Sushi is considered an art in Japanese culture, and revered highly for its simplistic beauty-both aesthetically and in taste. Many of us pay high prices for this fine cuisine, but this certainly does not have to be so. While it is true that making your own nigiri style sushi (that is, a raw slice of fish over a piece of rice) would be difficult to do, lacking the freshest ingredients that would be available to a sushi chef, making simple sushi rolls is not only relatively easy, but can be quite fun as well.
Ingredients for your sushi will vary depending on what you enjoy. The easiest rolls to make include ingredients that are cooked. This could include imitation crab (as real crab tends to be incredibly expensive), cooked eel (unagi), a variety of vegetables, avocado, and shrimp. The basic ingredients of sushi rolls, however, remain the same: nori (square sheets of seaweed) and sushi rice.
The nori can be purchased in the sheets already from the grocery store. Many American stores are starting to carry it, but Asian grocery stores will undoubtedly have packages of nori. Making sushi rice is where the real art of sushi comes in, but is really quite simple.
The best rice to use for sushi is a short-grained sticky rice. It is easiest and most effective to make it in a rice cooker. These can be purchased at many different stores rather cheaply (I bought mine at Target). If a rice cooker is unavailable, follow the directions on the packaging. When the rice is finished cooking, you mix sushi vinegar into the rice. It is a seasoned vinegar that will add just a bit of flavor. The amount of vinegar that you put in will ultimately depend on how much rice you made. You do not want to overwhelm the rice with the vinegar, or make it soggy. Just put in enough to where you faintly taste it.
After you have made your rice and have your nori, you need to cut the ingredients of your roll into thin strips (in the case of vegetables), or make sure they are not too thick (in the case of shellfish or cooked eel). You will need a bamboo mat used for rolling sushi (these, too, can be found easily in stores).
The steps from here are simple:
1. Lay the sheet of nori on the bamboo mat.
2. Spread a thin layer of rice over the entirety of the mat. Remember that the thicker the layer of rice, the thicker your sushi roll will be.
3. Lay in the middle of the square, horizontally, the ingredients of your sushi roll. Make sure that it stays to the middle so that your roll stays together well.
4. Use the bamboo mat to roll your sushi roll up. Fold the side closest to you over the ingredients of the roll. Squeeze the roll tightly to make sure it stays compact, then roll it until the other end of the nori wraps completely around the roll. Doing this tightly is the most important part of this process.
5. When you have a roll-which will look like a log, you’ll need to cut it into separate pieces. The easiest way to do this is to use a non-serrated knife, and dip it in water between cuts, so that the rice doesn’t cause the knife to be sticky.
When the roll is cut, you are done! Serve with wasabi and soy sauce, and applaud yourself for a job well done. It usually takes a few tries to get the hang of it, but once you do it is lot of fun, and it is great to experiment with different ingredients. Remember that you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for great sushi. Just make it at home yourself!