Sushi rice is the base of all good sushi and getting it right is essential, it's easy too! Just follow my step by step guide and you will be making mouth-watering sushi with perfectly seasoned sticky rice in no time. Impress your friends with restaurant quality sushi rice, let's get started!
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You might be wondering what makes sushi rice different to regular rice. Well I'd say there's 3 main points that set it apart. I'm going to tell you about each part in detail, each of the three points are equally important!
What Kind of Rice is Used for Sushi Rice?
Let's start with the most important element first, the rice. Sushi is always made with Japanese short grain white rice. It's sometimes called "sushi rice" too.
The key feature of Japanese rice is that it is sticky, this allows it to hold it's shape when moulded. We can use this rice for making things like sushi and onigiri because it doesn't fall apart. But we don't only use it for shaped rice, we eat this rice with pretty much everything because the texture is firm and mildly sticky, it's easy to pick up with chopsticks.
Before you ask, you can't substitute Japanese short grain white rice for anything else when it comes to making sushi. Using Jasmine rice, brown rice etc will not work and will fall apart unfortunately. I have heard of people having some success with making sushi risotto rice, but I haven't tried it myself so I can't recommend it.
How to Cook Sushi Rice
So you've bought your rice, but now how do you cook it? Before it goes into the pot, you need to follow these steps to ensure the perfect taste and texture.
- Wash the rice - I usually wash it three times to remove the excess starch. (The water doesn't need to be clear though)
- Soak the rice in cold water - About 30 minutes (or 1 hour in winter) to allow the rice to absorb water and cook more evenly.
Once you've followed these steps, you're ready to cook your rice! To achieve the perfect texture, Japanese rice is cooked with a boil-simmer-steam method. So we bring the water to the boil, bring the heat down to the lowest setting and for the final step we let the rice steam. This means you will need a pot with a lid, or even better, a rice cooker!
If you don't have a rice cooker, it's okay, you can still make perfect sushi rice. You just need to spend a little more time tending to your rice. I've written the instructions in the recipe at the bottom of this page, or you can go here to see my post, how to cook Japanese rice on the stove.
So you have perfectly cooked sticky Japanese rice in front of you, now what? Can I start rolling my sushi yet?
Well, not quite, we need to add some subtle flavour to the rice. Here are the three key seasonings for sushi rice:
- Rice vinegar
You can also buy "sushi vinegar" that already has everything mixed together, but if you make it yourself you can control the exact taste and feel the pride of making everything yourself from scratch.
In Japanese, sushi rice is actually called sumeshi (酢飯) which means vinegared rice or sour rice. It's important to help preserve the rice and also compliments the taste of the fish.
Sushi rice is only used to make sushi, you can't use it to make onigiri. Onigiri is usually made with salted rice, but you can learn more about making and shaping onigiri on my post here.
The History of Sushi Rice
Sushi might still be quite new to the Western world, but actually, it's been around for more than a thousand years. The earliest written record of sushi goes back as far as 718!
Originally, seasoned rice was wrapped around the fish and allowed to ferment as a way to preserve it. The fermented rice would pickle the fish, allowing the fish to still be edible months later and once it was time to eat, the rice would be thrown away.
Over time, this dish developed into fresh fish served on lightly seasoned rice that could be eaten and enjoyed together. So, this is how sushi became a dish that we know and love to this day!
If you plan to make sushi on a regular basis, I recommend investing in a rice cooker. Making rice on the stove is not difficult, but you need to keep an eye on it and change the temperature manually.
With a rice cooker, you can make perfect sushi rice with a single press of a button and then go and do something else. It's a great time saver and ensures the perfect texture as long as you add the right water amount.
Rice cookers also come with a rice cup that makes it easy to measure out, and then the inside of the pot is usually marked with water indicators so there's less chance of error.
Finally, they have other nifty features such as timers and warming functions so you can set your rice to be cooked and ready for when you get home from work or school, and it will still be warm!
Sushi Oke / Hagiri
A "sushi oke" (すし桶) or hangiri (飯切) is a large wooden container that is used to cool sushi rice. They're very big so that you can spread a thin layer of rice and it will cool down very quickly, saving you time once again! (You can find it on Amazon here.)
Because it's wooden, you can wet it down to make it damp so it stops the rice from sticking to the container.
I don't expect many people to have a sushi oke at home, so using a large bowl or plate is also okay. Wooden is ideal so you can dampen it, but not essential.
Bamboo rolling mat
Sushi can be made by simply forming the shape with your hands, but if you want to make beautiful makizushi (巻きずし) or "rolled sushi" then you should get a bamboo rolling mat. They're cheap to buy, easy to keep clean and reusable!
If you don't have a bamboo mat you can also roll sushi using clingfilm (plastic wrap) but it's a bit more difficult to get a consistent shape.
Sushi is often made with (but not limited to) the following fish:
- Salmon サーモン
- Tuna マグロ
- Red snapper タイ
- Yellowtail ブリ
- Prawns エビ
- Squid イカ
- Horse mackerel アジ
- Scallops ホタテ
- Cod roe (ikura) イクラ
This is not a complete list, but a number of popular fish sushi served in Japan.
If you are making sushi using raw fish, make sure to use special "sushi grade" fish. Sushi grade means that the fish is fresh, stored and transported safely so that it is parasite free and safe to eat raw. Sushi grade fish can be found at Japanese supermarkets or ordered online. Don't risk eating raw fish you are not 100% sure about (better to be safe than sorry).
If you can't access sushi grade fish, the following cooked/cured fish are great for sushi too!
- Smoked salmon
- Tinned tuna
- Boiled prawns
- Crab sticks
Sushi is a great dish for vegetarians and can be enjoyed with some of the vegetables below!
- Bell Peppers
- Pickled radish
- Cooked mushrooms
What this video for how to cook rice on the stove! (No rice cooker required!)
What is your favourite sushi ingredient? Let us know in the comments below!Print