We covered some facts about sushi in an earlier posting and explained that sushi is a term for vinegared rice. That being so, the next step is to look at how to make sushi rice.
First, let’s look at the rice itself and then the vinegar.
It’s essential to use short-grained rice, such as that produced in Japan or California. However, when I couldn’t obtain proper sushi rice, I have successfully made sushi using Italian risotto rice. Risotto rice has bigger, fatter grains than Japanese sushi rice but, being a short-grained rice, it works fine. I’ve seen some recipes which suggest using long-grain rice but that just doesn’t seem right to me. Nah.
You’ll need a white vinegar, ideally Japanese sushi vinegar. This is seasoned and sweetened rice vinegar and is less acidic than its western counterpart of white wine vinegar. If you can’t get sushi vinegar, you can use white wine vinegar and sweeten it. (Please see Ainsley Harriott’s recipe below.)
Japanese recipe from the Sushi cookbook by Katsuji Yamamoto and Roger Hicks
This is the basic technique for making the vinegar-flavoured rice which forms the basis of all types of sushi.
To vary the quantity of cooked rice, remember that the ratio of uncooked rice to water should be 1 part rice to 1¼ parts water.
The recipe below will make one quantity of rice, which is sufficient for:
2 uncut large rolls (futomaki-zushi)
4 uncut small rolls (hosomaki-zushi)
16 finger rolls (nigiri-zushi)
[I wouldn’t worry too much at this stage about all these definitions. Just make the sushi rice and then make what you can out of it. You’ll soon gain enough experience to know how far it’ll go.]
- 175 g/ 6 oz uncooked, matured, short-grained rice
- 225 ml/8 fl oz cold water
- 2.5 – 5 cm/1 – 2 inch strip dried kelp, wiped clean
- 1¼ tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- ½ tsp salt
Start by washing the rice thoroughly until the water becomes clear. Let the rice drain for 30 to 60 minutes. This will allow the grains to start absorbing moisture and start to swell.
Put the rice, water and kelp into a pan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring the mixture to the boil over a medium heat, removing the kelp just before boiling point. Cover the pan and simmer for about 10 minutes. (Simmering time will depend on the quantity of the rice.) Resist the temptation to lift the lid while the rice is cooking.
Turn off the heat, remove the lid and cover the pan with a teatowel. Leave to cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile mix together the ingredients for sushi vinegar in a pan. Heat until the sugar dissolves, then remove from the heat and pour the sushi vinegar into a cool bowl. To stop the vinegar distilling off, sit the bowl in cold water to speed cooling.
Using a wooden rice panel, spoon the rice into a rice tub or bowl. [I don’t own a rice tub or rice panel, so I wouldn’t worry about this too much.] Spread it out evenly, the turn the paddle briefly through the rice cutting it first from side to side, then from top to bottom.
Continue cutting – never mashing or stirring – the rice, adding the sushi vinegar a little at a time. At the same time, ask someone to fan the rice to cool it. It should take about 10 minutes to mix in the sushi vinegar and bring the rice to room temperature.
Perhaps that’s a little bit daunting, especially if there’s only one of you. Here’s a much easier way which produces good results.
Ainsley Harriott’s sushi rice recipe from Gourmet Express
- 200g (7 oz) Japanese rice
- 4 tbsp white vinegar, such as rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- 1 tsp salt
Wash the rice well in warm water, then place in a pan. Cover with water so it comes 2 cm (¾ inch) above the rice. Cover and cook gently for 12 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the water has been absorbed.
Meanwhile, mix together the vinegar, sugar and salt and set it aside to dissolve. As soon as the rice is cooked, stir the vinegar mixture into it and leave to cool completely.
Now you have your sushi rice, you can go on to make some sushi recipes. Here’s a couple which I made recently:
Are you confused about which of the above sushi rice recipes to use? I often use a hybrid of Ainsley’s ingredients and sushi vinegar method and Ken Hom‘s method for steamed rice.
If you’re unsure, I suggest starting with Ainsley’s recipe (because it’s easy) and, as you build up experience and confidence in making sushi, you can go on to try more sophisticated and authentic sushi recipes.