‘Making Sushi is an art, and experience is everything.’ Nobu Matsuhisa.
Like most young children my beautiful four year old daughter Alice is a fussy eater. She has been learning about healthy eating at nursery and constantly asks ‘mummy is this healthy or unhealthy?’ Alice loves baked beans, peas, broccoli, sweetcorn and eats bananas every day. However trying to get her to eat a broader range of fruit and vegetables is still a real battle.
One effective way I’ve discovered of hiding vegetables in her food is by making Sushi. Alice adores Sushi and will devour a whole portion for lunch or dinner. In order to hone my Sushi making skills I booked myself onto a beginners course at The London Cookery school.
The course was run by the wonderful William Wong, one of the main instructors at the school. Will is a total food fanatic having grown up in a Chinese restaurant, with an early fascination and appreciation for Dim Sum, Sushi, Vietnamese, Korean and Thai cuisine.
The five examples of Sushi taught on the beginners course, Hosomaki (thin roll sushi), Uramaki (inside out rolls), Nigiri (hand made ‘squeezed Sushi,’ Temari Sushi and Temaki (hand rolls), cover all the foundation techniques for making Sushi.
Nori (Dried Seaweed)
Good quality Nori is dark in colour and densely packed. Cheaper kinds are lighter green. To keep Nori fresh after opening the packet, keep it in an airtight container in a cool place. If it has absorber moisture, you can make it crisp again by putting it in a hot frying pan for a few seconds on each side.
A good Japanese natural soy is aged longer than a chinese one. But watch out for additives like sugar and MSG. Natural soy has cleaner flavours and is a higher quality product than artificially manufactured soys. You don’t need a special kind of soy for sushi. These are just marketing ploys. Don’t fall for them. Soy should always be used sparingly when eating Sushi. It’s meant to accentuate flavours of fish. If you overused/drown your sushi in soy by dunking it you will loose the subtle favours.
Gari (pickled ginger)
You can make your own pickled ginger. Choose fresh ginger with a thin skin. The skin in young ginger is almost translucent. Definitely avoid pieces that look dry or shrivelled as they will be tough and fibrous inside.
1 pound fresh ginger, 2 cups of sushi vinegar (as detailed in the recipe below), 3 tbsp salt.
Wasabi is associated with Japanese Horseradish which is olive green root with bumpy bits on it. The best roots are more than 4 years old and are quite expensive even in Japan. In the UK you can buy wasabi that comes as a powder or a paste.
Suzhizu (Sushi vinegar)
4 cups rice vinegar, 4tbsp caster sugar, 2 tbsp salt, 2 tbsp sake.
Pour all ingredients into a saucepan on low heat. Stir constantly until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Store in an air tight jar and keep in a cool dark place away from sunlight. It doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge as it will keep indefinitely.
Fish and seafood products
Sashimi grade fish can be bought at Japanese (or Korean) supermarkets or your local fishmonger. (Ask for super fresh sushi grade fish).
Hosomaki (thin roll sushi)
When using Nori (dried seaweed) remember to place the shiny side down first so it’s on the outside when you roll as the presentation of sushi is just as important as the taste.
Place the Nori on a sushi mat. Weigh 80g of rice. Always use digital sales such as sivercrest because it’s important to use the exact measurements when making sushi.
The art of sushi is to know when you need a bit more water/moisture/knowing when to top up – keep moisture going and knowing when you have too much water.
Moisten hands and spread the rice in a thin layer leaving 1.5 cm at the top. Place filling in a line near the centre of the rice. Choose avocado, carrot, beetroot, red and yellow pepper, salmon, butterfly prawns, tuna. May the force be with you. Pimp up your sushi as you please. If necessary reposition Nori so its close to the bottom edge of the rolling mat.
Grip the edge using your index fingers and thumb, and rest your remaining finger on the ingredients to stop them moving around.
Using medium/firm pressure, bring the mat up over to cover the filling, then ensure that the edge of the Nori is pointing downwards to meet the edge of the rice. Then press the edge downwards to enclose the roll and continue rolling to complete the maki (roll). If sushi flattens ease it and roll and it’ll form a normal shape again.
Watch this space to learn how to make the perfect Uramaki, Nigiri, Teramari and Temaki.