Preparation for making sushi at home
Other than having your sushi grade fish, the most important aspect of a successful sushi making experience is ensuring you have the proper tools for the job. One of the easiest ways to get started is buying a sushi kit. But whether you have one or not, you will need to make certain you have what you need, and that all of your needs are met in terms of prep work and tools. While a special sushi knife may not be necessary, for example, you may want to have one to be sure you are best equipped for the task at hand.
In this section we will explain how you can best be prepared to make sushi at home with ease, and review what you should know to ensure that your experience will be enjoyable. While many of the items we list below are not required, we wanted to offer a somewhat comprehensive list for those of you who may start small, but want to expand upon your talents as you become more comfortable.
When making sushi at home, preparation really is most of the battle. Having everything ready will allow you to enjoy your meal without interruptions, and will without doubt you will want to do it again and again. Not all of these items are necessary and some are required only for certain styles of sushi and others are entirely optional. And keep in mind that there are many varieties of fish and that you are encouraged to try out everything that may interest you.
Selecting the fish
The first question you should ask yourself is what kind of fish do you want to make. While thee is a lot to choose from, a few items can make a lot of food, so while you can buy six different kinds of fish, keep the amount you are buying in mind. We tend to make a few different fish and have many sides (such as Japanese Seaweed Salad, AKA goma wakame, or squid salad, AKA chuka ika sansai) to make the meal interesting. Some people prefer cooked items, while some prefer the more exotic fare, keep your company’s preference in mind. But most importantly, ensure that your sushi fish is sushi grade, and not simply something bought fro your local grocer. There is a big difference, and the last thing you want is to make yourself, or your friends ill with fish that hasn’t been handled properly.
Your sushi making tools
Your food. Selecting what you want to prepare is job 1. Job 2 is prepping the food so that you have everything in place and are ready to go. It’s no fun if you have to cut a piece of salmon each time you want to make nigiri sushi or maki sushi, it’s best to have all your sushi fish, veggies, etc already prepared so you can focus on dining and not starting from scratch with each piece. Remember proper handling techniques, though, safety first! wash your hands thoroughly before handling anything you intend to eat raw and keep it well chilled until you are ready to start eating.
A sharp knife. The right tool for he task doesn’t have to be one specific to the task. While a sushi know (bento knife) may be the perfect knife, really any good quality and well honed & sharpened knife will do. A sharp knife will make cutting your fish much easier, and you will me happier with the way your fish looks. A tip for cutting rolls is to dip the tip of your knife in a bowl of water and let the drop slide down the sharp edge just before cutting the roll. With a gentle slicing motion, you will have perfect rolls.
A Bamboo mat (also called a sushimaki sudare or maki su in Japanese). The only way to make a roll is with a decent rolling mat. There are two schools of thought on the mat, some prefer to cover it with plastic wrap, and some don’t. While plastic wrap will help making inside out rolls (sushi rolls with the rice on the outside, a recent development in the sushi world), at home, we tend to use the bamboo mat without the wrap. But the choice is yours, and if you one way easier than the other, stick with it.
Sushi rice. Clearly one of the most important pieces of the sushi puzzle is having properly cooked and seasoned sushi rice. There is only one kind of rice suitable for sushi, and that is Japanese short grain rice. Regular white rice does not have the proper ratios of starches to stick together properly, so make sure you have the correct kind. We have rice making instructions in the recipes section of Sushi School, but in general, you want the cooked rice to be seasoned, room temperature, and well aerated in order to achieve the best results. Do not chill your rice or it will definitely not have the correct consistency for making sushi.
Soy Sauce (shoyu). Have you ever seen sushi served without a bowl of dark, rich, liquid gold on the side? Soy sauce is the classic sushi condiment, and a tiny bit on your sushi brings out the flavor of the fish like nothing else. While some people tend to drown their sushi in soy sauce, just a touch is more than enough to enhance our fish with that “fifth flavor” called “umami” which means “savory.” While the quality of soy sauce ranges, you may find you have a personal preference, and even soy sauce with less salt is available if that is your preference. Some of the artesianal soy sauces that are being manufactured on a small scale are out of this world, but so are their prices. We’ve always been happy with the basics, and it’s the contribution of umami to your sushi that makes all the difference, not where your soy sauce was made.
Nori (seaweed sheets). Nori is primarily used in making maki sushi (cut rolls) but can be used as a garnish on nigiri sushi (finger sushi) as well. Nori is also commonly used when making sushi such as gunkan maki, with salmon roe (ikura), tobiko, or masago in a cup like form. Nori should be toasted lightly before being used, but most nori that you will find has already been toasted for your convenience. When making rolls, some people use the whole sheet, but we find that using a half or two thirds of a sheet provides the best results, depending on the quantity of ingredients you use.
Wasabi (Japanese horseradish). Some people love it and some people hate it, but the spicy, vegetal heat of wasabi it part of the beauty on the plate. This rhizome is often referred to as Japanese horseradish but is unrelated to the horseradish plant, even though it shares the same spicy nature. Unfortunately, most wasabi found in the US is, in fact, regular American horseradish with green food coloring (and perhaps a dash of the real thing for effect) rather than actual wasabi. You can certainly find real wasabi in the US (we even sell it) and the difference is quite apparent. Real wasabi has a more vegetal flavor, and a spicy burn that hits the sinuses, yet fades quickly. It’s an amazing food. The putty-like alternative (called seiyō wasabi, meaning “western wasabi” in Japan). Has a lingering spiciness and is much less vegetal. One benefit to real wasabi, however, is that it has anti bacterial qualities, likely the reason it was originally paired with the meal of raw fish we call sushi!
Other items to serve with your sushi
Ginger (gari). Pink or white, pickled ginger is often served on the side with sushi. Having a unique, slightly floral quality with a hint of spiciness, ginger is often used to cleanse the palate between different types of sushi. It is also great to munch on in general.
Seaweed Salad. A superb accompaniment to your dinner is the slightly sweet and crunchy seaweed salad. High in many essential nutrients, and a great source of iodine (yes, iodine is an essential nutrient) and lots of fiber. Eat your veggies while you eat your sushi!
Squid Salad. One of our personal favorites, squid salad is a nice appetizer to get you started. Often a mix of squid (or cuttlefish) and various vegetables or mushrooms, a plethora of seasonings combine to make this a quintessential Asian dish. Squid is hard to cook perfectly, but when done right, squid salad (for example Chuka Ika Sansai) is an exceptional treat.
Edamame (immature soybeans). Often served as an appetizer as well, these immature soybeans are green, served in the pod, steamed and lightly salted. They are high in protein and isoflavones, and have actually become very popular in the health food circuit.
Green tea. What is sushi without green tea? This simple beverage is readily available and is great to sip during or after your meal for an authentic Japanese experience. Green tea is incredibly healthful, and the many varieties provide many options to find the one you prefer, as they range from bitter to floral. Try them all!
Sake. Not to be confused with salmon, also called “sake” but pronounced differently, one of our favorite beverages is sake. While traditionally it is not served during the meal, that’s an ancient tradition that is largely ignored now, so feel free. There is an amazingly large selection of different types of sake made these days, from sweet to dry, cloudy (often called “pearl” as it is unfiltered) to clear, each having it’s own distinctive properties. As with wine, sake has so much variety that it may be hard to choose your favorite one. Of note, often the lower quality sake is served, while higher quality is served chilled, as the heat can reduce some of the harshness of the lower tier varieties.
Chopsticks (Hashi). Who would possibly want to eat sushi without chopsticks? Well, nigiri sushi, i.e. finger sushi is actually made to be eaten with the fingers, but still, we all want to look impressive handling our chopsticks like a pro. For a touch of authenticity, have them ready.
While there are many other items worthy of mention, these are the most commonly found sushi accompaniments and tips to being prepared for your evening of sushi at home. Sushinut has a plethora of seafood, sides, and condiments that should prepare you for the perfect meal. Making it yourself is easier than you probably realize, and our goal is to make the process easy, fun, and one that you will want to continue throughout your life. Irrashaimase!