Sushi has often been a favorite food among Asian cultures but for those from other regions, getting into Sushi may be a difficult task. Not in the least of which is getting over a squeamishness over eating raw fish. But if you are someone who is into trying new things, learning to appreciate sushi will be very easy for you. If on the other hand you can be a picky eater, you can start off with cooked sushi and then work your way toward sushi that is completely raw.
If you are looking to try sushi for the first time it is likely that you may have second thoughts about eating raw fish. This is quite common among western cultures and as such restaurants have accommodated for it. In addition to specially made sushi geared toward a western appetite they also offer types of sushi that are cooked or that do not even include raw fish.
If you are simply looking to find something that would be able to eat in a sushi restaurant. There are also vegetarian rolls on offer which so not include any type of meat. But if you do want meat, many restaurants will offer rolls made with fried chicken. There are also types of sushi that are made with egg or even sweet potato, so even if you do not like fish, there are types of sushi that you may enjoy.
If you do want to go the way of fish but are not yet ready to completely have raw fish then you may want to try tempura sushi. This is sushi that has been fried after being made in order to cook the fish and make it more appealing to western appetites.
There are two ways in which your sushi can be fried. It can be fried as a roll in which only the outside of the roll is fried and after which it is cut into the customary 8 pieces. With this method the fish in the sushi may not be completely cooked but the tempura shell will often mask the texture of the raw fish and gives the sense that the fish is cooked rather than being raw. The second type of tempura sushi is sushi that is fried after it is cut into pieces. This allows each piece of the sushi to be fried and this allows for the fish to be relatively well cooked and the sushi to be completely covered in a tempura shell. This is a great place for a beginning to start getting used to the idea of eating sushi.
The sushi that you may find in local restaurants may not always be completely authentic. Many western sushi restaurants offer rolls and sushi that you will not be able to find in Asian countries. They include ingredients that are not used in Asian countries and they are made in combinations that are not commonly enjoyed by Asians.
The increasing popularity of sushi in North America as well as around the world has resulted in variations of sushi typically found in the West but rarely if at all in Japan. Such creations to suit the Western palate were initially fueled by the invention of the California roll. A wide variety of popular rolls has evolved since.
If you want to get into making sushi yourself it can be a very frustrating thing to learn on your own. Many people will choose to take lessons or purchase books that will teach them the tips and techniques that sushi chefs use. Be prepared to mess up a few times and put in a great deal of practice before your sushi rolls start to turn out like what you may see in restaurants.
If you decide you want to make your own sushi there are a few essential tools that you will need to purchase.
- Fukin: Kitchen cloth.
- Hangiri: Rice barrel.
- Hocho: Kitchen knives.
- Makisu: Bamboo rolling mat.
- Ryoribashi: Cooking chopsticks.
- Shamoji: Wooden rice paddle.
- Makiyakinabe: Rectangular omelette pan.
- Oshizushihako: a mold used to make oshizushi.
You will also need to have on hand a supply of sushi ingredients and knowledge of how to use them.
Sushi is made with white, short-grained, Japanese rice mixed with a dressing made of rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and occasionally kombu and sake. It has to be cooled to room temperature before being used for a filling in a sushi or else it will get too sticky while being seasoned. Traditionally, the mixing is done with a hangiri, which is a round, flat-bottom wooden tub or barrel, and a wooden paddle (shamoji).
Sushi rice (sushi-meshi or su-meshi 酢飯) is prepared with short-grain Japanese rice, which has a consistency that differs from long-grain strains such as those from India, Thailand, Vietnam. The essential quality is its stickiness or glutinousness. Rice that is too sticky has a mushy texture; if not sticky enough, it feels dry. Freshly harvested rice (shinmai) typically contains too much water, and requires extra time to drain the rice cooker after washing. In some fusion cuisine restaurants, short grain brown rice and wild rice are also used.
There are regional variations in sushi rice and, of course, individual chefs have their individual methods. Most of the variations are in the rice vinegar dressing: the Kanto region (or East Japan) version of the dressing commonly uses more salt; in Kansai region (or West Japan), the dressing has more sugar.
The black seaweed wrappers used in makimono are called nori. Nori is a type of algae, traditionally cultivated in the harbors of Japan. Originally, algae was scraped from dock pilings, rolled out into thin, edible sheets, and dried in the sun, in a process similar to making rice paper. Whereas in Japan, nori may never be toasted before being used in food, many brands found in the U.S. reach drying temperatures above 108 °F (42 °C).
Today, the commercial product is farmed, processed, toasted, packaged, and sold in standard-size sheets about 18 by 21 centimetres (7.1 by 8.3 in). Higher quality nori is thick, smooth, shiny, green, and has no holes. When stored for several months, nori sheets can change color to dark green-brownish.
The standard size of a whole nori sheet mentioned above influences the size of maki-mono. A full size sheet produces futomaki, and a half produces hosomaki and temaki. To produce gunkan and some other makimono, an appropriately sized piece of nori is cut from a whole sheet.
Nori by itself is an edible snack and is available with salt or flavored with teriyaki sauce. The flavored variety, however, tends to be of lesser quality and is not suitable for sushi.
When making fukusazushi, a paper-thin omelette may replace a sheet of nori as the wrapping. The omelette is traditionally made on a rectangular omelette pan (makiyakinabe), and used to form the pouch for the rice and fillings.
For culinary, sanitary, and aesthetic reasons, fish eaten raw must be fresher and of higher quality than fish which is cooked. The FDA recommends that fish to be eaten raw is frozen before being consumed, as this will kill all parasites (but not all harmful microorganisms). Professional sushi chefs are trained to recognize important attributes, including smell, color, firmness, and freedom from parasites that may go undetected in commercial inspection. Commonly-used fish are tuna (maguro, shiro-maguro), Japanese amberjack, yellowtail (hamachi), snapper (kurodai), mackerel (saba), and salmon (sake). The most valued sushi ingredient is toro, the fatty cut of the fish. This comes in a variety of ōtoro (often from the bluefin species of tuna) and chūtoro, meaning middle toro, implying that it is halfway into the fattiness between toro and the regular cut. Aburi style refers to nigiri sushi where the fish is partially grilled (topside) and partially raw. Most nigiri sushi will be completely raw.
Other seafoods such as squid (ika), eel (anago and unagi), pike conger (hamo), octopus (tako), shrimp (ebi and amaebi), clam (mirugai, aoyagi and akagi), fish roe (ikura, masago, kazunoko and tobiko), sea urchin (uni), crab (kani), and various kinds of shellfish (abalone, prawn, scallop) are the most popular seafoods in sushi. Oysters, however, are less common, as the taste is not thought to go well with the rice. Kani kama, or imitation crab stick, is commonly subsituted for real crab, most notably in California rolls.
Pickled daikon radish (takuan) in shinko maki, pickled vegetables (tsukemono), fermented soybeans (nattō) in nattō maki, avocado, cucumber in kappa maki, asparagus, yam, pickled ume (umeboshi), gourd (kanpyō), burdock (gobo), and sweet corn may be mixed with mayonnaise.
Tofu and eggs (in the form of slightly sweet, layered omelette called tamagoyaki and raw quail eggs ride as a gunkan-maki topping) are common.
Sushi is commonly eaten with condiments. Sushi may be dipped in Shōyu, soy sauce, and may be flavored with Wasabi, a piquant paste made from the grated root of the Wasabi japonica plant.
True wasabi has anti-microbial properties and may reduce the risk of food poisoning. The traditional grating tool for wasabi is a sharkskin grater or samegawa oroshi. An imitation wasabi (seiyo-wasabi), made from horseradish and mustard powder and dyed green is common. It is found at lower-end kaiten zushi restaurants, in bento box sushi and at most restaurants outside of Japan. If manufactured in Japan, it may be labelled "Japanese Horseradish".
Gari, sweet, pickled ginger is eaten with sushi to both cleanse the palate and aid in digestion. In Japan, green tea (ocha) is invariably served together with sushi. Better sushi restaurants often use a distinctive premium tea known as mecha. In sushi vocabulary, green tea is known as agari.
From there you will need to find sushi making instructions either from a class, which is the preferred method or from a cookbook that can be purchased at your local bookstore. The best advice for a book is one that you can understand and easily follow, preferably with plenty of pictures. Take your time and flip through the books that your store has available in order to chose the one that is right for you.
Keeping fresh sushi ingredients in the house can become expensive because sushi should never be made with fish that is not completely fresh and you should never make sushi with fish that has been frozen, because the taste will be different and not as good. You may want to learn to make sushi with less expensive fish and then save the skill for special occasions.