Craving! That's what it was. I was craving sushi, California Rolls to be exact. There was only one problem. Well, two problems actually.
Firstly, we didn't have the money. Secondly, the nearest sushi restaurant was an hour away. Up hill. Both ways.
Now logic has never been my strong suit. So it took some time for the obvious to occur to me.
If life hands you wasabi, make the sushi yourself, dumbass!
And so I did.
Of course, there were a few challenges to surmount. Firstly, I had no clue how to make the sushi nor what went in it. But I did know I needed one of those little bamboo rolling mats and I wasn't about to spend good money on it.
Then it occurred to me. I have packing tape. I have bamboo skewers. I wonder if...
And so I did. I made a sushi rolling mat.
The next step was to procure the ingredients. WalMart had everything. Nori roasted seaweed sheets, Nishiki Sushi Premium Grade Rice, Marukan Rice Vinegar, soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi powder.
It's all very well to have the sushi rolling mat and sushi ingredients but they'll languish on your shelves unless you know how to actually use them! Now I'm not much for watching "How To / DIY" YouTube videos. I leave that to Michael. My mama taught me how to read a recipe and by George that's what I like to do.
But sushi, well, that was different. I had to use YouTube. There was just too much manual dexterity demanded and as we all know the damn physical world and I are barely on speaking terms.
The first thing to figure out was the rice. It's not just rice. Oh no, no, no, no. You have to handle it right and then dress it afterwards, preferably the day before making the sushi. My method would probably make any Japanese chef roll over in his grave but it's the best I can do.
First of all, and I can't emphasize this enough, wash your rice. It's not about dirt. It's about removing the starch. By rinsing the rice in the kettle five or six times until the water runs almost clear, you're removing the stickiness and your rice will turn out lovely, each grain separate and distinct, just like it is at your favorite hibachi joint.
Next, and opinions vary, place the washed sushi rice in a pot with 2X the amount of water. (1 cup of rice; 2 cups of water). Bring it to the boil and stir.
Now this is where it gets very interesting. When the kettle reaches the boil, turn off the flame and place a thin cloth or a paper towel over the top of the kettle and place the lid on top of that. You're creating a seal so your rice steams. Do Not Open It. I mean it! Resist the urge to peak!
Place the pot over a very small heat source. I use a metal grill set on top of the warm stove. Alternatively, you can rig up a grill over a tealight. That's all it takes.
For how long you ask? I forget. Maybe 45-60 minutes. Go paint your nails. Read my blogs. The minutes will fly like hours. ;)
The next step is to upgrade your beautifully steamed rice from plain to sushi rice. For every cup of uncooked rice, combine 2 Tablespoons of (unseasoned) rice vinegar, 1/4+ teaspoon of salt and 1-ish Tablespoon of sugar. Heat this mixture on a low flame, stirring, just to combine and melt the sugar.
Then, using a fluffing and separating motion, mix it into your cooked sushi rice and chill.
Congratulations. You're halfway to homemade sushi!
Now, consider the lowly vegetables. I use homegrown cucumbers (seeds removed) for crunch and freshness and avocados for smooth richness. Julienne the cucumbers and pre-carve the avocado into thin wedges, keeping it in the peeling, face down on a saucer, to prevent oxidation.
Make sure your Nori seaweed sheets, sesame seeds (optional) and protein of choice is ready. We use fake crab. Also a small bowl of clear water. You'll find out why in a moment.
Oh...and one more thing! Sharpen your unserated knife. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough. You may roll the most perfect California Roll in the history of the world...but a dull knife will tear and mash it. So, for the love of Pete, sharpen your knife!
Now comes the moment of truth: rolling. Here's how I do it.
First, lay down your rolling mat. As you become more and more skilled, you may not even need it. I keep mine in a ziploc bag so I can wipe off the stickiness of the rice and the mat stays clean. If you opt out of using the rolling mat, lay down a sheet of either plastic wrap or wax paper.
Now lay down one sheet of Nori.
This is where the clear water comes into play. Dip your fingertips in the clear water and then grab a pinch of your slightly-sweet/slightly-sour sushi rice. Dab bunches of rice all over the nori, pressing it down hard if you're rolling it rice-outwards. Personally, I prefer the ease of rolling mine rice-inwards so these directions will reflect that. (I also don't bother with sesame seeds as Michael had a bout of diverticulitis.)
Now lay a line of protein, cucumbers and avocado about 1-1/2" from the end of the nori sheet. Pick up the end using the mat/plastic/paper under it and start rolling towards the vegetables/protein. Pinch the ends together as the filling has a tendency to squersh out the ends.
Keep rolling. Tightly.
Now you have two choices. You can roll til the nori is all rolled up or trim it when the roll has gone one rotation. Totally your choice. I just keep on a-rollin'!
Lastly, and this is the tricky part, we need to cut our sushi into 1" thick circles. This is why we sharpened our knife...and why I roll mine rice-inwards. Sometimes I cut my sushi while still tightly rolled in plastic wrap to help it keep its shape. Sometimes not. Just make sure your knife is sharp, sharp, sharp! You should get 8-10 pieces of sushi out of each roll.
But what is life without condiments! Nevermind buying prefab wasabi! Any good Asian grocery store, or Walmart, carries tiny cans of powdered wasabi. Mix it with water...and watch your macho husband use too much and shed man-sized tears. Of course, mustn't forget the soy sauce and pickled ginger either.
And there we have it: homemade sushi! I know it sounds complicated but trust me, after the first few thousand times, it becomes second nature.
If you have any questions, please comment or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
P.S. If you've enjoyed this recipe, please consider donating $5 to help keep this writer afford interesting ingredients. Thank you! www.gofundme.com/f/reluctant-cook-ingredient-fundraiser
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