Leaving for Japan on Sunday for about 10 days. Planning to stay in Kumamoto and wrap it up with few days in Tokyo. Needless to say, there won’t be much new stuff on this blog until after June 3rd.
Archives for May 2009
Here’s the recipe for making a California roll – probably the most popular inside-out roll in America.
1. Prepare and cook sushi rice. Gather up all of your ingredients: nori, sliced cucumber, avocado and crab mix. For the crab mix, the easiest way to prepare this is to buy some high-quality canned crab, rinse and drain well, and then mix with mayonnaise.
2. Tightly wrap your makisu (bamboo) mat with food film wrap and then place half sheet of nori, rough side up, on your bamboo mat. Wet hands and place a small handful of rice on mat as shown. You can also do this directly on the cutting board if you prefer.
3. Spread rice evenly across nori.
4. Turn over so rice side is now facing down. It may help to slightly moisten your mat to prevent the rice from sticking. Place cucumber, avocado and crab mix on nori, about 1/3 up from the edge of the nori (nearest the table).
4. Press in the filling while rolling the mat. Do this with two hands.
5. Cover the roll with the mat and press down slightly to help shape the sushi roll. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Cut in half and then cut each half into thirds (you’ll have 6 pieces when finished). Garnish with pickled ginger and wasabi and enjoy.
For sushi, English cucumbers or hothouse cucumbers are normally used. They are the ones sold individually wrapped in a firm plastic. They are mild, have thin skin and are essentially seedless. What’s more, you can cut them to the exact size of a sheet of nori – so you can have a continuous strip of cucumber for your sushi rolls.
When buying English cucumbers make sure they are firm. Store them in your refrigerator, but be careful. They are very sensitive to temperature. If your refrigerator is too cold (say below 38), they may become soft.
1. Cut cucumber to the exact size of a sheet of nori – a little more than 4 inches. Gently remove the seeds from the center with a spoon.
2. Slice lengthwise into strips about 3/8″ thick.
Warning: Mixing wasabi and karashi paste may cause an explosion. Only a joke of course, but I’ve gotten a few laughs out of that.
Karashi is a mixture of ground mustard seeds and horseradish – like wasabi- a little goes a long way. So unlike European mustard, it’s not an emulsion based with vinegar. It’s normally sold in a dried powder form (just add water), or as a paste in a tube.
Karashi paste is served as a condiment with dishes such as tonkatsu, steak and oden. It is also used in sauces based with miso, mayonaise and sometimes in sunomono (things with vinegar) dressing.
Ok, the rice has been washed and is done cooking and now it’s time make sumeshi – or vinegared rice. Remove the lid from the rice cooker and test a small amount of rice. If it seems too hard, let it sit in the rice cooker a few more minutes.
A wooden sushi-oke and a shamoji are the basic tools used to mix the cooked rice with your sushi vinegar. A sushi-oke is made of cypress wood and helps absorb excess moisture. However, this is not necessary. A large bowl and spoon will do the job.
2. Empty your rice into your bowl or sushi-oke.
3. Pour the sushi vinegar slowly and evenly over the rice. If you are cooking 3 cups of sushi rice, add 1/4 cup of the sushi vinegar. Warm the sushi vinegar in the microwave before using.
4. Cut the rice. At this point, you want to spread the rice around with a cutting motion to help cool it down and break-up any clumps of rice. Do this several times from side to side of the sushi-oke while fanning the rice. Cooling the rice down quickly will give the rice a more polish look and will also help the rice absorb the sushi vinegar. Gather the rice to one side of your container, cover with a clean, damp cloth until it is cool enough to use (slightly wamer than room temperature).
This is the basic ‘pickling’ solution for sushi rice. Recipes for sushi vinegar seem to vary widely with different amounts of rice, vinegar, sugar and salt. That means, there’s some wiggle room here. If your measurements are a little off – no worries. You can give your sushi vinegar a little more body and flavor by adding a small strip of konbu. Add the konbu while heating vinegar, sugar and salt (and discard before storing).
Rice Vinegar….. 1 cup
Salt…. 2 teaspoon
1. Combine vinegar, sugar and salt into a small sauce pan.
2. Heat on until sugar and salt are dissolved.
3. Remove from heat, cool and then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Warm up before using.
Sushi rice is really just as easy to make as regular rice, but requires a little more attention. The most important part is adding the right amount of water. Too much water and the rice will be sticky, mushy and too hard to use. Too little water and your sushi will be hard and crunchy.
The standard amount of water to use is equal parts water and rice. So if you are cooking 2 cups of sushi rice, you’ll need two cups of water. Not too hard, right? Well, things like new crop rice vs old crop rice, temperature, humidity, etc., all seem to have an effect on your rice. Like everything, it may take a few times before you get optimal results.
1. Measure your rice and add into the pan of your rice cooker.
3. “Wash” the rice by rubbing it around with your hand. Repeat this process: Add water, rub, pour off cloudy water and repeat (about 4 times).
4. Once the water stays clear, drain the water from the rice, and then add the final amount of water (2 cups water if cooking 2 cups of rice). Then let the rice stand for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
If you are a gardener, check out the website for the Kitazawa Seed Company. The company was founded over 90 years ago by Japanese Americans. They carry roughly 22 varieties Asian herb and vegetable seeds.
If you really have the green thumb, I would suggest ordering one of their ‘Chef Specialty Gardens’. The Japanese heirloom garden specializes in traditional vegetables of the Kansai region. The ones mainly used in vegetarian cooking or shojin ryori. It includes:
- Nebuka onion
- Hinona kabu turnip
- Kamo eggplant
- Kyoto red carrot
- Katsura melon
Shiso is part of the mint family and is called “beefsteak plant” or perilla in English. I don’t know where the name beafsteak comes from, but I think shiso sounds much better. There are two varieties, red shiso and green shiso. Green shiso is often used as a garnish, but it is also used in sushi, onigiri and other dishes. Shiso has a distinct and pungent, but very refreshing flavor.
Perhaps the best thing about shiso – it’s really easy to grow. As with most greens, the early spring shiso is the best.