Friday, August 3, 2012

A Lesson in Sushi

Sushi is one of the culinary worlds most exciting items. It is beautiful in artistry as well as craftmanship, exciting with flavors that delight all the senses. Sushi is healthy for both the mind and body, all of this is combined with a history that spans centuries.
Modern day Sushi is an exercise in patience for the consumer. It can be served with meat, seafood or vegetables in hundreds of combinations. All of the ingredients can be cooked or can be served raw. The list below will give you some idea of the more common Sushi terms...

Sushi gives us some of the most beautiful presentations!
Sushi, is a term which describes a cooked rice that has been flavored with vinegar and served cold

Maki, a long roll covered in seaweed, filled with rice and other ingredients. Made by using a bamboo mat and then sliced into thin or thick pieces.

Futomaki, thick slices of Maki Sushi

Hosomaki, thin slices of Maki Sushi

Nigiri, hand formed sushi which is typically served with fish or other seafood on top of a finger shaped bed of rice

Temaki, hand rolled Sushi inside of a cone shaped piece of Nori

Donbiri, seafood or meat along with vegetables served over rice inside of a bowl

Sashimi Platter with soy dipping sauce and
Sashimi, a term meaning 'raw' and used to describe the fish or seafood that is served on plates or platters with various dipping sauces

California Roll, a non-traditional Maki where it's made in an inside-out style with the rice on the outside. The Nori is combined with avocado, cucumber and crabmeat in the middle

Nori, the word for the seaweed wrap used in making Maki Sushi

With the list of possible ingredients for Sushi being so vast, the health benefits are also just as long. Fish and seafood is highly nutritious and low in calories. Vitamin B12 is essential for building and maintaining healthy cells and iodine helps support the thyroid gland. All of this amounts to a big boost in health for your body. When you look at two of the biggest components of Sushi, Tuna and Salmon, you gain the benefit of adding a pair of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are helpful in the prevention of heart disease and stroke. Rice, one of the main foods for more than half the world is a good source of protein and carbohydrates. Digested slowly it will release energy on a gradual basis and it has the added benefit of being gluten free, so it can be eaten by people who can't eat wheat based products. Ginger and Wasabi are a pair of seasonings rich in antibacterial properties, rich in Vitamin C while aiding the body's defense against the common cold and flu. People who need gluten free products should ask about gluten free Soy Sauce when ordering Sushi, many restaurants now carry a gluten free product to better take care of guests. For use at home, most supermarkets carry Tamari which is a gluten free Soy Sauce.

Ingredients and flavors are what make Sushi so popular. Take a look at this small group of common items on a Sushi menu...

Wasabi shaped into a leaf along with Gari and a
Parsley garnish
Shake, the term used for Salmon

Maguro, the term used for White Tuna

Hamaci, the term for Yellowfin Tuna

Tai, the word used for snapper

Saba, the term used for Mackerel

Hotate, the word used for Scallop

Ebi, the term for Shrimp

Wasabi, spicy and aromatic Japanese plant which is served as a paste alongside of the sushi to be used in small amounts. Sometimes called Japanese Mustard or Horseradish

Gari, pickled ginger slices with a delicate pink color. While not used in the Sushi itself, the Gari is served as a palate cleanser between bites or plates

The rice used in making sushi is different then normal household varieties people are used to. Always choose a short or medium grain rice. Some people will have automatic rice cookers at home and if so then always use the device, simply put it will cook the rice correctly everytime. If you are making rice on the stove follow this simple recipe and instructions.

Sushi Rice

3 Cups Rice, uncooked short grain
3 1/4 Cups Water

Sushi Vinegar

8 Tbs Rice Vinegar
4 Tbs Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt

Stir the sugar and salt into the vinegar until sugar is completely dissolved

Place the rice in bowl and fill the bowl with cold water, mix gently with your hands. Drain and then repeat the process 2 to 3 times or until the water being poured over the rice becomes clear. Leave the rice under cold running water for 2 minutes longer. Allow the rice to drain for 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer the rice and measured water into the sauce pan and let it stand for an additional 30 minutes. Bring the rice and water to a boil. Reduce the heat immediately and cover. Allow to simmer until all the water is absorbed. Remove from the heat and let it stand with the lid on to complete the cooking process, which is an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Spread the rice out in a flat bottomed non-metallic container.Using a spatula or wooden spoon slice through the rice to remove clumps. While slicing into the rice, turning gently, pour in the vingar mix. Turn rice occasionally for about 5 to 8 minutes. Allowing it to cool will add flavor and texture. To avoid drying out the rice while preparing Sushi, cover with a damp cloth.

To make Sushi at home, you need a few things to get started with. Most department stores or specialty home stores will have the needed equipment and all of it is not overly expensive, plus it is easy to use.

Just a few of the many Sushi
making tools available
Bamboo Rolling Mat, also known as a Makisu. This is a simple rolling mat that is used in making Sushi. It is made of thin strips of bamboo that have been woven together. After it is used, wash it well and allow it to dry thoroughly to avoid any build-up of mold or bacterias.

Mixing Bowls, if you can get non-metal bowls with lids, that would be perfect. A few varying sizes would also help with the preparation of sides, sauces and rice production.

Knives, in order to cut the items as thin as possible when making Sushi you will need a very sharp knife. A long non-serrated blade is fantastic for not only cutting the ingredients, but also for cutting the sushi once it is rolled.

Cutting Board, this should be at least double the size of your bamboo mat. It allows a work surface for chopping and slicing as well as a level surface for rolling the Sushi.

Rice-Cooling Tub, also known as a Hangiri. This tub, typically made of cypress wood has low sides and is designed specifically to cool Sushi rice.

So now that we know the terms that are used for Sushi, know a few of the ingredients for making Sushi and finally the tools's time to get our Makisu out and have some fun!! Which is going to have to wait until the next entry of the Sushi series coming out early next week. When I started this article I was unsure of just how big it was going to turn out. Rather than trying to force it all into one reading, I decided to break it down over a pair. Enjoy what I have so far and get ready for next week when we get to rolling!!

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