Typical sushi served in restaurants are maki-zushi, the rolled variety, and nigiri-zushi, which are small, slightly hand-compressed ovals of rice topped with thin slices of fresh raw fish. I would consider both of those sushi varieties to be of intermediate difficulty, and beginners would be better off making temari-zushi (ball-sushi) and temaki-zushi (hand-rolled sushi). Both these varieties are fail-proof for beginners, and neither require special rolling or pressing equipment. Once confidence is built with these two basic sushi varieties, you will be ready to tackle the others.
We will learn to make temari and temaki sushi after we learn to make sushi rice; an absolute essential for sushi.
Sushi Rice (serves 3-4)
1. Begin by preparing two cups of cooked Japanese short-grained rice, no other.
2. Combine in a saucepan 3 1/2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar if the former is unavailable), 3 tablespoons of white or caster sugar, and two teaspoons of salt. Simmer over a low heat until a the sugar and salt dissolve, but do not let it boil.
3. Turn the cooked rice out into a broad tray and pour the vinegar mixture over. Spread the rice over the tray with a wooden spatula, using a horizontal cutting motion to prevent squishing or breaking the grains. Mix the rice, fanning occasionally with another tray or heavy paper to cool. The sushi rice is ready to use when it is consistently glossy and at room temperature.
4. Cover the sushi rice with a damp cloth until you are ready to use it.
There really isn’t a recipe for this. Temaki means hand rolled, and this simple sushi is usually served at parties or at home for close friends and family.
Begin by cutting the fillings into stick form and arranging them nicely on a large communal platter. You can really use anything you wish, but here are some recommended fillings.
Salmon sashimi (fresh and raw) or smoked salmon
Tuna (fresh and raw, or canned, mixed with mayonnaise. The latter is highly untraditional, and the ancients would faint.)
Imitation crab sticks
Prawns, deveined and peeled.
Lettuce (romaine or butterhead)
For each guest prepare small dishes of temari. This is a sweet dark soy sauce for sushi. Let guests add wasabi (Japanese horseradish) as they please, but do not serve it on their plates. Wasabi’s pungent spice is quick and violent to the taste, and is the basis for many a sushi horror story.
Finally, you will need nori. These are dark green paper-thin sheets of minced, dried seaweed. Buy nori in large squares and cut them into four smaller squares.
Temaki sushi is enjoyed like so. Spread a quantity of rice on a square nori sheet, but not too much. Place the fillings of your choice on the rice, and roll the whole thing up like a cone, (the rice and fillings on the inside, of course). Dip in the soy sauce dish and enjoy.
This easy sushi is often featured in children’s cookbooks. Temari-zushi are balls of sushi with a decorative look. Artistically arranged on platters, they are perfect for parties as hors doeuvre.
Place a piece of smoked salmon or sashimi over a square of Clingfilm. (The topping should be cut square or round, and be large enough to cover the top of the sushi ball.) On top of that place two tablespoons of sushi rice. Gather the Clingfilm corners, twist, and place the sushi piece on a serving plate. Garnish with shiso leaves (perilla), parsley, dandelions, and ikura (salmon caviar)
These are eaten with soy sauce like most other sushi.
Is making sushi at home difficult? The answer is both yes and no. Yes, making sushi is difficult if you expect a first try to produce beautiful, symmetrically perfect sushi rolls and pieces that mirror the sushi in professional Japanese restaurant display windows. No, sushi is not difficult if you are easy on yourself, can use a knife to make basic cuts, and know how to measure ingredients.
Looks can be deceiving, and making sushi at home is surprisingly easier than it looks.