Contrary to popular belief, the term “sushi” does not connote raw fish. Instead, it refers to the vinegar-seasoned short-grain rice central to the Japanese diet. Sushi forms the base for delicious appetizers and dinners, which need not involve any fish at all. The best rice for sushi is short-grain Japanese-style rice. If unavailable, other short-grain varieties, such as Italian arborio or carnaroli are acceptable.
INGREDIENTS | YIELDS 4½ cups
- 2 cups Japanese-style short-grain rice
- 1 one-inch square kelp (optional)
- 3 tablespoons sake (optional)
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
In a bowl or pot, under cold running water, rinse the rice very well, agitating it with your hands until all the starch has been washed off and the wash water runs clear; drain.
Place the drained rice in a pot with a tight-fitting lid, along with the kelp and 2¼ cups water. Cover pot, and bring to a boil; lower to a simmer. Cook until all water is absorbed, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand, covered, for at least 10 minutes.
Combine the sake, vinegar, sugar, and salt. Transfer the rice to a large bowl; sprinkle with vinegar mixture and gently fold to combine.
Spread rice onto a large sheet pan or platter to cool and dry, fanning and gently turning it occasionally. Keep covered and slightly warm for use in making sushi preparations.
Ten-inch square bamboo mats for rolling sushi help to maintain even pressure when folding seasoned rice into sheets of dry-roasted seaweed called nori. This is how sushi rolls, or “maki,” are made. While not essential (I've rolled sushi without a mat many times), these tools are inexpensive and helpful in making your sushi more attractive. They're often sold in sushi-making “kits,” along with wooden paddles for handling rice, and other accoutrements, at supermarkets' Japanese foods areas, where you can also find other sushi-related ingredients.