Breaking Perceptions: Sushi for Beginners
Trying a new cuisine from somewhere you have never visited on holiday can be daunting. However, it can also be one of the most rewarding culinary experiences you will ever have. Those who have tried out Thai or Greek recipes will know what I’m talking about here, but another fantastic one to try when you get the chance is Japanese.
Contrary to popular belief, sushi does not entirely comprise of raw fish. There are many different varieties and some can even be made according to vegetarian recipes (not to be confused with fish-eating vegetarians or “pescatarians”). The basic ingredients to sushi are:
- Nori (the seaweed wrap)
- Shari (the short-grained sushi rice, often mixed with vinegar)
- Neta (the primary ingredient(s))
Sushi is an art; you are not going to perfect it on your first attempt. However, you really shouldn’t be put off by this. When you get into the rhythm, rolling the perfect sushi can provide such satisfaction and variety from your usual meals.
The ingredients are not too hard to find; there may not be entire isles dedicated to nori and shari but you can find them at supermarkets, or even find the more authentic, imported ingredients at Asian markets.
Putting together the ingredients is not the difficult part of the process; it is all in the roll. They are going to fall apart again and again and again but there are some techniques to help you through the learning curve.
To begin with, you are going to want to use a vegetable as the filling as this will be much easier. Start by laying the sheet of nori smooth side down; you will be able to feel which side is smooth and which side is slightly rough.
The shari is notoriously sticky, so you will need to keep your hands wet when handling, which will make your work a lot less frustrating. Put the rice into a bowl and grab a handful, gently rolling a ball in your hand. Place this ball in the middle of the nori and delicately spread it evenly across the sheet. It is very important not to overstuff the sushi roll, so make sure that there is only a light layer, removing some rice if necessary. The entire sheet should be covered by rice, except two centimetres at the top and bottom which will help you when it comes to rolling.
The next step is to put your neta into the roll. For beginners, I would recommend using asparagus or cucumber as they will be sturdier for when it comes to the time to roll. The cucumber would need to be sliced to fit and a width of about 1.5cm is ideal for the filling. Line the cucumber or asparagus along the edge of the nori, next to one of the margins we left in the previous step. For now, we’ll just leave it with the one ingredient.
Now comes the roll. It will be difficult but keep soldiering on. You will need to take the edge of the nori and close it around your ingredient, attempting to make a rectangular shape. The key here is the rectangular shape and trying to make a circular one will result in it falling apart a lot more. Once the nori is around the ingredient, make sure it is tight and fitting so there is no room to fall out. Make sure you are applying pressure from all three sides and continue with the roll, keeping it tight at all times. Once you have reached the end of the roll, it should be nice and compact.
To finish, use a wet knife to cut the roll in to six or eight pieces. Serve with some condiments on the side, such as soy sauce, wasabi and horse radish. Gari, a sweet ginger, also goes well with sushi.
Once you are confident with your abilities, you should try putting a light sprinkling of condiments on top of the vegetables in the roll or including more in it. Then, move on to putting fish it and combining it with vegetables. Here is a list of popular sushi rolls for you to try out:
- Prawn & Chive
- California Roll
· Avocado, Crab Stick, Cucumber
- Philadelphia Roll
· Raw/Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese, Cucumber/Avocado