by Sydney Collier
Photography by Stephen Vocaturo
Japanese sushi encompasses a large spectrum of ingredients and flavors. From subtle California rolls to fresh sashimi, there’s a piece of sushi for everyone. Use these simple tips to help create a sushi roll unique to your taste.
The first, and perhaps most difficult, step is making the sticky rice. The rice clumps together to hold the roll intact and creates a base to pile ingredients on top of.
Start by rinsing 1 ½ cups of sushi rice for several minutes to get rid of excess starch, then bring the rice and water to a boil in a large pot (about 1.2 cups of water per cup of rice). Let the rice cook for about six to eight minutes, stirring occasionally, until it has soaked up all of the water.
After the rice has cooked, add the key ingredient: rice vinegar.
“You have to get the rice vinegar because that’s what makes it sticky,” said Megan Smith (COM ’16), “People try to make it without the rice vinegar, and that’s a major source of failure.”
Add ¼ cup rice vinegar immediately after the rice cooks. Use a wooden spoon to gently stir the vinegar and rice together. Let the rice cool to about room temperature, but do not let it get too cold or else the rice won’t hold together.
While the sticky rice cools, gather together your desired ingredients to fill your sushi roll. These ingredients normally include fish and vegetables.
“I think that your fish flavor should be the most prominent,” said Makaela Reinke (SHA ’16). “Then you have to have your base element, which can be cream cheese or avocado. You also have to have a crunch element [such as] cucumber or shrimp tempura.”
Common fish include salmon, tuna and imitation crab. When picking out fish, choose a meaty fish that has a lot of substance. Avoid flaky fish that can easily fall apart. Freshness is also crucial; using fish that isn’t well cleaned or freshly caught could end in a nasty bout of food poisoning. Use a sharp knife to cut the fish into medium-sized pieces.
Next, thinly slice your vegetables. Cucumber and carrot are popular choices to bring crunch to a roll. Avocado complements fish such as salmon and tuna well and adds a creamy texture.
To put your sushi roll together, take a bamboo mat and lay a sheet of salty nori––or dried seaweed––over the mat. Spread a layer of sticky rice on top of the nori, pressing the rice together to fill in any cracks or gaps. Cover the entire piece of seaweed with rice.
Next, lay your fish and vegetables in a line at the edge of the mat. Pick up the edge of the bamboo mat and begin to tightly roll, peeling away the mat as you go.
Once you have successfully rolled your sushi, you can add the final toppings.
Sauces such as unagi––or eel––sauces add salty, bold flavors. Drizzle the sauce over the roll and finish with a sprinkling of sesame seeds or roe, which are fish eggs.
Another BU sushi fan, Michael Munoz (ENG ’16), said, “On top I would have a spicy mayo sauce––it would have to be something spicy.”
After you’ve added the finishing touches, use a sharp knife to cut the roll into individual pieces. Gently cut through the roll to avoid squishing the contents and its circular shape.
A good combination of sticky rice, nori, fish, vegetables and sauce can create the perfect roll, personalized to your taste. Experiment with different ingredients to find what works well together and what doesn’t.
“As a hospitality major, I’m definitely a foodie, so I think there’s right ways and wrong ways to put together the ingredients,” said Reinke. “You have to be conscious of the flavors that are going to be put together.”
With a little practice and a lot of creativity, making sushi can be a fun and different element in your dinner or lunch preparation.
Be on the lookout for “Sushi 101” in the Buzz’s Spring 2016 print edition to read about where to get your sushi fix in Boston!