. We are using:

Nori sheets
Sushi rice
Cooked shrimp cut into dice
Cucumber, cut into thin strips
Avocado, cut in thin strips
Cream cheese, very cold and cut into strips

Place a sheet of nori on bamboo rolling mat. Spread rice that has cooled over nori. 

Now, if you want the nori on the outside of the roll, place the shrimp and vegetables along the long end of the rice. 

Lift the mat and begin to roll, pressing tightly. When completely rolled, trim edges, slice roll and enjoy!

I prefer to have my rice on the outside so in order to do that, you still place the nori on the mat first and spread the rice like before, but you flip the sheet so the rice is outside. I recommend making the mat a little wet to help prevent sticking. Place fillings on nori side and roll up in the same fashion. 

With the rice on the outside you can do different garnishes, like black sesame seeds or toasted sesame seeds, tobiko, finely shredded carrots, all sorts of beautiful sauces.  I love eel sauce, spicy mayo, sometimes just a wee touch of wasabi.

I made a small batch of spicy mayo by combining mayonnaise and sriracha. Drizzled over the top of my roll, I thought it looked pretty good for an amateur. Now that we have the rice down (and let me just say, Alton Brown's method is KILLER delicious and easy) we just have our imaginations to combine all sorts of yummy combinations!


  1. YUM! I haven't had Sushi since well, before the twins. Ohhh how I'm craving!

  2. Yum! Looks delicious! I'm impressed!