From Scratch: Making sushi at home


Making sushi at home is not as difficult as it may appear.

Since I am a big fan, I've been doing it for years. However, my sushi rolls were never objects of beauty. I needed a hands-on tutorial to perfect my technique. Fortunately, my good Japanese friends, Mutsumi and Yayoi Awaji, came to visit me last week and I got a lesson from the experts.

Sushi doesn't have to contain raw fish. Mutsumi told me that a favorite roll for children has tuna salad and cucumber. One of the advantages of making your own is that you can use ingredients you and your family like. In addition, homemade sushi is far fresher than what you buy in the supermarket and much less expensive than purchasing it in a restaurant.

All of the ingredients you need can be found in local supermarkets such as Weis or Giant.

The most important is the rice. I used Nishiki, a California-grown medium grain rice. You can use other brands of medium grain rice, but long grain or parboiled rice such as Uncle Ben's won't work.

Next is the nori, or dried seaweed, which is used for the wrapping the roll. For the distinct sushi flavor, you will also need rice vinegar. The choices are pre-seasoned and plain. I prefer the plain, adding my own sugar and salt.

Finally, you will need a bamboo mat to roll up the sushi.

Instructions: Since most Americans don't own a rice cooker, the following directions will produce perfect sushi rice using a pot.

Measure out 2 cups of rice and place in a strainer. With cold running water, wash the rice, using your hand to rub it around in the strainer. Wash until the water is almost clear and then drain well.

Place the rice in a medium-size pot, add 2 cups of cold water and let sit for 30 minutes. Then bring the rice to a boil over medium-high heat. Immediately turn the heat to low and cover. Cook 10 minutes, remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the rice seasonings. Mix together 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/3 cup rice vinegar. Stir well until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Set aside.

When the rice has finished cooking, use a large spoon and transfer it to a flat-bottomed bowl or pan. Mix in the rice seasoning. While continuing to mix, fan the rice.

The purpose of fanning is to both cool the rice and ensure that the flavoring penetrates each grain. Fanning the rice also removes the excess moisture that would make the rice too soft. Mutsumi told me it's good to have a helper in the fanning step, but an electric fan will work, too.

For the sushi rolls shown in the pictures, we used carrot, cucumber, avocado and smoked salmon. Cut each of the ingredients into thin 4-inch strips. Boil the carrot briefly in water with 2 teaspoons sugar, 2 teaspoons soy sauce and a dash of salt.

To assemble the roll, place a sheet of nori on the bamboo mat, shiny side down. Layer the nori with rice beginning at the bottom, covering about 2/3 of the sheet. Try to place the rice with even thickness. Then place pieces of carrot, cucumber, avocado and salmon at the bottom third of the rice. Lifting up the mat, begin to roll toward the top, pressing down as you go until the roll is complete.

When finished, cut the roll into pieces using a sharp knife dipped in water. Serve with soy sauce mixed with wasabi paste for dipping. Pickled ginger is often served on the side. This recipe will make about six rolls.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.