To all our Canadian followers, Happy Canada Day!
First off I just want to point out that I know this post has been long overdue – thanks for being patient with me! Life happens!
Thierry and myself have our love of Asian culture and cuisine as something we have in common. It is no surprise that we love wandering around Asian Supermarkets as a way to try new things and give our food some variety. For as long as Thierry and I have been together, homemade sushi has been a thing that we both enjoy. Homemade sushi has become a Paulin family favorite.
Being married to a chef definitely has its advantages in that I know our family will always have quality meals that are delicious, creative, and cost effective. Of course I learn a lot about food in the process… no complaints here!
Thierry and I don’t go to restaurants often and even when we first started dating, our first date was him making me dinner. Sushi restaurants can get pretty expensive so being able to make it at home is great – especially with it being one of mine and Thierry’s favorite foods. Thierry and I often get people asking us about our homemade sushi so I thought I would share with you. SIDE-NOTE: I know that not everyone has a rice cooker – Thierry and I typically use the rice cooker to make the rice, but I will also include a brief section to how to make it on the stove.
I remember Thierry telling me that Sushi Chef’s spend years just to perfect the rice alone. The rice is probably the biggest and most important part of making sushi – if you have a bad batch of rice, it can effect everything else. Thierry and I have gone through three rice cookers within the span of the 5 1/2 years. We bought the third (and quite frankly it was a fantastic investment) upgrade just after we got married in September. It is possible to make the rice on the stove, but if you are planning on making sushi on a regular basis like we do, a good rice cooker is the way to go. This way you don’t have to worry about the possibility of a bad batch due to temperature or time – the machine does all the work. The one we use is the Zojirushi 1.8L Induction Heated Rice Cooker which you can get on Amazon here .
Sushi rice, right out of the bag, can have a lot of starch on it, so the very first thing you need to do before cooking the rice, is to clean it. If you don’t clean the rice the end result is a starchy, overly sticky and somewhat gooey consistency – gross! Thierry and I had to try different kinds of sushi rice to determine what one we preferred. The brand we use is Nishiki , you can also get it off Amazon here if you don’t have access to an Asian Supermarket, or one that sells various rice brands. The rice you should go for is a good quality Japanese short grain rice. Medium grain will work in a pinch, but if you’re making sushi, use sushi rice.
When you get a rice cooker, most of them come with rice cups that can be easily used to measure the amount of rice/water you will be using. Typically, 1 rice cooker cup is equivalent to 3/4 cup measured.
After putting the rice in the rice cooker bowl (or regular bowl if you are cooking on the stove), clean the rice. At first, when you mix the rice and water, the water will become cloudy; that’s just the starch coming off the rice and mixing with the water. Use your hands/fingers to gently stir the rice, making sure that the mass of rice is moved around. You will need to periodically empty the water to remove excess starch. Add new water, rinse and repeat until the water is clear. Carefully drain the remaining water from the bowl to avoid losing any rice.
You are now ready to prepare the rice for cooking. When cooking rice, different rices require a different ratio of water to rice for optimal results. When using the rice cooker for sushi rice we use a 1:1 ratio of water to rice. Our rice cooker bowl has an indicator on the side (4 cups of rice means we will fill the bowl to the 4 line with water, while the rice is still in the bowl). If you are using the stove, we’ve had best results with a 1.2 :1 ratio of water to rice; the extra water is to account for more steam escaping during cooking. If you have a tight fitting lid on your pot, a 1:1 ratio should still work fine for you.
On the rice cooker that we use, there is a setting that full on says “sushi”. After approximately 46 minutes of cooking (not disturbing it at all), the rice is now ready for the final touches.
With our previous two rice cookers, there was no setting specific to sushi, only an ON/OFF switch, so the time it used to cook was approximately 20 – 30 minutes, depending on how much rice we had. When using our ON/OFF rice cooker, we would let it rest for an additional 5-10 minutes with the lid still on after it had finished cooking, to allow the steam to permeate through out the rice.
For those of you without a rice cooker, after cleaning the rice and adding the required water to the pot, cook your rice with the lid on at medium heat for 9 minutes. With the lid still on, turn your heat to maximum, and cook for an additional 4 minutes. After this, turn off the heat and let the rice rest for 15 minutes, lid still on. This method will result in some overcooked rice at the bottom of your pot (usually stuck). Don’t use the overcooked rice when making your sushi.
Thierry has spent a good portion of the time we have been together improving the rice – from the way he cleans it, to the ratio of each of the seasonings, to the brands of rice we use. Preferably the rice seasoning should be prepared the night before to allow for all of the flavors to mingle. See the slideshow below for the seasoning ingredients for the rice…
For the rice seasoning, mix the unsalted rice vinegar, sugar and salt together until the salt and sugar have dissolved, then add the Kombu. Let sit until needed. As a point of note, because we use less salt in our mix, it’s a good idea to cover and put in the fridge if you are storing it overnight.
At this point it’s time to put together your fixings. This can be done beforehand, but if you’ve made sushi rice as much as Thierry and I have, you can prepare everything while your rice is cooking. My personal favorite rolls are Philadelphia rolls while Thierry loves his California, but you can use whatever you want for the fillings.
Avocados should be the last ingredient prepared; if they’re left out they can turn rusty due to oxidation. If you’re preparing your avocado, cut them into halves, then quarters, and then strips. Keep them in a mixture of water and lemon juice to avoid them spoiling. Thierry tries to limit the time the avocado is in the water/lemon juice mix because if left for over 15 minutes, they can feel a little slimy when handling.
I will get into this in the future when I discuss how to roll the sushi, but part of the California roll includes cucumber. Before cutting the cucumber, we rub the salt on the skin of the cucumber acting as an exfoliant, getting rid of any dirt that may be still on it. This makes the cucumber’s skin softer, and takes away any bitter aftertaste. To make sure that the cucumber is cut to the correct length, that matches the seaweed, we use the sushi presses to measure. Now, there is more than one way to roll sushi depending on your comfort level but you can find these sushi presses here . Cut the cucumber in halves, then quarters, carefully remove the seeds, then cut in again into thin strips. Place on a plate and wrap with plastic wrap – refrigerate until ready to use.
If you like wasabi, you can either get the “already made in a tube” or the powder where you just add water. We use the powder kind which just requires to add water until you get the consistency you like. It is easier to add small amounts at a time rather than a large amount of water at once.
The fixings I mentioned here are just a few of the many possibilities. For the Philadelphia roll you add cream cheese – I cut the cream cheese into strips before adding to my rolls. You can make spicy mayo, or add tofu pouches (inari)… the sky is the limit…
Back to the rice – the seasoning that you put together earlier for the rice must now be mixed into the rice. If you are using a rice cooker, you would simply pour your rice into a mixing bowl. If you are using the pot, you would do the same but leaving the bottom 10% in the pot as it would typically be more crispy than the rest of the batch (and usually stuck to the pot).
Pour in the rice vinegar mixture over the rice paddle (if you don’t have any, you can get cute squirrel shaped ones here ) so that it goes over the rice. With a slicing motion, use the edge of the rice paddle to gently break apart the rice. The edge of the rice paddle will help to not crush any of the rice that is cooked. Scoop up the rice and gently fold it back into the bowl. Thierry and I have a system going on with this part where I will hold a fan up to the bowl to cool the rice while he mixes in the seasoning. If you don’t have a fan or another person to help with this you can use anything you have available that can act as a fan while mixing it – though it will take longer to cool down. If you have problems with the bowl sliding, take a damp towel and put under the bowl so that the bowl doesn’t slide. SIDE-NOTE: The bigger the bowl, the better. The larger surface area will help the rice cool down faster, stopping it from cooking for too long.
Once the rice is at room temperature (slightly warm is okay too) with the seasoning mixed in, place it with the rest of the fixings for assembly.
Depending on what you prefer, you may like your sushi with some soy sauce. As a side note, there are so many kinds of soy sauce. The one below, Yamasa, is the brand we currently use but you can experiment with different brands.
When we were preparing the cucumbers I mentioned sushi presses. There is more than one way to make your sushi roll. The traditional way is the way that Sushi Chef’s use. The “cheat” way, the way that I use, is easier and I find it helps with portion control (lets face it, sushi is Stuff-your-face good).
First and foremost, you would need nori sheets (roasted seaweed). You can find these in any Asian supermarket, or in the international isle of your local grocery store. Another common place you can find them is where your grocery store sells sushi take-out. The way I make my sushi rolls is by filling the sushi press half-way with rice, I place the fixings in the middle of the press, and then add more rice on top. The sushi presses come in three pieces, with a top piece that you press down. Once you have a tube like rice structure, you place it in the middle the nori sheet. The shiny side of the nori sheet should be facing down. With these presses, you can cut your nori sheet in half to roll. One thing to note, is it is a good thing to have a bowl of cool water to wet your hands when you are handling the sushi rice as it can get VERY sticky.
Thierry still likes to do the traditional way (see below).
The traditional way of rolling the sushi: place the whole nori sheet (shiny side down) on your sushi mat/plate (if you don’t have a sushi mat and you would like to get one you can get one here – you will notice his is covered in plastic wrap, this makes it easier to clean, and harder for rice to stick to it). You would put an even layer of rice on the nori sheet, leaving a small strip at the bottom for when it is rolled. Put your fixings along the middle as shown above. When done, roll onto itself. Using the sushi mat, you can tighten the roll by pulling it back towards yourself. It will turn out as shown below.
Whether you decide to cut your sushi, or eat it like a burrito is up to you. Thierry and I have made it so often that we typically eat it like a burrito and dip it in soy sauce (because of laziness). Whatever you do, enjoy, and have fun.
Thanks again for your patience with this post! As you can see there are a lot of details required with this recipe! Next time you have company over, you can now “wow” them with homemade sushi! 🙂
And as Thierry would tell you, “If you make a mistake when making sushi, just eat it and try again.”
Lots of love,