This week, Karen and I got to make one of my favorite foods of all time: sushi. I've often posed the question to friends and family of what their last meal on earth would be if they could choose it and although I personally waver between tacos, pizza and chocolate chip cookies for my second and third courses (cheating?), one course always remains the same. Sushi is one of the closest foods to my heart as it reminds me of Japanese New Years and the different types of maki-zushi I got to feast on that time of year.
It's a given that the quality of seafood used needs to be top-notch when it comes to sushi, but the sushi rice is an equally important component in the equation for good sushi. Each grain of rice should be shiny and toothsome with a slight taste of vinegar and aroma of umami. Sounds like a lot of work, but once you have the basic technique down– it's a cinch since the recipe doesn't involve many ingredients.
And the fine folks at Zojirushi are making it even easier by giving one of our lucky followers a top-of-the-line Zojirushi Umami Micon rice cooker (value $250)– an essential for sushi rice and as we've said before an essential for any globetrotter kitchen! Karen and I are huge fans of their rice cookers, which produces perfect rice everytime.
To enter to win all you have to do is tell us what your favorite type of sushi is. Here are two ways to land your name into the metaphorical giveaway hat:
1) Follow us on Facebook and write your response on our wall
2) Follow us on Twitter and tweet us @globetrottings with your response AND #WhoLovesSushi
DON'T FORGET, we can't get the winner the prize unless we know who you are so be sure that you write on our wall or tweet from an account that we can respond to!
Contest ends midnight September 13, 2011. We will compile all your wall posts and tweets in the order we receive them and use a random number generator and stalk the winning number down to get you your rice cooker. Good luck and thanks for participating!
Okay, now for the sushi rice…
– 4 cups uncooked white sushi-grade rice
– 4 1/2 cups water
– 2 tbsp sake
– 1 3-inch square piece dashi konbu (You can find this in most Asian markets, it looks like a large thick piece of dried kelp)
– 1/2 cup rice vinegar
– 2 tbsp sugar
– 1 tbsp sea salt
Making good rice always begins with a thorough washing– this seems tedious but is absolutely key. Put your rice in your rice cooker pot and run it under cold water, stirring gently with your hands to wash it. The water will become cloudy and milky fast. Drain the milky water and keep washing over and over until the water is practically clear. Once the rice is washed, add the water to the pot for cooking. Let it sit and soak for about thirty minutes.
While you're letting your rice soak, prepare your vinegar dressing. Combine the vinegar, sugar and salt, mix well and reserve. Once your rice is ready to cook, add the sake to the rice and then place the dashi konbu on top. Start your rice cooker and wait for the magic.
Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl for mixing the sushi rice. If you have a hangiri, a large shallow wooden bowl (as shown above), even better. If you intend to make sushi more than once it may be a worthwhile investment. They're cheap and are necessary to perfect sushi rice by controlling the moisture in your rice. To keep your rice from sticking to it when the rice is hot, fill the bowl with water and let it soak. Throw a dish towel in there to soak as you'll need it later to wipe out excess water and keep the rice covered. If you have a wooden rice paddle, place it in the water to let it soak as well.
When the rice has finished cooking, let it rest for ten to fifteen minutes before lifting the lid. Remove the dashi konbu from the rice. Then empty the water from your wooden bowl and use the damp towel to wipe the inside and the paddle, leaving both slightly moist– they shouldn't be wet. Transfer the rice into the bowl (careful of steam burns) and spread the rice to cover the surface of the bowl.
Next, pour your vinegar dressing slowly over your rice paddle onto the rice and mix gently (slicing and folding rather than stirring so as not to smash the rice grains) while simultaneously fanning the rice to cool it as you mix. If you have a fan just direct it towards the rice so it cools the rice down while you're folding. If not, get a kitchen helper, use a magazine and feel that burn in your biceps and forearms. People talk a lot of smack about carbs but they forget about the workout beforehand– more sushi for you! Once you've sufficiently mixed the dressing into the rice and it has cooled somewhat from the tossing and fanning, place a damp towel over to cover it and let it come down to room temperature. The rice should be gorgeously shiny. Wait until the rice is at room temperature before tasting and passing judgement. The cooling down process makes the rice even more delicious.
Now it's up to you what you do with this sushi rice. The possibilities are endless. Maki, inari, crazy-dyno-whatever-you-wish-roll… We chose to make some simple nigiri-zushi with some fresh tuna and hamachi.
Slice thinly, place on top of a small sushi rice ball formed by holding the rice in your palm and pressing two fingers into it, turning and repeating. You can leave the fish as is, paint with a dab of wasabi, add a bit of grated ginger and green onions or anything you fancy. Dip into a bit of soy sauce for a small slice of heaven.
The art of sushi is founded in the perfect sushi rice and we encourage you to give sushi making a try!