Sunday, November 15, 2009
I love sushi, I always do. No problem with eating them but just couldn't bring myself to play around with sticky rice after my first attempt of making sushi some eight years ago. Despite a success and fun story back then, I thought I had enough.
So when recently I encountered the sushi challenge, my first reaction was being weary. To be honest this kept me off my kitchen for a while. Despite the fact that Audax and Rose had provided abundant guidance, I just had to wait until the last minute to jump in, didn't I? And that occasion doubled the challenge: I had to spend weekend in T's house and make sushi at the same time. That was my last chance. "Kris, pull yourself together! For once, make sticky sushi fun!"
There I was on a Friday night loading my sushi ingredients, cooking utensils or whatever I thought T wouldn't have in his kitchen, into my luggage. And of course my camera, tripod, and SD-cards. I and T jokingly regarded the weekend a camping trip.
On Saturday morning, I started making sushi rice early based on what I had read from Audax and Rose's notes. T was handy in helping me out with the rice preparation and he had a maid to assist with cutting carrots, cucumber and everything else. That was fun and they seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. So to speak, three of us learnt and practiced sushi at the same time. And oh yes, nibbled rice grains and filling bits too along the process.
Sushi turned out okay. Next I had to figure out how to set up for my photo-shoot in the front yard. No proper table top like in my studio. T managed to get an old bench instead. It had a rusty look which I really liked and I decided to use it for photographing sushis in his garden. Besides sushis I was inevitably distracted by the trees, flowers and water feature. I might have taken 50 shots of various plants there.
Thanks to Audax and Rose for hosting this month's Daring Cooks Challenge! November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge.
The challenge is in four parts:
Part 1: Making proper sushi rice – you will wash, rinse, drain, soak, cook, dress, and cool short grain rice until each grain is sticky enough to hold toppings or bind ingredients. Then you will use the cooked rice to form three types of sushi:
Part 2: Dragon sushi roll – an avocado covered inside-out rice roll with a tasty surprise filling
Part 3: Decorative sushi – a nori-coated rice roll which reveals a decorative pattern when cut
Part 4: Nigiri sushi – hand-shaped rice rolls with toppings.
For my own convenience I have made some adjustments to the recipe. For original recipe please click here.
- Rice vinegar > 5 tablespoons
- Granulated sugar > 5 teaspoons
- Salt > 1¼ teaspoons
- Japanese short grain rice > 2½ cups
- Water > 3 cups
- To prepare rice vinegar dressing, combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl.
- Heat on low setting. Stir until the mixture goes clear and the sugar and salt have dissolved.
- Set aside at room temperature. Meanwhile start preparing rice.
- Swirl rice gently in a bowl of water. Don't crush the rice in your hands or against the side of the bowl since dry rice is very brittle. Drain, repeat 3-4 times until water is nearly clear.
- Gently place the rice into a heavy medium pot with a tight fitting lid (if you have a loose fitting lid use a piece of aluminium foil to make the seal tight).
- Add water and bring rice to the boil.
- Reduce heat to the lowest setting and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed, 12-15 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this process. Turn off heat.
Let stand with the lid on, 10-15 minutes.
Excerpted from http://www.sushiencyclopedia.com/how_to_make_sushi/sushi_rice_recipe.html
- Moisten lightly a flat thin wooden spatula or spoon and a large shallow flat-bottomed non-metallic (plastic, glass or wood) bucket. Do not use metallic objects since the vinegar will react with it and produce sour and bitter sushi rice.
- When the rice is ready, immediately transfer it to a sushi bucket. while it is steaming hot. Try to drop the rice (upside down out of the pot) towards the center of the bucket.
- While the rice is still clumped together, evenly pour the sushi rice vinegar over the rice by using the rice paddle. The vinegar will drain through the gaps between the rice.
- Use the rice paddle, and at an angle of about 45 degrees, quickly flatten out the rice over the whole surface of the sushi bucket. Do not use too much force for it may smash or break the rice.
- While the rice is already spreaded out entirely, use the rice paddle, and gently run through it by making several parallel grooves length wise. Slowly rotate the sushi bucket and repeat running through the rice to make a grid pattern (one rotation should be enough).
- Starting from the edge of the sushi bucket, use the rice paddle to collect the rice over to the side of the sushi bucket. When doing this, use as many small motions as possible while ‘tumbling’ small amounts of rice each time. Do not try to flip big clumps of rice for it will not cool it evenly.
- Quickly flip the rice over with big scoops to flip the whole clump of rice. This is to bring the lower level of the other half of the rice that has not surfaced. Use the rice paddle to spread out the rice over the whole surface of the sushi bucket once again. Use several small motions to ‘tumble’ the rice.
- Use a fan and further cool the rice.
- Once again, flip small amounts of rice at a time to collect the rice towards the other side of the sushi bucket. Dampen a tenugui, or a wet cloth and cover the sushi bucket.
1. Dragon Rolls (Caterpillar Rolls)
Make 2 inside-out (uramaki) sushi rolls
- Japanese cucumber - peel, cut into lengthwise 6mm strips, salt, dry > 1/2
- Sushi rice > 2 cups
- Canned salmon steak - drain, smash salmon meat > 200 grams
- Ripe avocado - peel, half, pit, cut into 3mm-thin slices, fan out into overlapping pattern > 1
- Vinegared Water > ½ cup of water combined with a dash of rice vinegar
- Fish roe > 4 tablespoons
- Cover bamboo mat with plastic wrap. Place a sheet of nori shiny side down, lengthwise, on the edge the mat.
- Moisten lightly your hands in the bowl of vinegared water.
- Place one cup of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet.
- Flip the rice-covered nori over (so the bare nori is now on top) and place on the edge of the mat closest to you.
- Arrange salmon mess across the length of the nori, not quite centred on it but a little closer to you. Place half the cucumber sticks next to the eel.
- Lift the edge of the mat closest to you with both hands, keeping your fingertips over the fillings, and roll the mat and its contents until the edge of the mat touches straight down on the nori, enclosing the fillings completely. Lift up the edge of the mat you're holding, and continue rolling the inside-out roll away from you until it's sealed. Tug at the mat to tighten the seal.
- Slide a knife under one fan of avocado and transfer it onto the top of an inside-out roll. Gently spread out the avocado layer to cover the entire roll. Lay the plastic wrapped mat over the avocado-covered roll. Squeeze very gently to shape the roll.
- Spread about 2 tablespoons of fish roe along the entire top of the rice-covered roll. Using the plastic covered mat gently press the fish roe so it adheres to the rice.
- Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the roll. Slice the roll into 8 equal, bite-sized pieces, wiping your knife with a damp towel before each slice. Discard the plastic wrap. Repeat the above to make one more roll.
2. Spiral Sushi Roll
Makes 1 roll, cut into 8 pieces
- Sushi rice > 2½ cups
- Toasted nori - each sized 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm) > 2 sheets
- 3 assorted fillings consist of boiled asparagus, carrots, and ham strips
- Join 2 sheets of nori by moistening the adjacent edges and overlapping them about ½ inch (12mm).
- Place this double sheet shiny side down on a rolling mat.
- Using moist fingers place 2½ cups of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly, leaving ¼ inch (6mm) nori showing on the both ends of the sheet. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
- Using your fingers form six grooves (in the same direction that you will be rolling the mat) at even intervals across the bed of rice. Make the first groove about 2 inches (50 mm) from the edge of the nori sheet. Form the grooves by pushing the rice away. Level the areas between the grooves where you have pushed the rice.
- Place asparagus, carrot and ham subsequently in the grooves. Fill the grooves a little higher than the surrounding rice bed.
- Roll sushi up from the edge closest to you, this will form a spiral pattern of nori, rice and fillings inside the roll.
- Slice into 8 pieces with a very sharp wet knife. Serve.
3. Nigiri Sushi
Makes 14-16 pieces of sushi
- Sushi rice > 2 cups
- 2 assorted toppings - cucumber, crab sticks > 8 pairs.
- Nori > cut into long thin strips
- When handling sushi rice, make certain your hands are very clean. To keep the rice from sticking to our hands moisten your hands with vinegared water.
- Form nigiri sushi by scooping up a small amount (about 2 tablespoons) of rice with your forefinger and second finger of your right hand and placing it in your cupped
-Use the fingers and thumb of your right hand to form it into a long, narrow mound (about 2 inches x 1 inch wide or 50mm x 25mm) in your cupped palm.
- Press enough to make the rice hold firmly together. Place the nigiri on a damp cutting board flat side down. Don't let sushi touch or they'll stick to each other. At this point, you can cover the sushi with plastic wrap, and they'll keep at room temperature (not the refrigerator) for several hours.
- Place the topping piece on it. You may need to press the topping down lightly with your fingers and adjust the shape of the rice accordingly to form an attractive piece of nigiri sushi.
- Run a strip of nori (higher than the rice) around the nigiri to hold topping so it does not fall off.