If you read much about Japanese cuisine, or even just scan recipes, you can certainly get the idea that the preparation of the vinegar dressed rice for sushi is a very arcane, almost ritualized process. In fact, amongst Master Sushi Chefs the steps required to make the perfect rice for any given sushi preparation is as much a science as an art and can take a rigorous apprenticeship to perfect.
That being said, however, we need not be overly daunted by the prospect of making sushi ourselves. Today, I am going to share with you my method for making the seasoned rice. It departs from the traditional practice in that the vinegar and sugar is added to the rice as it cooks (rather than as it cools afterwards), but the simple process produces a perfectly acceptable sushi-style rice suitable for all sorts of further preparations…
- 1 cup Sushi Rice (see notes below);
- 1 cup Water;
- ¼ cup Rice vinegar;
- 1 tbsp. Sugar;
- 1 tsp. Salt.
Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as ‘Sushi Rice’ but many manufacturers will package rice suitable for making sushi and label it ‘Sushi Rice’. If you don’t see this in your grocery store, choose a short-grained, glutinous white rice.
The amount of vinegar used here is more than in most recipes because it mellows during the cooking process. Indeed, the ¼ cup used here produces a very, mild result. For a sharper result, increase the vinegar to ½ cup and reduce the water to ¾ of a cup.
The first step is to rinse the rice to reduce excess starch. Put the rice in a pot or other suitable container and then add water to cover the rice completely. Swirl the rice around with your hand a few times until the water becomes cloudy.
Now, pour off the water and repeat the above steps again. This time the water will be a little less cloudy. Keep repeating the steps until the water remains clear and then dump the rice into a sieve or colander and let it drip until dry (about 15 to 20 minutes should suffice).
Add the sugar, salt and vinegar to the 1 cup of water and then bring to a boil in a suitable pot over moderate heat. Stir to dissolve the solids. Once boiling, add the rice and allow the water back to a boil again, stirring to prevent the rice from sticking.
Now cover the pot and turn the heat to low. Allow the rice to simmer away for 15 minutes and then take a quick peek. Once all the liquid has clearly been absorbed, remove the pot from the heat and let it sit, covered, for a further 5 to 10 minutes.
Now turn the rice out into a suitably large bowl and quickly spread it out as much as possible. At this point, in traditional sushi cookery, you would be adding the sugared-vinegar and mixing it in but, here, all you need do is ensure that you spread the rice out quickly and gently, taking care not to crush any of the grains. Once done, fan the rice with a magazine or folded newspaper until no more steam can be seen rising from the surface and then cover the rice with a lid or dampened cloth. Once the rice has cooled it will be ready for use.
Some further Notes:
- Leftover sushi is no good for stir-frying or any other uses so it is best to make only what you can use on any one day.
- It *is* possible to save sushi rice overnight to make sushi the next day (although not recommended) but if you do, keep it on the counter. Do not refrigerate. It will ruin the rice.
- Using a stainless steel bowl to cool the rice is fine but avoid aluminum or other metal as it will react with the vinegar. Wooden or plastic is acceptable too, but dampen wooden bowls with a little water first.
- Sushi rice is generally completely cooled to room temperature before using further but I have been served Temaki sushi that was still very warm and it was delicious. You may wish to experiment with this.