Citizens, few things in my life are as enjoyable as savoring a perfectly-made plate of nigiri-style sushi, aka raw fish on rice. Sushi is often confused with sashimi, a related Japanese dish consisting of thinly sliced raw fish and an optional serving of rice on the side unlike nigiri-style sushi, which is always served on top of a pad of rice.
Sushi (すし, 寿司, 鮨?) is the Japanese preparation and serving of specially prepared vinegared rice (鮨飯 sushi-meshi) combined with varied ingredients (ネタ neta) such as chiefly seafood (often uncooked), vegetables, and rarely, other ingredients.
Sushi is almost always served with pickled ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce. Daikon radish is popular as a garnish.
Despite the ultimate simplicity of this meal’s ingredients, it takes a lifetime to master the nuances of the craft of making this properly!
While you and I will never equal the mastery of a Sushi sensei (master), we can aspire to achieve a fraction of his skill at home!
As such, please enjoy the following recipe for a home Sushi feast – in true Japanese fashion, there are no shortcuts here, but it will reward you with the best sushi you’ve probably ever had outside of the best Japanese restaurants!
First off – please do get it out of your head that the defining element of sushi is raw fish: it is not as many think, but instead it is actually the sushi rice, referred to as shari (しゃり), or sumeshi (酢飯).
Sushi to the Japanese is synonomous with seasoned sticky rice. In Japan the correct preparation of the rice is so important that in their finest resaurants, there are chefs whose sole responsibility it is to cook the rice.
There, the proportions of vinegar and sugar can vary by season, chef, or even by the type of sushi you are preparing. Note that is very important to use short or medium grain rice only – TFD recommends Nishiki brand.
Pickled ginger root is eaten to refresh your mouth between bites of sushi. It can be bought in Asian food stores if you don’t want to pickle it yourself.
While you can certainly use regular soy sauce for home sushi, TFD endorses making the correct “Tosa-style” soy sauce, of course!
As for wasabi, please, for the love of God, use only REAL wasabi if you can! it can be purchased from here. Be sparing with it.
As noted on makesushi.com:
Yes, it’s true. Over 95% of wasabi served in sushi restaurants does not contain any real wasabi. Most fake wasabi is made from a blend of horseradish, mustard flour, cornstarch and green food colorant. This means that most people who think they know wasabi have actually never tasted the stuff!
To properly make grated wasabi (and the real deal is a revelation, I assure you!), use the finest grater you can find or the special Japanese tool for it (made from genuine sharkskin!) – I love mine and you can buy it here.
Use whatever fish you can that is SUPREMELY fresh – nothing less will do. Be sure you let your fishmonger know that the fish is to be used in sushi.
Easily-obtained favorites for creating a mixed sushi platter are bluefin tuna (ideally a mix of maguro (dark red) and chu- or o-toro (fatty tuna belly – very expensive, but exquisite), yellowtail tuna (hamachi), flounder (hirame) and sea bass (tai).
Alternatively and even better, follow the seafood that is in season as noted here.
WARNING – AT HOME, DO NOT USE ANY FRESHWATER FISH FOR SUSHI (INCLUDING SALMON) OR SWORDFISH UNLESS YOU BOUGHT THEM FROM A FISHMONGER WHO KNOWS YOU ARE USING IT FOR SUSHI! ALL OF THESE ARE FREQUENTLY CONTAMINATED WITH PARASITES THAT ARE ONLY KILLED BY COOKING UNLESS COMMERCIALLY FROZEN FIRST TO KILL THEM!
You can actually buy very good, pre-packaged fish for sushi at any Ranch 99 Chinese grocery store – they also have an exceptional fresh fish selection. The fish for sushi should be sliced, but not very thin.
A useful phrase in a Japanese restaurant or to teach your dinner guests is “Gochiso-sama deshita, domo arigato gozaimasu” (this is said after eating and means in very polite Japanese “it was a feast, thank you very much”- a very useful phrase to know).
Anecdotally, a phrase I wish I had known during my last trip to Tokyo is “Sono kaeru o nameru na. Genkaku o okosaseru” – roughly translated, this means “Do not lick that frog. It is hallucinogenic.”
Your logical response in Japanese would be “honto?” – “Are you serious?” My reply: “Kiite gokuraku mite jigoku” – again roughly translated, this means “Sounds like paradise, but hell when you taste it”
Just for the record: the frog licking part was all just “uso” – a joke. Also, toads are the hallucinogenic amphibians. Not frogs. No joke.
Battle on – The Generalissimo