I have secretly been waiting, chomping at the bit, for just the right opportunity to wrangle a sushi masterclass on Spade&Spatula. And now, seeing as there are cucumbers aplenty in the markets, as well as a plethora of other seasonal vegetables that can comfortably be cajoled into a cushion of rice and nestled in seaweed coming into their own, there couldn’t be a better time.
I know the roll in the photo above looks a little, umm, involved – daunting, even, but don’t be alarmed. It’s called an uramaki, which is basically an inside-out version of a conventional sushi roll, with the seaweed on the inside and the rice on the outside. As for those luminous orange balls, those are tobiko, or flying fish roe – leave in if you have a Japanese store nearby for supplies, omit altogether, or simply replace with sesame seeds. The method below will give you the option of making a simpler sushi roll (norimaki) as well as this more flashy version. As you can see, there’s also some fresh salmon alongside the cucumber and avocado inside the uramaki above. It’s quite easy to get hold of sushi-grade fish if you request it at the fish market or at the fish counter at specialty grocers, but again you can simply omit the fish and make an all-veggie roll instead.
Before we start the lesson, here’s a short glossary of ingredients and equipment:
(As a side note, everything here can be found at Whole Foods)
Nori Sheets: These are paper-thin sheets of mulched up seaweed that have been pressed, dried and roasted.
Konbu: A variety of kelp seaweed, konbu is an important flavoring for sushi rice. Wipe it with a damp cloth before using than cut into a few large pieces to release its flavor before adding it to the water used to cook the rice. If you can’t find it, simply leave it out altogether rather than substituting with another variety of seaweed as it adds a very particular taste.
Rice Vinegar: A sweet tangy mixture that gives sushi rice its unique piquant flavor when combined with sugar and salt.
Sushi Rice: This special short grain has a very high gluten content which gives sushi rice its characteristic sticky texture. If you use long or medium grain rice that contain far less gluten, the sushi roll would fall apart.
Sushi Mat: This is a specially designed rolling mat made from bamboo that helps to keep the shape of the sushi roll even all along its length, and it also keeps the roll compact and tight so that the filling stays in.
Wasabi: A vibrant green, fiery condiment that’s made from horseradish. Fresh wasabi is a rare treat – even in Japan. Instead, wasabi is bought in powdered or paste form. The paste is convenient but can lose its flavor once the tube has been opened for a while. The powder is better if you use wasabi sparingly – simply reconstitute by mixing in an equal amount of water.
Homemade Sushi Rolls
Makes 24 pieces
For the rice
2 cups sushi rice
2 cups water
1 piece konbu seaweed, for flavoring (about 3 inches x 3 inches), wiped clean with a damp cloth, and cut into a 3 pieces
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 sheets of nori seaweed
For the vinegar water
2/3 cup of water
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
For uramaki rice coating
6 Tablespoons of tobiko or sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon wasabi
choose from the following:
Cucumber, seeds removed and cut into strips
Avocado, peeled, stone removed and sliced into thin strips
Red bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into strips
Yellow bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into strips
Scallions, cut into 3-inch batons
Green beans, trimmed and blanched
Carrots, peeled and cut into 3-into batons
sushi-grade salmon or tuna, trimmed and cut into strips
You’ll need a sushi mat
1. Make the rice: place the rice in a sieve and wash under cold running water until the water runs clear. Place the sieve over a large bowl and leave the rice to drain for 30 minutes. Empty the rice into a large saucepan and add the 2 cups of water and the konbu. Place on the stove over a medium to high heat. Cover with a tight fitting lid, and bring to the boil, lower the heat immediately, and simmer gently for 10 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed. Remove front he heat and leave to sit, covered, for 10 minutes to finish off cooking.
2. Meanwhile, make the sushi seasoning mixture by whisking together the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl until the sugar has completely dissolved. Transfer the rice to a shallow, non-metallic dish and spread out across the surface of the dish using a wooden spoon. Remove and discard the konbu seaweed. In several stages, pour the the vinegar mixture over the rice and gently mix it into the rice using the wooden spoon using cutting motions until the rice is cooled to room temperature and is glossy. Cover with a damp towel until ready to use.
3. Make the sushi roll: Take the nori sheets and fold in half across the grain. Tear along the folded edge to make four smaller rectangular pieces. Now place the sushi mat on a flat, smooth surface and cover the top with a piece of cling film. Make the vinegar water by mixing together the water and the rice vinegar in a small bowl.
4. Take one of the rectangles of nori and place it smooth side down on the mat. Moisten your hands in the vinegar water and grab a handful of rice. Gently form a loose ball and place in the middle of the nori. Slowly spread it out evenly using your fingers until the layer of rice reaches all the edges of the nori sheet.
5. If you would like to make regular sushi rolls (norimaki), skip directly to No. 6. For uramaki, sprinkle 1/4 of the tobiko or sesame seeds evenly over the rice. Now carefully lift the rice-coated nori and flip it over gently so that the seaweed is now facing upwards.
6. Using your finger, dab a small amount of wasabi across the center, from left to right, of either the rice (if making norimaki) or the nori sheet (if making uramaki). Next place strips of your choice of vegetables and fish over the wasabi along the length of the nori or rice. You may need to cut them down to get them to fit. Be careful not to overstuff the roll – I would caution against using more than 2 vegetables and fish, or 3 different vegetables.
7. Lift the edges of the mat closest to you, using your index and middle finger to hold the filling in place, and roll over the mat so that the filling stays inside, and the edge of the rolled over mat meets the mat on the flat surface . Exert gently pressure along the top length of the roll using your middle and index fingers, and on the sides of the roll using your thumb and ring fingers. (see the photos above for guidance) This will keep the roll compact and give it a nice shape.
8. Open up the mat, keeping the roll covered in cling film, transfer the roll to a platter. Repeat with the rest of the nori rectangles until you have four long rolls. When ready to serve, moisten a sharp knife with a little vinegar water, then cut each roll into half, then each half into three equal pieces. The sushi rolls are best eater as soon as they are made.