|The birth of sushi originated from China and was introduced into Japan in the 7th century as a method of preserving fish, since in those days, there were no refrigerators. Raw, cleaned fish were pressed between layers of salt and rice underneath a large heavy stone for several months until it fermented and was ready to eat. This method of preserving and eating fish was practiced for hundreds of years until in the early 18th century, an inventive Japanese chef decided to put slices of fresh raw fish on small mounds of rice and served it as sushi. This new ";flavor"; of sushi became very popular and two styles of sushi sprung up. One style developed from the city of Osaka, where seasoned rice was mixed with other ingredients and pressed together to form edible, little packages called ";hako-zushi";. The other style developed in Edo, which is now called Tokyo, where a small, select piece of seafood is featured on a pad of seasoned rice. This style of sushi is called ";nigiri-zushi";, and this is the sushi most Westerners are familiar with and recognize.
Many people think that sushi means raw fish, but raw fish is called sashimi and it is not equivalent to sushi. Although raw fish is a very popular ingredient in sushi, sushi signifies any food that uses sticky rice seasoned with sweet rice wine vinegar, and the Japanese sticky rice in sushi is the main element.
Sushi is a very nutritious and healthy food to consume. It is low in fat and a serving of about 8 pieces has approximately 300-450 calories, depending on the ingredients used. For sushi with fish, you get a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. The seaweed used in some sushi is rich in iodine, and the vegetables offer various vitamins and fiber. Of course, the main ingredient of rice in sushi rounds out the food pyramid with complex carbohydrates.
There are many different types of sushi, and all include sushi rice (the Japanese sticky rice seasoned with sweet vinegar.) Nigiri-zushi, also called finger rolls or handmade sushi, is the classic and most recognized sushi. It is ordered and served in pairs, and consists of an oval shaped bed of rice with a dab of wasabi and a slice of raw or cooked fish, seafood, vegetable or other ingredient lying on top. Sometimes a narrow strip of nori is wrapped around the middle like a ribbon, or the bed of rice has a thin wrapping of nori all around its sides. Maki-zushi, or nori-maki, are the sushi rolls that are made with sheets of nori. They are cut and served into six slices. A common maki-zushi is the raw tuna roll (tekkamaki) and the California roll, which usually consists of avocado strips, imitation crab and cucumbers. Another type of sushi is the stuffed bean curd rolls or inari-zushi. These are oval, deep-fried tofu pouches that have sushi rice stuffed inside and are sweet to the taste. Chirashii-zushi have different ingredients, such as raw fish, shiitake mushrooms, seaweed, vegetables and so forth, over seasoned rice on a dish, and oshi-zushi is pressed sushi rice that are cut into small squares. For sushi parties, hand-rolled sushi or temaki-zushi is easy and fun for guests to make. These use a small square piece of nori that is rolled into a cone shape with sushi rice and filling ingredients inside.
Perhaps you already know all about sushi and eat them quite often at sushi bars, or maybe you've made sushi a part of your diet, but now you want to make them at home for convenience and cost. What tools and ingredients will you need? The first tool is a very sharp knife. If you plan to make a lot of sushi, then a bento knife is best. This is the classic sushi knife that has a razor-sharp carbon steel blade and a wood handle that doesn't get slippery when wet. Another tool is a bamboo mat (sushimaki sudare) for rolling the sushi. A wooden sushi press for making oshi-zushi is convenient but not essential, since you can also use a hamburger press. A wooden flat-bottomed rice-cooling tub (hangiri or sushi oke) is a great tool to use when preparing the sushi rice, but again, it's not required and any non-metal large bowl or plate will work as well. Other tools that are helpful but optional, since you can always use your fingers, is a wooden or plastic rice paddle or spatula for scooping and mixing the sushi rice, and a pair of chopsticks to pick things up with.
The variety of main ingredients needed varies with the type of sushi that you're making, but there are side ingredients, or the condiments, that must always be on hand for any sushi. These are shoyu (soy sauce), wasabi (Japanese horseradish), and gari (sliced pickled ginger). The shoyu is used as a dipping sauce and the wasabi can be mixed into it as well, but it is also an ingredient in nigiri-zushi. Gari is eaten to refresh and cleanse the palate between different kinds of sushi or before each new bite of sushi. Of course, the main ingredients for any sushi is a high quality short-grained sticky rice and sweet vinegar which, when mixed together, is the sushi rice. No other type of rice, such as brown rice, instant rice, or long grain rice, should be used for making sushi. Another main ingredient needed is nori (toasted seaweed sheets) for making maki-zushi or other sushi that requires nori. As for the filling ingredients inside sushi, there is an endless variety. Some typical kinds include daikon, imitation crab, cucumber, avocado, kampyo (seasoned Japanese gourd), shiitake mushrooms, shrimp, smoked salmon, cooked eel, fresh tuna, sesame seeds, abalone, squid, clam, sakura denbu (seasoned shredded codfish), octopus, scallop, yellowtail, salmon roe, lettuce, sweet omelet, fugu, and so forth. Anything you desire can be used for the filling ingredients in your sushi.
Before making any sushi, the sushi rice needs to be prepared first. Cook the sticky rice in a rice cooker (you'll get perfectly cooked rice every time this way), or in a pot following the directions on the rice bag. Approximately one cup of cooked rice is needed for each roll of sushi but having more rice is better than having too little. While rice is cooking, have ready on hand sushi vinegar, a hangiri, a hand fan or a small portable desk fan, a rice paddle/spatula, and a clean damp towel. If you cannot find ready-to-use sushi vinegar, you can make it yourself. Combine 1/3 cup white or rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 ½ teaspoon salt in a small saucepan. Using low heat, bring the mixture to a boil and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool. For quicker cooling, place the saucepan into a large bowl of ice. When the rice is cooked and hot, transfer it into the hangiri using the rice paddle and spread it evenly over the bottom of the tub. Pour the sushi vinegar uniformly over the rice, using about one tablespoon of vinegar per one cup of cooked rice. Using the rice paddle in gentle but quick cut-and-folding strokes, mix the vinegar into the rice, taking care not to grind the delicate rice grains while mixing, and at the same time, fan the rice to quickly cool it so it will look shiny. You may need to mix and fan for ten minutes or so. The sushi rice is now ready to use but if not used immediately, cover with the damp towel to prevent rice from drying out. Always make sushi rice the same day you plan to use it and never refrigerate it.
Now let's make some sushi. If you haven't already done so, prepare the filling ingredients by cutting them into strips, sticks and slices. Let's make nigiri-zushi first. Wash your hands and dampen the palms and fingers with some sushi vinegar mixture. Take about two tablespoons of sushi rice and shape it with your hands into a 1"; X 2"; oblong mound. Put a dab of wasabi on top of the rice and place a slice of raw fish fillet, seafood, or vegetable of your choice on top. If you're using raw fish fillet, it should droop a little over the side of the rice. Instead of placing the wasabi on top of the rice, another method is to put the wasabi on the topping ingredient first. Then put the mound of rice on top, press together gently with the hands and turn the whole sushi over onto a plate with the rice on the bottom. Some nigiri-zushi are ";tied"; widthwise with a thin strip of nori, and for the gunkan style nigiri-zushi, a thin sheet of nori is wrapped around the sides of the rice mound before the wasabi and topping ingredients are placed on top. Common topping ingredients for nigiri-zushi include ebi (shrimp), Maguro (raw tuna), kappa (cucumber slice), Ika (squid), tako (octopus), anago (grilled sea-eel), hamachi (yellowtail), hotategai (scallop), uni (sea urchin), ikura (salmon roe), sake (salmon), and negitoro (toro and green onion). As mentioned earlier, almost anything you like can be used for the topping ingredient.
Now let's make maki-zushi. Take out your bamboo mat for rolling the sushi. Place a sheet of nori on top of the mat and spread about 2-3 tablespoons of sushi rice onto the nori, leaving 1"-2 "; of one lengthwise edge of nori without rice. Lay the filling ingredients lengthwise on the rice, but don't overfill, just a few pieces will work. Using the bamboo mat, roll the sushi away from you, making sure the edges of the nori tucks under while you gently pull the ends of the mat out. (The mat does not get rolled into the sushi.) Pressing firmly on the mat throughout the length of the sushi, roll the remainder of the sushi into a cylinder. Place sushi roll onto a cutting surface with edge side down, and cut into bite size pieces (about 6-8 pieces) using a bento knife or other sharp cutting knife. A few familiar maki-zushi are tekkamaki (raw tuna filling), kappamaki (cucumber filling), and futomaki (includes seasoned kampyo, denbu, sweet omelet and cucumber.) The California roll, which has imitation crab, avocado and cucumber slices, is another maki-zushi that is usually made with the nori on the inside of the sushi rice.
Another easy sushi to make is temaki-zushi (hand rolled sushi). Using either a half or a quarter of a nori sheet (depending on the size you want), place about one tablespoon of sushi rice on top of the nori and spread out evenly. Place the filling ingredients on top of the rice and add a bit of sushi mayonnaise if desired. As with maki-zushi, don't overfill with the filling ingredients. Using your hands, roll the nori into a cone shape by folding over one of the corners. Seal the nori edge of the cone closed with a dab of water, wasabi or some squished sushi rice grains. Typical filling ingredients for temaki-zushi are cucumber, asparagus, cooked shrimp, crab, smoked salmon, sweet omelet, lettuce, salmon egg and scallops, but again, anything you like can be used. Always remember to serve any of the sushi you make with soy sauce, wasabi and gari. What to drink with sushi? Green tea, sake or Japanese beer will complement any of the sushi dishes mentioned here.
Start a healthy trend of eating sushi today! If you need a sushi reference book or cookbook to add to your kitchen library, visit mrslinskitchen.com. We have several quality books to choose from as well as the ingredients and tools to make sushi with. You'll also find a variety of plates, saucers, boats and boxes for serving and containing sushi, and a few unique ideas with a sushi theme for gift giving, too! See you soon!
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