Giving thanks for fishes.
November 19, 2008 8:45 AM   Subscribe

I would like to make my boyfriend's longstanding dream of sushi-thanksgiving happen in Sarasota, FL.

I assume I can probably find an online guide on how to make the rice correctly, but I have no idea where to find a variety of shockingly fresh fish. This is especially important because I'm super super touchy re: that bad taste fish acquires after death. I'm also not sure where to acquire esoterica such as pickled ginger.

Any tips you may have re: novice sushi-chefery would also be helpful. I'm thinking we'll try our hands at a small variety of rolls, nigiri, and sashimi.
posted by kavasa to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Most of your suburban-style grocery stores have the pickled ginger, varieties of soy sauce, and very often wasabi, as well.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:55 AM on November 19, 2008

Captain Brian's Fish Market, at 8441 N. Tamiami Triangle, seems to be the consensus Internet recommendation for fresh retail seafood. Apparently the dockside retail fish operation in Punta Gorda, which sounds like it would have been the right way to go, was shut down.

Make sure you get short-grain rice, not Cal-Rose, but real short-grain rice. That really matters. It's often sold, helpfully, as "sushi rice," but that fancy label probably doubles your price.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:57 AM on November 19, 2008

Last I saw, Borders had a neat little kit for making sushi — it even includes the little bamboo mats. There are great online videos for it, and apparently fanning the rice is quite important.

Whole Foods carries a mostly real wasabi mix (hon-wasabi) that isn't just dyed horseradish.

Most sushi places I know have happily told me where they shop and their various methods. Consider visiting the sushi location at which your face is known, explaining your situation, and seeing what information they'll volunteer.
posted by adipocere at 9:14 AM on November 19, 2008

My SO and I (...mostly my SO) make a lot of sushi! Rolls, at least. So my advice is all about nori rolls.

There are plenty of delicious rolls that can be made with purely vegetarian ingredients. Mango, I've learned, is amazing in a roll. One of my favorites is cream cheese, mango, avocado, and asparagus. Simple cucumber rolls are also very delicious (and particularly easy to make!). And my SO commonly makes spicy tuna rolls with canned tuna -- take the tuna, mix in some cream cheese or mayonnaise and some sri racha (which can be found at most supermarkets). Mmm. This might be more westernized sushi than your boyfriend desires, but you can at least let yourself experiment. If you're squeamish about fish, make some rolls for yourself that involve something other than fish!

We're very squeamish about raw fish, too, so we almost never make rolls with fish in them. The very few times we have, we used fish from Whole Foods. It was fine. In general, though, we mostly make vegetarian rolls -- it's cheaper and plenty tasty on its own.

I suggest you find yourself an Asian market to buy your ingredients at (other than the fish). First, it'll be much cheaper than at a regular supermarket. Second, you'll have a greater variety to choose from. You don't have to, though, if you can't find one near you.

As for general sushi-making advice... don't overstuff your rolls. This is the most important lesson my SO and I have learned about making good sushi. It's easy to overestimate how much you need to put in a roll -- you put a few slivers of veggies down and it just looks like so little. But, if you overstuff your rolls, A) you won't be able to roll them easily, B) they won't stay together when you cut them, and C) you might have trouble fitting them in our mouth. It only takes a few ingredients in small amounts to make good sushi.

Also, the rice is so important. Getting the rice to a good consistency is the best way to ensure that your sushi will turn out well. My SO makes a lot of sushi, and the best technique he's learned is to immediately cool the rice down after it's been cooked by spreading it around the walls of a large, cool bowl while fanning it. The fanning is important because it moves the hot, hot steam away from the rice as quickly as possible. Ideally, you should use a large wooden bowl. We don't have one, though, so we use a metal one. It works well enough for us.

Another important thing is the knife you use to cut the rolls. You probably don't want to buy a special knife just for one occasion, but things will go best for you if you use a very, very sharp knife. The rice is sticky and the nori is chewy--you need a knife that will go through with one fell swoop. It just makes life a whole lot easier than if you're trying to make do with a steak knife or something.

In general, though, delicious sushi is easy to make. It's a bit harder to make aesthetically-pleasing rolls... But even a first-timer is likely to make a delicious meal. Good luck, and have fun!
posted by Ms. Saint at 10:18 AM on November 19, 2008

If your local grocery doesn't have the nori wrappers, ginger, and wasabi, your local health food store likely will. Another thing to remember is the rice wine vinegar for the rice.

There are good youtube videos to show you technique.

2nding @Ms. Saint re a sharp knife. I actually did buy a knife just for this. It's cheap enough to get a new one at the grocery store. It won't be a great knife for that reason, but if you only ever use it for slicing maki rolls, it'll stay sharp for quite a while. And otherwise, if you never make sushi again, you just have an extra knife, no big deal.

Also 2nding her on not overstuffing. But I think the key there is to use less rice. When you get a roll that's mostly rice with just a bit of stuff in the middle, it's disappointing. But when spreading the rice out prior to rolling, it's easy to overestimate the thickness of the layer. You just have to experiment.

Remember that there are maki rolls with the rice on the inside and those with it on the outside. For this reason, they make 2 kinds of bamboo rolling mats. The kind wrapped in plastic is for the rolls with the rice on the outside, because it would otherwise stick. If you're only making the ones with the rice on the inside of the nori sheets, the mat without plastic on the outside is fine. I've never actually seen the plastic-lined kind in the store myself. I suppose you could just buy a naked mat and put a layer of plastic wrap on it when you do inside out rolls, but I've never tried it.
posted by Askr at 11:42 AM on November 19, 2008

I suppose you could just buy a naked mat and put a layer of plastic wrap on it when you do inside out rolls, but I've never tried it.

Yeah, we do this a lot. I didn't know they made special mats just for this. You just put a layer of seran wrap over the mat, and it works really well. In fact, if you get the rice to turn out right, you may find that rice-on-the-outside rolls are easier to deal with (my SO thinks that it's easier to get them to stay together and to cut them, when the rice is on the outside). It can be a little intimidating, though, if you've never done it before (on my first date with my SO, he made rice-on-outside rolls in order to impress me... And it worked! It was like magic!).
posted by Ms. Saint at 12:43 PM on November 19, 2008

I recently started making sushi and have one huge tip for you: practice first!

It's actually not that hard to make sushi that will knock out your guests, but you need the right tools and you need to get the hang of it. The first rolls you make will be raggedy and messy but they get better very quickly with practice.

Watch some videos, like this one. Or this one.

Some of the steps seem superfluous. Fanning the rice? Really? Insisting on wooden bowls? But just remember, people have been making sushi for centuries and there's a reason for all the technique. The few times I've skipped ahead or substituted, I regretted it.

Making the rice come out right is actually the hardest part. Rolling is tricky at first, but gets easy fast. Getting the rice right, and mixing the right amount of vinegar, properly seasoned, and then making sure it's properly cooled, seems to be much more of a chore. (I don't have a rice cooker.)

Re fish: just finding super fresh fish isn't good enough. You need "sushi-grade" (or sometimes called sashimi-grade) fish, that had been treated to kill bacteria. Here's scary stuff from the FDA to convince you.
This fish is hard to find, even in Manhattan. You need to find a good fish store or try some (very expensive) online purveyors. This is why California rolls are easy: cukes and avocados and that fake crab stuff are easy to find and store.

Good luck! Making sushi is great fun.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:45 AM on November 23, 2008

« Older Can you help me plan a roadtrip from New Orleans...   |   Replicating Lotus Notes functionality in Outlook Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.