Monday, January 3, 2011

Cat's First Sushi Rolls: New Foodie Adventures for a Brand New Year

I've been wanting to try my hand at making my own sushi rolls for a really long time now. However, I lacked the proper materials and the know-how to actually do so. At least that was the case until I got some really nice sushi-making supplies and plates for Christmas from my mother! Then my only excuse was not knowing what the hell I was doing. We all know that never stops me though, so I naturally was eager to generate some sushi rolls as soon as possible

That brings me to the first of many firsts this post represents. I actually followed the directions in the sushi-making book I got with my supplies to avoid potentially disgusting results. I've had pre-made sushi rolls a few isolated times in the past, but I honestly had no clue how they are made, so I figured it would be better not to start playing around with the recipe just yet. 

You know that was hard for me, you guys! I never, ever look to directions to figure out how to do something new. I might do some research or something, but honest-to-God directions are usually something I don't bother with unless I'm really stuck. Recipes especially are typically something I consider to be guidelines and nothing more. Good thing Japanese cuisine intimidates me so much!

The first order of business was to make the rice. In case you don't know, you can't just use any old rice to make sushi. You need short-grain Japanese sushi rice (also known as "sticky rice"). You make it pretty much the same way you make normal rice to start with -- one part rice to one part water. I made 2 cups worth of rice, so I added 2 cups of water. I wound up adding more water periodically to keep my rice from burning before it was actually done though.

Once your rice is finished, you add it to a decent-sized bowl that can be made of pretty much anything but metal. Why? Because sushi rice has vinegar in it apparently and vinegar interacts with metal to produce foul flavors that no one wants in their food. No, I did not actually know about the vinegar previously, because sushi has never tasted like vinegar to me in the past. Like I said -- I've eaten it, but had no clue about the ingredients or anything.

That's why the amount of white vinegar the recipe wanted me to add to that rice scared me a little. They wanted me to put a whole 1/2 cup in there for that amount of rice and that seemed like a lot to me, especially since some of the recipes I'd seen online only called for a few tablespoons. I can eat vinegar under special circumstances, but I really don't like it as a rule and let me tell you that 1/2 cup of vinegar blew me away smell-wise when I was adding it. 

I was sure that rice was not going to taste good and I was sure I would live to regret not cutting the amount of vinegar down considerably. I resisted the urge to do so though. I successfully stuck to my conviction to actually follow the recipe instead and added all of it despite every bone in my body telling me not to. Then I mixed it in with my little bamboo paddle just like I was supposed to.

Once your rice has cooled off to room temperature (under a towel to keep it moist), you're ready to start rolling. Now, I'm going to warn you. This part is not easy and I'm not really going to attempt to tell you how to create a sushi roll here. You'd be so much better off finding a YouTube video or a picture tutorial to help you instead. Suffice it to say that you arrange your bamboo rolling mat, nori wrapper, rice and fillings like you see in the picture above. Then you attempt to make rolls that actually stick together properly. Then you watch your self esteem plummet when your rolls look like something a first-grader made.

I had a couple of fail rolls for sure, but surprisingly all of the rolls stuck together regardless of how much fail they may have had. They were certainly all edible if not the most beautiful sushi rolls I'd ever seen. Our fillings were cucumber, carrot, imitation crab meat and spicy tuna. Each roll had some combination of those things except for the one we made that had spinach in it. Don't do spinach, you guys. It sucks as a sushi filling and makes it that much harder to shape your roll. It doesn't add anything flavor-wise either, so I'm never doing it again. The amount of rice I made plus five nori sheets (each cut in half) was exactly enough to create ten complete rolls. Each roll yielded six pieces of sushi. 

Once all the sushi was rolled and cut, we put it all in a Tupperware container to chill in the fridge and eat later on. (This was our New Year's Eve dinner, actually.) Once we did it eat though? Oh, my God!! It was just... amazing. Seriously, this sushi tasted perfect and was literally the most delicious thing I can remember putting in my mouth in a long time. It didn't taste vinegary or sour at all and I honestly can't see myself making sushi rice any other way in the future. It was that good, balanced and amazing.

Actually, I am still reeling at how good this meal was. It was such a simple food -- just vinegared rice, nori, vegetables and seafood. Nothing else. No fancy seasonings (except for the wasabi and soy sauce we ate with it as condiments). Even so, it had an amazing amount of flavor and was very, very satisfying and filling. I see myself making and eating a lot more of it in the future for sure. And to think I got a result this incredible from following -- *shudder* -- directions! Don't tell anybody, OK?
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