One very good thing about having friends who love to bake/cook/eat as much as I do is that sometimes they make me discover something that I might not have tried out for myself. Take sushi, for example. Martin loves sushi, but when he had it for the first time, at a party at work, I was pregnant and raw fish just wasn't something that was very appetizing, at the time.
Fast forward almost 2 years and a friend invites the kids and I for dinner as both our guys would be working late and wouldn't that be a good excuse to get together, have a glass of wine and just talk each others' ears off. She had recently tried making sushi and she was so excited to make some for us and show me how easy it was. I was very intrigued and let me tell you, it is easy and really, really delicious! She made a few variations of California rolls, no raw fish, and I was hooked! I didn't think you could make so many different kinds of rolls; there was imitation crab, spicy shrimp, smoked salmon and vegetarian. Needless to say, I couldn't wait to try making some myself so, the next weekend, I got everything I needed and set up shop!
These days you don't really need to go to a specialty store to get ingredients for your sushi. Most supermarkets even have little sushi shops where you can buy the rolls already made or ask the sushi chef for tips and tricks. I've found that they're always happy to help, even if they do seem to find it a little odd that you'd want to make sushi yourself when you can buy it right then and there. Imagine if I had tried to bring my camera and take pictures in the supermarket, that would have gotten me a few weird looks!
Please remember that I am by no means an expert, and there are a lot of more experienced sushi makers out there with how-to posts you can check out too. But I had fun making these and I'll try to show you how I made my sushi and maybe you'll be intrigued and try to make some too. If I could do it, anyone can!
What you'll need for each roll:
1 sheet of nori
1 cup of cooked sushi rice*
Black sesame seeds, or regular sesame seeds, roasted
Cucumber, sliced lengthwise into thin strips
Avocado, sliced thinly
Your choice of smoked salmon, shrimp or imitation crab
Cream cheese, if you're using smoked salmon
Fried egg roll wrappers, crushed (adds a little crunch)
You can make things easier on yourself by having all of your ingredients ready and close-by, because once you start you don't want to have to run around looking for this and that. Also, a good trick is to wrap your bamboo rolling mat with plastic wrap before you start, it'll make it a lot easier to clean. Oh, and have a bowl of water near by so you can wet your hands from time to time, otherwise you'll end up with sticky rice everywhere.
Place a sheet of nori on your bamboo mat (shiny side down) and spread 1 cup of rice on top of it, leaving a 1 inch space at the end. Sprinkle some black sesame seeds onto the rice. Arrange your choice of ingredients into a strip and start rolling at the edge closest to you. Use the bamboo mat to roll the sushi firmly. You can use a few drops of water at the seem to help the seaweed to stick at the end of the roll.
Use a sharp knife to cut the roll into about 8 pieces. It's easier if you cut the roll in half and then cut the ends into equal pieces. Serve the sushi with soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger.
The variations for the rolls are endless. You can make a shrimp salad using a little bit of hot sauce and mayonnaise and adding it to chopped shrimp. You can spread a little cream cheese onto the rice before adding the smoked salmon. You can do all veggies and use red bell pepper for even more color and crunch. Use your imagination and have fun!
* For the sushi rice:
You absolutely have to use short grained rice. Use specialty sushi (or Japanese) rice. It's a lot like Arborio rice, the kind used for risotto. In a saucepan, add 1 1/4 cup of water and 1 cup of sushi rice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes, without stirring, until rice is tender and still shiny. Now here's where it gets interesting. To the cooked rice you can add 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar and 1 teaspoon of sifted confectioner's sugar. I didn't add the vinegar or the sugar as I wasn't sure I would like it but I might try it next time. You can then place the rice in a bowl or spread it on a baking sheet and let it cool to room temperature.