Help me start making sushi with all this cool stuff my sweetie got me
January 31, 2013 2:10 PM   Subscribe

As an anniversary gift, my girlfriend got me all this cool stuff to begin learning to make sushi with. But where to begin? What is the purpose of some of these things on the left there? I get the bamboo mat but some of the other things are throwing me for a loop. Also, what would be the very best way for a beginner to jump into this world? Difficulty: I really dont want to sent anyone to the hospital from them eating some sushi I made.
posted by Senor Cardgage to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Also, what would be the very best way for a beginner to jump into this world? Difficulty: I really dont want to sent anyone to the hospital from them eating some sushi I made.

Don't put anything that isn't food into your sushi roll and you ought to be safe on the hospital front. But I see what you're saying. Maybe just stick to veg/cooked fish rolls for now until you get your technique down.

The seaweed is for actually wrapping the sushi in. I believe that spoon is just a single-purpose rice scooper.

Here's a good place to start.

Have fun! I've only gotten to roll my own once, but it was a good time.
posted by phunniemee at 2:20 PM on January 31, 2013

You'll probably want to start the first couple times with veggie sushi or cooked fish, so you can get the hang of making good sushi before you get to using nice fish.

The first trick is to do the rice correctly, which starts with using the correct rice. You can use rice that's packaged as "Sushi rice" but any short-grain white rice will be fine. Rinse the rice in 3 changes cold water before cooking according to the directions on your rice cooker. While the rice is cooking, dissolve some salt and sugar in rice vinegar. When your rice cooker goes "click", mix in the vinegar, then spread the rice out on a baking sheet or other flat surface to cool. The plastic paddle will help you handle the rice.
posted by Jon_Evil at 2:21 PM on January 31, 2013

The very best way would be to get some Sushi rice, rice wine, rice vinegar, very fresh salmon or tuna, and cucumber. Then you can learn how to make salmon or tuna rolls and cucumber rolls. It doesn't really get simpler than that.

I'd get a book if I were you. Or look up a website. It's way too much to explain, and I'd be typing a lot of stuff others have already put out there.

I see nori (seaweed leaves), those are used to roll the rice and stuffing into. I see a paddle for spooning the dressing through the rice. The dressing is there, too (small bag). But really, a good recipe will tell you what to use and how.

Here are some websites that seem good to me.

Don't worry. As long as your ingredients are fresh, and you follow the directions, it's not possible to make something that will send people into the hospital. Chances are it's going to look okay and taste great.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:21 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Spoon to stir rice, nori to wrap it, seasonings, and rice cooker are things I see in picture besides the bamboo mat.

I strongly encourage you to take a class and/or pick up a good book like this one on sushi making. The rice alone as well as proper wrapping both take more work and skill than you'd think.
posted by bearwife at 2:23 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Did this for my daughter's 10th birthday party. I would use vegetables to start, carrots, asparagus, cucumber, maybe some crab from the grocery.

Anything works though. Although me, my daughter and her friends pinky swore to never tell, you can make sushi rolls with m&ms inside or whatever.

Having had experience being in HS in the 70s and going to many a Grateful Dead show, I thought my experience rolling things would come in handy. Not so much. I would get a book or watch several YouTube videos. By end of night we were making them with the rice inside or out.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:26 PM on January 31, 2013

The bamboo mats are to facilitate rolling the sushi (assuming you're making rolls); the seaweed paper are for roll wrappers - if you just get a regular maki type roll at a sushi joint, the seaweed paper is on the outside, while it's normally inside the rice on fancier rolls; the spoon thingy is a rice server (I guess your rice maker doesn't come with one? which would be odd); the sushinoko is seasoning stuff for the rice.

You still have to get most of the ingredients: rice (you may be able to find specific sushi rice at the store, but you generally want short-grain white; you'll probably have better luck at an Asian food place), whatever kind of filling you want, and possibly rice vinegar unless the sushinoko takes care of that (Amazon tells me it does).
posted by LionIndex at 2:27 PM on January 31, 2013

The rice used to make maki and nigiri isn't your regular rice from the rice cooker. Sushi rice needs to be mixed with rice vinegar, sugar, and salt, and then cooled down somewhat (the mix of vinegar and sugar is part of what makes sushi taste so good). If the rice is too hot or too wet, the nori will become soggy too quickly.

The yellow packet you have is a pre-made mix for sushi rice (in lieu of rice vinegar/sugar/salt) called Tamanoi Sushinoko. The instructions on Amazon indicate 1 teaspoon of Tamanoi Sushinoko per cup cooked rice. So cook rice in the rice cooker, then mix the Tamanoi Sushinoko in.

The white thing is a paddle for the rice cooker, a utensil you use to remove rice from the rice cooker. I've also used it (in addition to my hands) to help smooth out a thin layer of rice on top of the nori. Rice is sticky!

As a beginner, start with cooked items, such as California rolls (tutorial with photos). Imitation crab stick, avocado, cucumber, sesame seeds, rice, nori.

Think of it as making a thin, long cake that you end up rolling up, and slicing.
posted by kathryn at 2:29 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would start with hand rolls with cooked ingredients - asparagus, egg, avacado, imitation crab, kewpie (japanese mayo), etc.

The rice is actually the hardest to do right so once you have that down, then start making rolls.
posted by wongcorgi at 2:31 PM on January 31, 2013

i roll my own sushi - often. and the above advice is good. however, do not use FRESH uncooked fish! the fish should be/have been frozen in order to kill the worms, bacteria and other parasites that live in it. markets tout their fish as "fresh" in order to appeal to customers, so it might take you asking the dude behind the counter if the fish was frozen and then explaining to them that you are using it for sushi before they answer you truthfully.
posted by ps_im_awesome at 3:19 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

You don't have to start with raw fish. Good sushi fish is expensive anyway, so get your chops down with the cooked ingredients suggested above - or anything else that tickles your fancy but not your wallet.

Later on, you can scope out the best sources of good sushi-grade fish.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:59 PM on January 31, 2013

I got my start from Hiroko Shimbo's book. It explains everything. History, what fish is appropriate and safe, the role of daikon, why you always get that plastic grass, etc. I highly recommend it.

As far as safety, you'd be surprised how far out of your way you have to go to poison somebody with your sushi. Does it smell rotten or fishy? No? It's good. That book will explain all of this.

In your photo: The paddle is for cutting rice vinegar into the rice and the shape helps maintain the proper texture by not breaking up your rice grains. The bamboo mat is for making rolls, as is the nori. The yellow package appears to be some kind of "sushi seasoning" for mixing with your rice. I've never heard of such a thing before.
posted by cmoj at 4:36 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Let me rephrase what I said about poisoning people with your fish. If you do poison someone it will be because of general food safety mistakes. You're mixing things and using your hands for a lot of stuff. Not a hazmat situation for sure, but you need to be more mindful than if you're making a stir-fry or something.
posted by cmoj at 4:40 PM on January 31, 2013

When I learned to make sushi rolls, from a Japanese woman, she used a paddle like yours to sort of scoop and tumble the cooked rice around, while fanning it with a fan held in the other hand, in order to cool it down quickly, which gives it a good texture for sticking together in the rolls.
posted by lollusc at 5:23 PM on January 31, 2013

Make sure you have a sharp knife. Easier to cut veggies, fish and rolls - and make it all look good - with a sharp knife.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:29 PM on January 31, 2013

Honestly, I would avoid trying to make rolls at first. That's actually much harder to do successfully than it is to make nigiri. And making nigiri is very easy. Really, the hardest part is getting the rice right, and that's not all that difficult.

As for the fear of wasting good expensive fish...don't worry about it. Unless you are feeding a bus-load of people, a relatively small piece of fish will make a plate-full of nigiri. And, as long as you follow proper steps to keep it fresh, and your work-space clean, everyone will survive the meal just fine.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:26 AM on February 1, 2013

We do cowboy rolls that have raw or very lightly seared steak (flank usually) strips as one of the ingredients in them.* They are delicious. Besides that cream cheese, carrots, apples, celery (sometimes), or other things like that are the go-to for sushi at home. Salmon can play into things as well but I'm not exactly a fan.

I think I was once told/read that one of the reasons for the traditional pairing of the sushi with wasabi (dunno about the horseradish 'wasabi' we have here) was that it acts to help prevent bad organisms from doing bad things in your stomach. Take this with a grain of salt until you research it more. I just love wasabi spicy stuff.

*We haven't sent anyone to the hospital or even made anyone sick yet but my stomach is pretty tough.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:00 AM on February 1, 2013

I agree with the advice to start with cooked ingredients until you feel more comfortable with the sushi-making process; the stakes are lower and even if everything falls apart you can plop it all into a bowl and still have a delicious, guilt-free meal!

(Disclaimer: my (Chinese) family is all about nigiri and sashimi when we're at restaurants but when left to our own devices we make some freaking hearty and probably nontraditional maybe think of this comment as providing suggestions for alternative approaches rather than sushi-making canon.)

My mom makes sushi rolls fairly frequently but doesn't use raw fish because it's such a hassle. She also very strict about mixing and fanning the rice simultaneously (bonus: at the end of all this you'll have the arm muscles and coordination of an Asian mom, not to be scoffed at).

The most popular filling in our house consists of cooked meat, scrambled egg, and cucumber; just lay strips of each ingredient lengthwise on top of the rice (of course spread out over seaweed-covered bamboo mats) and roll those suckers up! Other ideas: avocado, pickled radish, pork sung, probably smoked salmon? Try googling for a sushi menu and looking for ingredients that pop out to you! (This method is good for using up leftovers.) Plus, if you use flavored meat and it balances well with your other ingredients you can skip using sauce, which is good for when you're on the go.

If you're rushed and like the taste anyway, I've seen my friends keep the seasoned rice in a tupperware and then scoop out bites directly using seaweed cut/ripped into nice mouth-sized squares. I've never had the seasoning in your picture so I couldn't say if it'd taste particularly good, but it's something fun to keep in mind.

If you need to make sushi in bulk and quickly, e.g., for a potluck, you can get yourself some aburage (fried tofu pouches) and make inari; the combination of the sweet-salty tofu and the vinegary rice is wonderful and surprisingly satisfying for being just tofu and rice.

Good luck and have fun! :D
posted by brieche at 9:57 AM on February 1, 2013

If you want extra ideas for non-raw-fish sushi, you could also look at recipes for korean Gimbap/Kimbap, which is pretty similar to sushi but they don't tend to use raw fish so much.

My top tips:
* Wet your rice paddle/hands/spoons before touching the rice so it sticks less
* Spread the rice evenly right up to the edges
* Roll as tightly as you can
* Leave the rolls to sit for a while before cutting so that the nori has time to absorb a little moisture
posted by kadia_a at 12:06 PM on February 11, 2013

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