May 19

Sushi Rice, the Secret Behind Delicious Sushi

in Japanese, Recipes By Region, Recipes by Type, Rice & Noodles, Tips & Tricks

I am finally delivering on my promise to talk about seasoned vinegar (sushi-su) and sushi rice (sumeshi).  Sushi rice, or rice dressed with a seasoned vinegar, is an essential component of a variety of sushi dishes.  In fact, sushi wouldn’t be sushi without this rice.  If you are serving slices of fresh uncooked fish without any sushi rice, you are serving sashimi!  My experience is that semi-decent sushi can be ruined by bad sushi rice.  If you can make good sushi rice, there is no reason why you can’t make delicious sushi at home!

Sushi Rice

Sushi Rice Tips & Tricks

  • Use polished (white) short-grain Japanese rice (japonica) or medium-grain California rice.  These types of rice are often labeled as sushi rice or Calrose rice at the store here in the US.
  • Wash your rice to get rid of the starchy powder that clings to the grains. This starchy powder will prevent proper absorption of the sushi-su and give you less than perfect rice.  To wash rice, place your measured rice into a bowl and cover it with fresh cold water.  Use your hand to swish and stir the rice around and then carefully drain the water (I use a fine-mesh strainer to do this).  Repeat this process until the water runs clear.
  • If you eat a lot of rice, a rice cooker is a wonderful investment because it eliminates timing problems, makes perfect rice, and many cookers offer a warming function that keeps rice fresh ahd warm for 24 hours.  My favorite that I’ve personally used is Zojirushi’s Neuro Fuzzy Logic.  But again, it’s an investment!
  • It is best to mix the seasoned vinegar with the cooked rice  in a sushi-oke or an unvarnished wooden bowl, but you can also use a wide shallow glass or ceramic bowl.  I use a wide shallow glass mixing bowl, because that is what I have on hand.  Do not, however, use an aluminum bowl, as this type of bowl will retain heat differently and give the rice a metallic taste.
  • Prepared sushi rice should be stored at cool room temperature, covered with a moist cloth or plastic wrap. It will keep this way for up to 12 hours.  Do not refrigerate it or freeze it, as this destroys the texture.

How to Make Sushi-su (Seasoned Vinegar for Sushi Rice)

There are many recipes for sushi-su (seasoned vinegar), but all use the same basic components: rice vinegar, sugar, and salt.  Some recipes also through in a small piece of kombu, which adds more depth of flavor, but this is optional.  I prefer my sushi-su to be not as sweet as some.  Once you make your own, you can adjust the sugar to suit your personal taste!  This recipe makes 1 cup of sushi-su.  I like to make extra sushi-su so that I can use it as a salad dressing (you can add some sesame or olive oil, but I like it without).  It is delicious tossed with baby arugula and then sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.

Baby Arugula Salad

The sushi-su to rice proportions that I like to use are:

  • 3 cups cooked rice: use 1/4 – 1/3 cup sushi-su
  • 4 cups cooked rice: use 1/2 – 2/3 cup sushi-su
  • 5 cups cooked rice: use 2/3 – 1 cup sushi-su

Sushi Rice

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Sushi-Su (Seasoned Vinegar for Sushi Rice)

1 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 piece kombu, 2-inches square (optional)

Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, and kombu in a small saucepan.  Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring until the sugar and salt dissolve.  When the mixture is clear, remove the saucepan from the heat and set it aside to cool.  Discard the piece of kombu.  Sushi-su can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

How to Make Sushi Rice

1. Transfer the freshly cooked hot rice to a wide shallow bowl.  Pour a small amount of the sushi-su evenly over the rice.  Toss the rice by gently cutting into it vertically with your rice paddle (or spatula), and then lifting the rice and turning it over.  As you do this, fan the rice with a hand fan or piece of cardboard (or get someone to help you).  Add more of the sushi-su and continue the cutting, folding, and fanning process.  Fanning the rice facilitates quick cooling, which gelatinizes the surface of the rice and gives a glossy finish to the rice.   Towards the end, taste the rice occasionally to decide how much of you sushi-su you want to add.

2. Cover the seasoned rice with a moist cloth or plastic wrap until ready to use.

Now that you’ve got delicious sushi rice, you can start making sushi!

Temaki SushiHere are some ideas to get you started:

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