Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Making Sushi- Part 1- Sushi Rice Recipe

The first time I ever had sushi in my life was at a Japanese restaurant in New York, on a trip there with my family when I was but a little kid. A short while after, the first sushi bar opened in my city and we were so excited. A birthday meant a special date with mom to go to the sushi bar, where we'd have our edamame (green soybeans), green tea,  maki rolls (standard sushi), sashimi (raw fish slices), and nigiri (rice topped with raw fish).

I always loved those dates, as it meant bonding time with mom and eating delicious sushi. I'm a raw fish girl all the way; vegetarian sushi simply doesn't cut it for me!

I remember once in high school having a class party at this restaurant with a sushi bar. I ordered sushi while my other classmates ordered more typical American food. Some girls, seeing a food they'd never had before, requested if they could taste some of mine. Grudgingly, I acquiesced, and gave 2 girls 2 out of the 6 pieces in my maki roll.
Waddya know- they both took one bite, spit it out, declared it absolutely disgusting, and tossed the other half in the garbage. And then proceeded to mock me for enjoying something that vile.
And here I was, both annoyed at the wasted delicious, expensive food, and at their very uncultured palate.

Anyhow, with that prelude...

Sushi is available where I live. Well, if you take the bus to the city center and are willing to pay a huge amount of money for a tiny little amount.
And I will occasionally buy it. And then regret it. Because I have a hard time enjoying things fully after paying an arm and a leg for it.
So I just make my own.
No, it doesn't contain raw fish. Whereas there are places in the city where I can pick up sushi grade raw fish, having no car and not living close to the city center would mean that there would be at least an hour and a half that that fish would be traveling before it got home, and I don't feel safe enough to do that and eat it raw.
I make my sushi either vegetarian, with smoked salmon, with imitation crab, or with canned tuna fish. It's not the same, but still does the trick a majority of the time.

When making sushi at home, the trickiest part, in my opinion, is making the sushi rice. I always thought it was this terribly complex process involving timers, exceptional hearing skills, and a lot of luck, but fortunately I soon learned that though more involved than regular rice, it's not so difficult to make.

Sushi Rice Recipe and Instructions

My frugal tip- I don't buy specific sushi rice sold in the specialty sushi section of the grocery store. It's twice the price of another rice that works just as terrifically- short grain rice. I buy risotto rice, but any other short grain rice will work for this recipe.

3 cups short grain rice
3 1/4 cup water
1/3 cup vinegar (rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or white vinegar) or 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice (see notes)
3 tablespoons honey, jaggery, or sugar
1 teaspoon salt

1. First, you want to wash the starch out of your rice. Short grain rice is very full of starch, and if you leave this starch in the rice, it'll most likely ruin your sushi. The way I was my rice is I put it in a bowl of water and swish it around with my hands. The rice most likely will become white and cloudy, as pictured below.

2. Pour off the water and add more water to the bowl and repeat step 1, swishing the rice in the water. Pour of the water again, and swish again, until the water in the bowl remains clear (or 99% clear) even after swishing, as in the picture below.

3. Strain the rice in a strainer for 30 minutes. A pasta colander might work, but you also may lose a large amount of rice that way if you don't line it with a cloth. I just use my mesh strainer.

4. Pour your rice into a pot and add 3 1/4 cups of water. This is a lot less water than is usually used for making rice, but don't worry- there's no typo here. The water should only reach a bit above the level of the rice (as seen below.)
Don't add salt. You may add a square of kombu seaweed if you really want to, but that only ups the price, so I usually skip it.

5. Let the rice soak in the water for 30 minutes. Don't skip this step!

6. Bring the water to a boil. (Please, don't follow my mistake and go to give your kids drawing lessons while the water is boiling or you'll get in trouble when all the water boils out!)

7. As soon as the water boils, put on the cover and make the flame very low for 20 minutes. (Use a timer for this so you don't forget.) Don't remove the cover the whole time, as you want all the liquid to stay trapped inside.

8. After 20 minutes, turn off the flame and leave the cover on to let it steam for another 15 minutes. Below is what your rice will look like after it is finished cooking.

9. In a non reactive pot (that means non aluminum, because aluminum, in addition to being unhealthy, dissolved in strong acid), mix vinegar, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil, mixing, until all the sugar is dissolved. Vinegar mixture pictured below.

10. Mix the vinegar mixture with the rice so it is all uniformly flavored. I like my rice powerfully flavored, so I tend to double the vinegar mixture.

11. Set aside your rice and let it cool to be used for making your sushi. Don't put it in the refrigerator though, as refrigerating sushi rice kind of ruins it.

See here for detailed picture and video instructions on how to make your sushi with this rice.

Note: In traditional sushi, rice vinegar is what is used. Rice vinegar also happens to be quite expensive where I live, so I don't usually splurge on that. White vinegar and synthetic vinegar work in its place, but being as I avoid synthetic vinegar for health reasons, I make mine with lemon juice instead. If making with lemon juice, use 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice instead of the 1/3 cup vinegar in the original recipe.

Are you a sushi eater? Have any sushi memories you'd like to share? How old were you the first time you had sushi? 
What is your favorite type of sushi? My favorite was always the rainbow roll, an inside out roll filled with fake crab and avocado, and then covered with layers of salmon and tuna. I also enjoy spicy tuna roll and yellow tail.
Have you ever made sushi before? What type of rice and vinegar do you use? Are you a purist, or would you make it my way?

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:
Making Wonton and Eggroll Wrappers from Scratch
Homemade Wonton Soup Recipe

Linking up to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Tuesdays at the Table, Totally Tasty Tuesday, Delectable Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Hearth and Soul Blog Hop, Foodie Friday.


  1. I just finished making this recipe to make Onigirir, though it took me quite a while to wash my rice I actually kind of enjoyed making it. Though next time I will probably use less sugar in the sauce as it was a bit too sweet and I will add a little bit more water to the pot I cook it in as the rice at the bottom and some at the sides was burnt, more so at the bottom then the sides. But overall a great recipe

  2. I'm going to try this recipe right now it's taken me ages to find it! thank you


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