I love sushi. I could write a song, a novella, or given enough time, even an opera about the long-term love affair I have had (and plan to continue having) with sushi. I think it’s the perfect food. It’s healthy, refreshing, salty, cute (and it really is cute – how many foods can you say THAT about and still feel comfortable eating it???) – I can’t imagine a more perfect combination.
On my vacation out to Denver last January (before it became a permanent vacation, in July), my man’s sister introduced me to her very own homemade sushi. HOMEMADE SUSHI?! I had never even considered making it myself! But this particular homemade sushi came with a sauce. And oh, what a sauce it was. Tangy, crisp and salty, it almost reduces the delicious veggie sushi to what my man refers to as a “vessel for sauce” – in other words, a situation where the food itself becomes irrelevant in the hulking shadow of the delicious condiment.
Because I love you guys, I’m going to share this sauce with you. And also because I want it written down, for posterity, on this, the blog of my life. Because sushi – and let’s be honest here – is a fairly crucial and utterly irreplaceable aspect of that life.
The Most Delicious Sauce in the World, and the Sushi to Accompany It/Transport It To Your Mouth for a Truly Out-of-Body Experience
Now, the making-the-sushi part of this could be a bit intimidating, but it’s really not bad. What you need is:
- Nori (sheets of seaweed) – each sheet will render 5 or 6 pieces of sushi, so buy as big a pack as you think you’re going to need. Also, if you’re new at this, you may want some backups. Just saying.
- Sushi rice (can be found in the rice aisle of the supermarket)
- Mirin (a clear-ish liquid in a small bottle – can be found in the Asian/Mexican/Ethnic food section of the supermarket)
- Avocado (one should do quite nicely), cut into long slices
- Red bell pepper (again, one is more than enough), cut lengthwise into long slices
- Cucumber (one is great! Get another if you’re making salad tomorrow.), cut lengthwise into long slices
- Sushi rolling mats – now THESE can be a hassle, and honestly, it’s possible to do it without them – we didn’t have one for the longest time, and your hands get a little sticky, but other than that, you can results that are almost as good just rolling them with your bare hands. However, if you can find them (Whole Foods carries them, and sometimes the regular supermarket), they’re a fun addition to your kitchen tools. Also, if you make sushi a lot. Which we do. A lot.
Cook up one to two cups of dry sushi rice – the quantity is very dependent on how much sushi you’re making. A good rule is to allow around a 1/4 cup of cooked rice per sheet of nori. You’ll get a better feel for this as you go along.
Once the rice is cooked, pour in just enough mirin to get the rice nice and sticky – you can use a spoon or a rice paddle for this, but it’s easier to just use your hands. WARNING: this stuff is seriously sticky. Don’t freak out (DFO!) – you will wash your hands afterwards, and all will once again be right in the world. But you’re better off knowing that you have the right amount of mirin to work with. Don’t overdo it! Add the mirin to the rice a few drops at a time.
After you’ve done this, throw the rice in the fridge or freezer for a while, taking it out to stir occasionally. Now, I know that physicists have something against putting warm things into the fridge to cool down, so I’m saying this now – GET OVER IT. You will be WAY too hungry for sushi to let it cool on its own. Just trust me.
In the meantime, you can start getting the SAUCE GOING! Moment of silence for what is soon to be the most delicious sauce in the history of the world.
Here are the ingredients for a single serving of the sauce – this is NOT ENOUGH for more than one person. Just trust me on this. I usually triple the recipe if it’s just my man and me eating. If there are more people, they can stick with soy sauce. (Just kidding…that would be way cruel.)
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 3 tblsp soy sauce (I do low sodium, because WOW is this sauce salty, it will really make you shrivel up like a raisin)
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon wasabi paste (mix this with a little water before you add it, and then add it to a small portion of the sauce, and then add it to the rest – adding the powder directly to the sauce can cause clumping, and who needs it?)
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper – I didn’t mean it about the 1/2 a teaspoon. Go CRAZY with the crushed red pepper if you want. We do!
- 1 tblsp each chopped green onions and pickled ginger – again, this is the recommended dosage, and I would say do like 1/4 cup or 1/2 a cup of each. They make the sauce hearty, crunchy, pickly and delicious.
Making the sauce is deliciously (!!!!) uncomplicated. Just mix everything together. It really is that easy. The wasabi paste is a little finicky, but I gave instructions with the ingredients (see above if you have a short attention span), so don’t worry!
Now that the sushi rice is wonderfully cool and ready to work with, let’s get down to business!
Take a sheet of nori and place it on your rolling surface (I find a cutting board works well), shiny side up. (It will be obvious which one is the shiny side.) Take just a little bit of white wine vinegar, pour it onto the nori, and start working it in with the tips of your fingers, massage-style. Mmmmm.
Now, a few things to pay attention to: first of all, don’t overdo it. The nori is naturally very brittle, so you’re trying to make it a little more supple with the vinegar. HOWEVER, once you start adding the vinegar, you’ll see that the sides of the sheet of nori will start to cool, so you have to work both quickly and carefully. You’ll get the hang of it eventually, and again, the backup sheets of nori can take some of the pressure off.
Once the nori is a little softer, make sure that one edge has a good amount of vinegar on it and plan to leave that edge free of rice so that you can eventually close and seal the roll. Take some of your cooled white sushi rice (it should still be soft! Just not hot) and plop it down onto the sheet. Your hands are about to get CRAZY STICKY – get over it, get past it, and move on if you ever want to finish this.
Start pressing the rice into the mat – you can move it around a bunch towards the edges to spread it out nice and evenly. Start with less rice and add more, because too much rice gives you FATTY ROLLS. And fatty rolls are way better when they’re filled with delicious STUFF than when they’re just a big, sushi-piece-sized blob of sticky rice.
Now move the piece of nori onto a rolling mat. Take one long, cut-piece each of avocado, red bell pepper and cucumber (often you need two avocado slices, due to their naturally diminutive stature) and lay them together on top of the rice. Now comes the fun part! (Haven’t you been waiting for this the WHOLE TIME??)
Starting with the end of the nori opposite the extra-vinegary side that you left free of rice (remember when I said that before?), begin to roll the sheet towards the opposite end. The way I do it is to do a small roll, and then squeeze really tight, and then roll it a little more, and then squeeze it really tight, etc, etc, and so on, and so forth. Eventually, you’ll get to the other side, and suddenly, you’ll have a ROLL OF SUSHI!
(My man got me these important-looking sushi tools from Crate & Barrel because he loves me very, very much. And because we were sick of looking like amateurs.)
Sometimes, if the roll seems a little loose or in imminent danger of falling apart on you, putting it in the fridge for a few minutes will help it to firm up. Then, cut it into sushi-sized pieces (use a really sharp knife if you can, but watch your fingers!), dunk in the finished sauce, and ENJOY! This is seriously the most delicious thing ever. I could talk about it for days. Or at least for like, ten minutes, or something. And like I said earlier, you WILL get the hang of it. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! And if you just don’t feel like it, there’s always takeout!
[Side note: I reached 1,000 hits yesterday morning – you guys are the best! Thanks for giving me a reason to keep posting. I’m lovin’ it so far!]