Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sushi. In Middle America.

So, I got sidetracked there for a while.

That's what happens when a laptop fries not one, but two motherboards. And an LCD screen. And then, an unknown virus and its fever struck (me, not the computer). And it's the end of the semester, which is crazymaking all on its own.

Needless to say, there's not been a whole lot of cooking in my kitchen these days.

However, I have some photos stored up from pre-computer death/resurrection (it was a bit after Easter, but can I still make that joke?).

Sushi. It's just as much fun to make as it is to eat and it's one of my favorite dinner party activities.

First, you make the rice. Which, I'm not ashamed to admit, has been my meal all on its own on more than one occasion. You need this stuff:

Those white powders are sugar and salt. Yes, sushi rice is addictive. No, it's not because of cocaine.

The recipe I use calls for 500 mL of rice. I don't really understand this, because my rice comes in solid, not liquid, form, but what do I know? The rice always comes out splendidly, so I don't question it.

You have to wash the rice. I'm not talking about soap scrubbing, behind the ears kind of washing here. Just a little rinse will do. And by little, I mean rinse until the water is nearly clear. This always takes longer than I think it should. And as I'm rolling the rice between my fingers, dislodging whatever that rice powder is that clouds the water, and pouring said cloudy water down the drain only to add a fresh batch, I can't help but think of how wasteful it is. You know, about those people in Africa who have to walk miles and miles to pull a bucket full of water from a well. I pause, think about how grateful I am to be fortunate enough to have what I have, and then get back to rinsing. If you're more of an environmentalist than I clearly am (or just lazy), you can skip this step. I've tried it and it seems to make little, if any difference.

After you wash the rice, put it in a pan with 600 mL water. The recipe says to let the rice drain for 30 minutes, but I am way too impatient for that. Who knows? Maybe I'm missing out on even more sushi magic by omitting that step, but I doubt it. Heat the water to boiling, cover the rice, then reduce heat to let the rice simmer for 18 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the rice steam for 15 minutes. No peeking! I feel bad saying that, because it's in the instructions and just the fact that it's there makes me want to lift the lid every time I make this rice. But you know how steam works, right? It escapes when you lift the lid. Escapism is often good - like when it's in the form of cooking/photographing/blogging about cooking instead of doing something school related - but in this particular instance, escapism is bad. Steam needs to cuddle with the rice.

Apparently I didn't take a picture of the finished rice in the bowl. Oops. Don't worry, you'll get to see more of it later.

Here's the next group in the cast of characters in this Japanese food play.

If you have a discerning eye, you might notice the locale has changed. That's because, like a crafty cook, I made the rice the day before our sushi get together, which was hosted at a friend's house.

So, we chopped up some carrot, avocado, and cucumber, and got some pickled ginger ready to go.

Heeeeeere's the rice! See, I told you not to get too distraught. This rice is sticky. You will get it all over your fingers. The trick is to get it on the nori, but that can be easier said than done. Oh, and the nori? You'll want to put that on your bamboo sushi mat with the rough side up and with the short side facing you.

Once you've got all of the rice you need on the nori (not too thick, or eating will be complicated), sprinkle it with toasted sesame seeds. You can toast these yourself in a skillet over medium heat or, if you're like my friend and have recently traveled to South Korea, you'll have a jar of already toasted sesame seeds, ready to go. This option is so much easier, given the aforementioned stickiness of the rice. Usually, when I make sushi, at least half of the sesame seeds I toast get washed down the drain along with the glue, uh, sushi rice that's stuck to my fingers. Imagine it: it's just like coating your hands in paste, then trying to pick up some sesame seeds and delicately sprinkle them onto the rice. Right. But look how pretty it turns out when the seeds are in a jar!

The next step is to add some filling. Tuna and avocado are my favorite combo.

When your roll is full like you like it, roll that bad boy up. Just pick up the bamboo mat and roll it, like a sleeping bag, or a carpet. Just be sure not to roll the mat into the sushi roll.

And, voila!

And voila again!

Sushi Rice - adapted from Miyamoto

500 ml Sushi Rice
600 ml Water
60 ml Rice Vinegar
30 ml Sugar
5 ml Salt

Rinse sushi rice until water runs mostly clear. Mix rice and 600 mL water in a pot; heat water to boiling, then reduce heat, cover, and allow rice to simmer for 18 minutes. Remove pot from heat and let rice steam for 15 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, mix the vinegar, sugar and salt together in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture until the sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and let your sushi vinegar cool to room temperature.

Put the hot rice into your mixing bowl and add 1/4 of the sushi vinegar solution. Mix with a folding motion so as to not smash the sushi rice. Repeat until all sushi vinegar is used.

Note: the original recipe called for wooden sushi bowls and a fan. I use plastic bowls and just let the rice cool at room temperature and this seems to work just fine.

You can fill your sushi with whatever you like; my favorites are tuna, carrots, cucumber, and avocado. I would use more raw fish, but so far I've only been able to find sushi grade tuna where I live. Cooked shrimp is also good.