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A note on the pictures: I am not exactly sure what I did differently when I shot these pictures but it is clear to me that I need to purchase more lights. I will keep you apprised of future developments.

For myself, and I think many people, sushi is the holy grail of Japanese cooking. My parents never made sushi when I was growing up. Sushi was the domain of Grandmas and served only on special occasions. When I asked my parents how sushi was prepared they just shrugged and said, “Well, it’s kind of a pain.”

I have always looked upon the creation of sushi rice as alchemical devil magic. This is because the resulting product flies in the face of all that I know about rice. Rice must be served hot! Cold rice is unpalatable! And yet… here the sushi sits, delicious in its cool tranquility. Surely making sushi rice must be difficult.

Not really.

Sushi Vinegar (Awase-zu):
The term “sushi” actually refers to the way the rice is prepared rather than the completed package of rice and topping/filling. Sushi is simply hot rice infused with a sushi vinegar mix.

You could buy it but it really is easier to make it yourself.

The first thing you will need to make sushi is a few simple ingredients (Full recipe at JustBento) :

  • Rice Vinegar (I use Marukan brand)
  • Sea Salt (Morton’s all the way!)
  • Sugar

Heat (but not boil) all three ingredients together until the salt and sugar dissolve. You only need 2-3 tablespoons for 2 cups of rice so make a big batch and store it for later. This mix is refrigerator stable.

Making Sushi:

  1. Prepare 2 cups of well washed white rice. As soon as it is done give it a quick fluffing with a rice paddle to keep it from clumping.
  2. While the rice is cooking get out the following items:
    1. A fan. I use an actual electric desk fan. JustBento suggests a blow dryer on “cool.” I have also used a book, some papers, my hand… etc
    2. Rice paddle. If you have a rice maker (and you should have a rice maker) the plastic paddle that comes with it is just fine.
    3. A large container for mixing the rice. Traditionally you are supposed to use a giant shallow wooden bowl for this. I am poor so I use one of my bigger mixing bowls.
    4. A bowl of water with a dash of rice vinegar in it. This is to keep your hands and tools moist, preventing them from sticking to the rice.
  3. When the rice is done, give it a quick fluffing with the rice paddle to keep it from clumping. Immediately transfer the rice into your mixing bowl.
  4. Put in 2-3 tablespoons of sushi vinegar (I prefer 3 tablespoons) and immediately begin folding the liquid into the rice with a cutting motion. Turn on your fan of choice and start mixing. Mix quickly but try not to beat your rice to death.
  5. If you are doing it right, the rice will rapidly cool and evenly absorb the sushi vinegar. A properly mixed bowl of sushi will have nicely glazed pieces of rice that adhere together but without turning into a lump of rice.

Assembling the Sushi Roll:

This sushi mat was on sale, you can actually make sushi just fine without one. If you lack a sushi mat just use a towel.  I use plastic wrap on my sushi mat because I used to be a laboratory technician and my natural inclination is to sterilize or throwout anything that could possibly harbor bacteria. I admit that this may be a totally irrational stance but there you go.

Lay your nori (seaweed) out on the mat and then start laying down a layer of rice with your water-vinegar soaked hands.  You are aiming for an even layer of rice with an inch margin at the top and the bottom. Use a light touch. You want to get the rice on there without smashing it into a brick of shaped rice. If you wanted that you could go to Costco.  RESPECT THE MARGINS. An under filled roll will be slightly depressing but an overfilled roll will refuse to remain rolled.

Place your filling down the center. Remember that the rice needs to completely enclose the filling so err on the side of less until you get a feel for it. I for one, am still getting a feel for it.

The spicy smoked salmon filling:

I bought a whole smoked salmon from Costco two weeks ago because:

  1. I love smoked salmon
  2. I wanted to see if I could freeze it

It turns out that you can indeed freeze smoked salmon. You just need to wrap it tightly in some handy plastic wrap.

This filling is super basic but tasty:

  1. Cook the smoked salmon through.
  2. Chill it in the refrigerator.
  3. Mix in mayo and Sriracha to taste. I went for a tuna salad consistency but you could easily use more or less.

You might want to ignore this photo and just look for a good youtube video.

I am still working on my rolling technique. Anyone who has pointers, please feel free to comment. I can use the help.

You can actually skip cutting the roll and just throw it in your lunch. Tastes just as good.

As the caption says: Do not be afraid to stop at this point and eat what you made. Cutting it up just makes it look nice. Sushi tastes just as good in a massive log.

The Finished Product:

I hope you will all be less intimidated by sushi in the future!

Edamame, spicy salmon sushi, tangerine of indeterminate origin (Phoenix Farmers Market) and a cabbage divider.

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