Learning to make Sushi for Mom

Happy Mother’s Day!

Absorbing all the information we can from the DVD.

This year my brother and I decided to get my mother a gift slightly different from what we normally get: the gift of sushi! About two months ago I got my brother a sushi-making kit for his birthday. The specific kit that I got for him was called Simply Sushi and featured a book and DVD by Australian sushi chef Steven Pallett. We, being something of a lazy duo, have been putting off actually trying out some of the techniques described in the kit, but mother’s day marked a perfect opportunity.

Making the grocery list.

We spent about an hour perusing the book and watching the DVD. The chef has a pretty awesome Australian accent; I definitely enjoyed when he kept talking about the fillets (pronounced fill-ETS). There was also somewhat amusing elevator music playing the whole time. These things did not distract us from our real task of learning how to make sushi rice, sushi cuts, and sushi rolls.

In the Asian Market, perusing seaweed options.

The next step was to make a grocery list. We went through the recipes in the book and I grabbed a pencil. Among the things on the list were:

  • Nori Seaweed
  • Wasabi
  • Japanese Mayonnaise
  • Daikon Radish
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Pickled Ginger
  • Avocado
  • Crab Meat
  • Tuna Fillet
  • Yellowtail Fillet

Once we had agreed on the final list, it was time to head to the Asian Market to look for some of these things. We took a short pitstop at a Salvadoran place for lunch, then entered the war zone. The Lotte Asian Market in Aspen Hill was filled to the brim with people and carts and children and some sort of animated energy that coursed through it all.  We left our cart unattended for about 30 seconds at one point, and it had disappeared!  The place was pretty amazing.

Approaching the fishmonger at the market, we were confused; it appeared they didn’t carry tuna or yellowtail at all. They had about 50 types of fish, but neither of the ones we were looking for. Disappointed, we decided to try the regular old grocery for fish. Still, we needed quite a few items that could only be obtained in this place, and we pushed on.

We had a hard time with the labels, most of them were unreadable to us, or had English in tiny print at the bottom. Eventually, though, we found everything on the list except for Japanese Mayonnaise and Kampyo, some sort of spiced gourd. We figured these things were overrated anyway and headed to the regular store for fish and avocados.

I have obtained fish.

At the supermarket, the only fish fillets they had were salmon and tilapia, and the fishmonger was a little rude about it. Undaunted, we bought the last fillet of salmon and since tuna is absolutely necessary in our opinion, for sushi, we picked up two tuna steaks. Not exactly ideal, but we figured they would work out.

After carting all the stuff home, we took a little break to play some Smash Bros. Dinner wasn’t supposed to be ready for three more hours and we didn’t want to start too early!

While Dad was helping chop the cucumber, radish, and avocado, we started on the sushi rice. making sushi rice is a pretty intensive process consisting of about 10 minutes cleaning the rice, 30 minutes cooking it, 5 minutes kneading it and applying rice vinegar solution, and another 5-10 minutes fanning it until it is room temperature. We rewatched the video for this section specifically because it is the single point of failure. Without successful rice, sushi cannot be achieved. Cleaning the rice is actually quite a bit of fun; you have to massage it.

Ingredients all ready to go.

As the rice was cooking, we took stock of our other ingredients. It was at this point that we realized that instead of crab meat, we had accidentally purchased clam meat. This changed our plans not at all, but it was a little funny. It was especially funny when poober bit into a piece of clam meat, made a face, and spit it out. Apparently, clam meat is pretty salty. We still used it in our “California” roll, though.

Poober with a knife!

While I fretted about the rice, poober cut up some of the fish. While we are both capable in the kitchen, he is the one who demonstrates the most raw natural talent. We couldn’t quite get the correct cuts down, especially on the tuna steak, because it was a steak and not a fillet. It was also possibly because our knives were not quite sharp enough. Still, we got some adequate strips off of each type of fish. We made a little bit of Nigiri, where you just press the rice against cuts of fish, and poober sliced up some squid combined with roe for a bit of Sashimi. Our favorite type of sushi, though, is maki; roll sushi. That’s what we needed the strips of fish for.

To roll sushi, you use a bamboo mat that came with the sushi kit. You place some nori seaweed on the mat, put rice onto it, put on your ingredients, then roll the nori inside the bamboo until the rice sticks to either side. You really need to see the video to see it explained adequately. You can also make sushi where the rice is on the outside of the seaweed, which in my experience is more commonly what you get at a sushi bar. We were somewhat successful at making both kinds, as you can see:
(click to enlarge)

I’m sorry if some of these are a little blurry.  Everyone was in a hurry to get eating!  In the end, we made:

  • Miso Soup
  • Squid with Masago Sashimi
  • Nigiri Salmon
  • Nigiri Tuna
  • Avocado Roll x2 (Avocado)
  • Pickled Radish Roll x2 (one with Cucumber)
  • Tuna and Avocado Roll x2
  • Clamifornia Roll (Clam Meat, Cucumber, Avocado, Masago)
  • Philly Roll (Cream Cheese, Salmon, Cucumber)

Our presentation improved on each roll; the first one I made almost totally fell apart, though it tasted pretty good after all.  About 2/3 of the sushi got eaten, and the rest was disassembled to get at the goodies inside.  All in all it was successful and very good.  Not to focus on the negative, but we did end up with a few takeaways:  1) Use less wasabi.  The wasabi we bought at the store is much stronger than what they serve at sushi bars.  A few of the rolls were a little hotter than maybe they should have been.  2)  Buy a rice cooker.  We cooked the rice in a saucepan, and it turned out pretty good, but I think it was a little chewy for my taste.  Also, the seaweed we put into it gave it little green specks that didn’t affect taste but may have affected presentation a little bit.  3) Make and use less rice.  In some of the rolls, we went a little overboard on rice.  I think less really ends up being more in this department.  We could have probably done with about 1/3 less rolls and with each roll having about half the rice it ended up having.  This time we made 4 uncooked cups of rice, next time maybe 2 will be in order.

It was a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone who is a sushi lover.  Making it at home is not very hard and the payoff is good and fairly cheap sushi.  We spent about $40 at the store to make all this sushi for four people, and that includes a lot of ingredients we will be able to use again.

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2 Responses

  1. Dinner was delicious!! Lots of love and laughter, a wonderful Mother’s Day!!

  2. DO NOT buy fish for sushi/sashimi at the supermarket. Sushi fish is chilled to an FDA-mandated precise temperature for precise durations to kill off the parasites; supermarket fish is usually frozen at some point but rarely with the raw consumer in mind. Cf http://www.sushifaq.com/sushiotaku/2008/01/31/where-to-buy-sushi-grade-fish/

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