Last week, Zach and I experimented with making our own sushi rolls. He was nice enough to write the post for me. Enjoy!
So I’ve really gotten into sushi in the past several years. The choice we have in landlocked West Virginia is decidedly wanting, however. I’ve been interested in learning how to make it for quite a while. Besides, I can’t really resist learning how to make the sushi rice. It’s delectable!
So for my first homemade sushi adventure, I played it safe. California rolls. No big deal with some (fake) crab meat, avocado, and cucumber. There was no risk of developing parasites by faulty handling on my part (and I didn’t have to spend the very, very high prices for sushi-grade fish at the store!). So we gathered the necessary ingredients, all of which we were able to find at our local grocer’s imported aisle (we shop at Kroger, and Morgantown has a pretty nice one).
- 1 ½ cups sushi rice (short-grain, starchy; it’s very important to pick out the appropriate rice)
- 2 cups water
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- Half a package of crab (fake or real)
- 1 avocado
- 1 cucumber
- nori (dried seaweed)
- sushi mat
It’s not a complicated set of ingredients. You’ll also need some kind of bowl, preferably wooden (though my tortilla warmer had to suffice in this case) and a bamboo mat to assist in making the rolls. I found mine in a kit at Barnes and Noble for around $10. It also came with a decent little how-to book, some chopsticks, and a rice paddle.
First, cook the appropriate amount of rice according to the package instructions. My bag had 1 ½ cups of rice into 2 cups of water. One important step that seems to get left out of the packaging, however, is to wash the rice of its excess starch first. This entails running water through your rice until it comes out clear. At one point in the process, I got sick of waiting and filled a mixing bowl with water to allow the rice to soak as I prepared other ingredients.
And in case you’re wondering, yes, 1 ½ cups of rice was quite adequate for the entire dish, which ended up being around 6 rolls in my case. It’s easy to overestimate how much rice you need, for sure!
Cooking the rice meant bringing it to a boil and then reducing to a simmer for around 10 minutes. Be careful not to mess with the rice once it’s simmering, since excessive agitation can make the rice take on a more pudding-like texture. Once you’re basically out of water, you’re in the zone!
While the rice cooks, you can add ½ tsp sugar and ½ tsp salt to the ¼ cup of vinegar and mix in a bowl until it dissolves. This will be used to season the rice immediately after it’s taken off the heat.
Once the rice is cooked, transfer it to your bowl and sprinkle the vinegar into it. Using a wooden spoon or paddle (not metal, as this can damage the rice), gently fold the rice to mix it in. Then you want to spread the rice out inside the bowl and draw tracks with the paddle (kind of like if you’re about to play tic-tac-toe). This will help cool the rice. You want to bring the temperature down to the same as the room as quickly as you can without putting it in the refrigerator (i.e., use a fan!). You’ll notice that the rice is incredibly sticky. A gentle touch with my finger pulled out a load of sushi rice, so holding together was absolutely no problem for me.
While the rice is cooling, you can prepare your produce and fish. The cucumber is straightforward. Peel it, deseed, and cut into thin strips. The crab sticks can be cut in half or into quarters, making thinner strips. The avocado can be prepared by cutting in half, removing the pit, and then slicing into quarters. Peel and halve these quarters for use in the final product. Lemon juice can be used to preserve color.
Once the rice is cool, it’s time to make the rolls! My book recommended that I lay a piece of plastic wrap over the bamboo sheet. After that, obtain a square of the nori and trim it so it’s in the shape of a rectangle. We don’t need the whole sheet here. Then use the wooden spoon to pile rice into a layer on the nori. I have read that this step trips a lot of people up, wherein they put the rice on too thick. A layer of around a quarter of an inch seemed to do the trick for me, and I had no trouble due to the rice.
Then you want to place your ingredients on the rice at your discretion. You generally want to create a strip of each ingredient to get a nice and uniform roll once it’s cut.
Now comes the trickiest part, in my opinion. The bamboo mat is there to help you achieve a nice and even roll. The technique here is to take both of your hands and push upward so that the rice folds over the ingredients. If you’ve seen a sushi roll before, you know what you’re going for. Practice, more than anything else, seems to dictate how this comes out.
As you can see, I had some trouble with the first one. This turned out to be trouble with the first few, a problem I figured was caused by putting the ingredients too close to the top of the nori. By placing more in the middle and leaving a little strip of nori uncovered by rice, I was able to achieve the desired effect in further attempts.
So I made some sushi rolls! How did it turn out? All in all, I was pleased! It was a fair amount of work, but in the end it was pretty simple. The rolls themselves turned out delicious, at least when avocado was present. I ran out of it in the middle and made several rolls with just cucumber and crab stick. Those tasted rather plain. In the future I would definitely recommend purchasing 2 avocados for this much rice. And I must say that I liked the price here! One roll usually costs about $7. We got six for about $18. Once you learn how to make it, sushi is not so bad! It’s not the expertly-crafted stuff you can get at a real restaurant, but it fills the hole in my heart for some sushi rice and filling.