Monday, January 9, 2012

The Art of Making Sushi

(post by Jason)

Alabama = Barbeque.  Right?!? 

Well, yes. But there's a surprising diversity to the restaurant scene here in Birmingham.  Tanya and I were thrilled when we moved here to find great local options from Greek and Chinese to Indian and, of course, Southern Home Cooking (Anyone else heard of a Meat & Three restaurant? We hadn't till we moved here). 

There are also some really good sushi options in Birmingham.  One of my favorite lunch spots is Surin West in Five Points on Southside.  When given the opportunity I order the Combo #1 – Super Crunch (Tempura, Masago, Japanese Sauce, and Smoked Salmon) and Tokyo Roll (Snow Crab, Avocado, and Masago). 

I got a itch for sushi last week and decided to try making some at home.   My thinking: Sushi has few ingredients, no cooking, and seems fairly straightforward.  How hard could it be?  I wasn't sure I wanted to tackle Nigiri Sushi the first time out of the gate.  Didn't want to poison the family with the wrong kind of raw fish. So I picked two non-fish rolls from a Sushi cookbook we'd picked up on clearance: Uramaki California Roll (*uramaki means "inside out") and Temaki Sushi with Crab and Avocado.  

Let's start back at the beginning, Grasshopper...

Ingredients & Directions for Uramaki California Roll
  • 3 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 4 crab sticks (find in the seafood section)
  • one small cucumber
  • 1/4 of a ripe avocado
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 toasted nori sheets
  • 1 2/3 cups prepared sushi rice
  • 1 tbsp low fat mayonnaise (yes... really!)
  • bamboo sushi rolling mat (they're inexpensive - like $3 - and make making sushi so much easier!) 
Toast the sesame seeds without oil in a small pan over low heat until golden brown. Remove from pan and let cool.

Cut crab sticks lengthwise in half.  Cut cucumber (with peel on) in 1/4 inch thick piece using a long knife. Then cut into 1/4 inch thick strips. 

Peel avocado piece and cut into strips. Immediately sprinkle with lemon juice so they don't brown. 

Cover your rolling matt with plastic wrap. Place one nori sheet on it with the smooth side facing down. Dip your hands in water (add a little vinegar to the water to make it even more effective) and spread half of the sushi rice on the nori sheet. Leave a margin on the upper and lower side of the sheet.  Carefully turn the nori sheet over so that the rice is facing down and the nori sheet is facing up. 

Spread a thin layer of mayo long the lower 1/3 of the nori sheet. Cover with half of the crab sticks, the cucumber and the avocado strips. Roll up the rice, the nori sheet and the filling with the mat.  It may take a while to get the hang of this... you're basically rolling the sushi using the bamboo mat, but you need to make sure the mat doesn't get rolled "into" the sushi. Make sense?!?

Once the roll is rolled, cut into 6 equally large pieces. Dip one side of each piece into the toasted sesame seeds. Make another roll using the same procedure.

Ingredients & Directions for Temaki Sushi with Crab and Avocado

  • 4 small lettuce leaves
  • 1 small scallion
  • 1/4 ripe avocado
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 crab sticks
  • 2 toasted nori sheets
  • 1 1/3 cups prepared sushi-rice
  • 1tsp wasabi paste (you can buy this dry in the spice or ethnic section, then add water)
Making wasabe is easy!

Wash & dry lettuce (we used romaine - not sure that's the best choice).  Peel scallions and cut lengthwise into fine strips. Peel avocado piece, then cut lengthwise in 4 strips. Brush with lemon juice to prevent browning.

Cut the nori sheets crosswise in half (note: NOT diagonal, like I did!). Dip your hands in water and form 4 small balls with the sushi rice.

Place the rice, the wasabi paste and other ingredients on the nori sheet and roll into a cone.

Yum Factor = A+

Hassle Factor = C

Sushi may look simple, but it's much more difficult than I expected.  The Temaki Sushi with Crab and Avocado was really fairly straightforward and fairly easy to make.  The inside-out California Roll is another story.  The key – regardless of which one you are trying to make … don’t overstuff!   Less is more when it comes to making sushi rolls.

Also, I found I needed much more rice than what the recipe called for.  

Another important hint is to dip your hands (spoon or knife) in vinegar water when working with the rice.  It made it much easier to deal with and didn’t leave a taste that detracted from the sushi. 


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