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Saturday, 27 November 2010

You Won't Believe It Is Sushi..! For Reals!

Because why else would I decide, upon a whim, to lark about with fish fingers? Come on, surely you remember that someone bought me an 'All You Need to Make Sushi at Home' kit? I only mentioned two posts ago.

Seriously, I shit you not. Get ready for one of the most fiddly and intricate Snacks this blog will ever behold!

Please note, though, that I love sushi, and I have the utmost respect for the chefs who train for years to prepare it for my delectation. My little foray could quite possibly be an insult to them all... but I prefer to think of it as an homage (and I'm such a reverse-snob, I had to grit my teeth to type 'an' before 'homage' there). And, let's face it, how cool is it to be able to put together sushi in your own home, even knowing that it's going to be a bit cock-eyed compared to the stuff you'd be presented with in a restaurant? After all, it's cock-eyed because that's how I made it.

The quantities alluded to vaguely herein should be more than enough for two people, possibly three.

Ingredients:
  • Sushi Rice
  • Sushi Nori
  • Wasabi (can be purchased in several forms, I used Clearspring's Wasabi powder)
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Mayonnaise
  • Light Soy Sauce
For California Rolls:
  • Seafood Sticks
  • Avocado
  • Cucumber (optional)
For Vegetarian Rolls:
  • Cucumber (this time - peppers, carrot, celery, baby corn, all kinds of veg can be used if you can turn it into long, thin strips)
For Nigiri/Sashimi:
  • Small Salmon steak
  • Small Tuna steak
For Tamago:
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Sugar (I'm not kidding)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Light Soy Sauce
  • Butter (approx 1/2 tablespoon worth)
For Maki:
  • Salmon Caviar
Preparation Time: Didn't keep track, but probably not as long as it felt... Maybe about an hour or so in total.

Tools Required:
  • Sushi Mat
  • Cling Film (optional)
  • Knife
  • Spoon or similar for spreading rice
  • Frying Pan
  • Saucepan
  • 2 Pots or bowls (one fairly large, one small)

Process:
Start with the rice, as that takes longest to prepare and needs washing before use. It's a particular kind of rice - short grained, and very glutenous and sticky - so make sure you get something that's specifically described as sushi rice. Pour 250g into a bowl and wash with cold water, repeating a few times before draining in a sieve. Put 330ml of water into a saucepan and add the rice. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes with the saucepan lid on. Take off the heat and leave to stand for about 20 minutes, leaving the lid in place. Add 2-3 tablespoons of rice vinegar and stir in, then leave for another 10 minutes. It might even be worth refrigerating, because it ideally needs to be cool when you start adding the fish.

While all this is in progress, make a start on the Tamago omelette. Break two eggs into a bowl and beat. Stir in a tablespoon of sugar (really, I'm not making this up) and half a teaspoon of light soy sauce. Put the frying pan on a medium heat (this is the general omelette lesson I needed to learn months ago!) and melt the butter all over the pan. Pour in the egg mix and fry until the egg becomes mostly opaque. Flip (or, y'know, turn it with a spatula if you're not one for living dangerously) and cook through. Once it's done, remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Again, this might be worth refrigerating. When it's cooled off a bit, cut into strips of about 2x10cm.

Next comes the Wasabi. If you've purchased it in some ready-made form, all well and good. If using a powder, it'll go something like this: Add one part warm water to two parts Wasabi powder in a small bowl or pot and stir into a paste. Leave to cool. Simple, huh?

Then we have the fish. Basically, all you do for either the Nigiri or the Sashimi is cut the small Salmon/Tuna steaks into small slices, say about half to three quarters of a centimetre thick, then cut down into chunks of about 2x5cm. The most important thing to note is that the fish really must be bought fresh, not pre-packaged, and certainly not frozen! I cannot put enough emphasis on this. Where's the damned flash tag when you need it?!

It might also be worth pre-preparing your Nori sheets. Some will be kept as complete sheets for the rolls, some will be cut into strips - fairly long and thin for the Nigiri and Tamago (say about 1cm wide), wider strips for the maki (about 3cm maybe?).

Finally, have a large-ish pot/bowl containing a mixture of warm water and Rice Vinegar. This acts both as a lubricant for spreading the rice around and a means of preventing the rice sticking to your hands as you manhandle it.

California & Vegetarian Rolls:
Cut the avocado into quarters, removing the skin and stone. Cut the quarters into thin (2-3mm) slices. Place a sheet of cling film over the sushi mat (not utterly necessary but, depending on your preferences, it may make things easier), and a sheet of Nori on top of that. Take a couple of tablespoons full of rice and spread evenly and thinly over one end (using the water/rice vinegar mixture to keep your chosen spreading implement lubricated), taking up about 2/3 of the sheet, with the empty third being furthest from you. Spread a thin line of mayonnaise about 1/3 along the rice. Add the fillings (seafood sticks, avocado - and, should you so wish, cucumber cut into long, thin sticks - for the California Rolls, or chopped veg for the vegetarian rolls) on top of the mayonnaise. Roll up the mat (taking care to pull back the cling film, if used), tucking in the near end to start the roll. Wet the bare end of the Nori and roll over to seal. Squeeze the roll firmly, then remove from the mat and cut into 6-8 pieces (depending on how large you like your sushi rolls). Lay out on a plate or tray and, if not eating them immediately, place in a refrigerator.

Fish & Tamago Nigiri:
Lay out a sheet of cling film on the sushi mat and wet with the mixture of water and rice vinegar. Take about 2 tablespoons of rice and lay out in a line. Roll up in the cling film and sushi mat to create a long, thin, densely packed strip of rice. Remove from the roll and cut into chunks of about 4cm. Add a dab of Wasabi paste then press one of the salmon/tuna chunks down on top, thus spreading out the rice underneath. Wrap with one of the longer, thinner strips of Nori, wetting the tail end to seal.

The process is essentially the same for the Tamago but, since the strip of omelette is about twice the length of the rice block, you just fold it over before wrapping with a thin strip of Nori. Add all to the plate or tray with the rolls, and refrigerate if necessary. You'll probably only end up using about half the omelette, but it's a tasty enough snack in its own right and you'll probably end up snaffling some of it as you prepare the Nigiri. Any excuse will do, but the old favourite "it's a curved bit" is good for starters.

Maki:
The simplest of the lot. Prepare and cut another long, thin, densely packed strip of rice as for the Nigiri/Tamago. Round off the blocks, then take the wider strips of Nori and wrap them around the rice to create a kind of bowl. Spoon in a serving of Salmon Caviar, and add to the plate or tray with the rest.

Serve with picked ginger and a mixture to your taste of light Soy sauce and Wasabi.

The Results:
Well, I wasn't kidding when I said it'd be cock-eyed, so I can see why it takes years of training to perfect the art of making sushi. While the fish, even though bought less than an hour before preparation, wasn't as fresh, tasty or melt-in-the-mouth as the stuff you'd be served in any halfway decent restaurant, it certainly wasn't terrible. I'm not a big fan of seafood sticks - the melange of seafood just doesn't taste good on its own, as far as I'm concerned - and Salmon Caviar is certainly a taste I haven't quite acquired yet, but the overall mix of sushi was pretty darned cool for my first home-made effort.

It is an awful lot of effort, though, and I did find my concentration flagging many times during the preparation. The fiddliness of the rolls means a lot of practice would be required to get them bang on, and making a selection like this felt like a really long, drawn-out process.

I'm certainly intending to try it again sometime, but likely over a weekend, for lunch, having picked up the fish first thing in the morning.

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