Many people living outside of Japan associate the word ‘sushi’ to raw fish. That’s not entirely off the mark, as raw fish is a popular sushi topping, and played a big role in the origins of sushi. But raw fish or meat, when eaten on its own, is called sashimi – without the rice, you have no sushi. So sushi isn’t the fish itself – the word refers to sushi-meshi, or specially prepared vinegared rice served with a variety of toppings (raw fish being one of them).
The different types of sushi are defined by their method of preparation, such as chirashi (scattered), nigiri (hand pressed), temaki (hand rolled), maki (rolled), etc.
What’s more, the flavour and texture of the rice are just as important as those of the toppings when talking about a sushi dish’s quality. There it is again, the fundamental role of rice in Japanese cooking!
While waiting for the rice to cook and the sauce to cool down, you can prepare the toppings for the sushi dish you’re making.
How to make sushi rice
- 375 mL Japonica rice (1.5 metric cups)
- 400 mL water (1.6 metric cups)
- 5 cm kombu square
- 50 mL rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- Wash the rice according to the method described in our column about Japanese rice.Put the rice, water and kombu into a rice cooker, pressure cooker or pot, and cook as usual.
- Put the rice vinegar in a saucepan over medium and heat. When it’s warm, add the sugar and salt. Bring to a boil, then allow to cool.
- Remove and discard the kombu, and put the cooked rice into a large bowl or tub – a hangiri made of cypress is best to absorb unwanted moisture, but any large bowl will do. The rice should still be warm!
- Pour the sushi dressing over the rice and carefully mix with a wooden (or plastic) rice paddle, while cooling it with a fan in your other hand. Mixing the rice gently ensures that the grains aren’t squashed together, and fanning it helps the vinegar mixture give each rice grain a glossy, not overly sticky coating.