Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sushi for Scaredy-Cats

If you knew how cheap, easy, filling, and YUMMY homemade sushi was, you'd be making it on a regular basis.  First of all, you need to know this important fact: "sushi" just means vinegared rice with some other stuff, NOT "raw fish".  Yes, raw fish can be that "other stuff" but it doesn't have to be.  Good raw fish can be expensive, and there are many tasty alternatives.  Prepping the fillings is what takes the longest, but it can also be done a little in advance (and can be a chance for older kids to get involved).

This is a great "hang out with friends" meal, since you can talk and roll and talk and roll. :) Just wash your hands thoroughly ahead of time and have a reeeeally good friend on hand to pop sushi into your mouth every now and then. ;)   For my husband's and my 30th birthdays, we had a joint "Sushi and Tie Dye Party" and taught our friends how to do our favorite things.  That was fun.  And funny.

Here's what you need:
  1. Assorted Fillings - avocado, cream cheese, julienned raw veggies (carrots, cucumber, green onion), krab, bbq eel (my fave!), smoked salmon, shrimp, sushi-grade raw fish from a fish market (NOT just raw fish from Kroger), etc.
  2. Bowl of Water & Rice Vinegar - to keep fingers and knives from sticking
  3. Snap-Open Bib (OR Sushi-Rolling Mat wrapped in plastic wrap)
  4. Sheets of Nori - yes, it's dried seaweed (pretend you're a mermaid and get over it)
  5. Sushi Rice (which is not the same as regular rice)  - prepared according to package directions, then mixed with rice vinegar and sugar
  6. Cutting Board & Sharp Knife
Before we bought an actual sushi rolling mat (which are really cheap at your local Japanese grocery), we discovered that a flexible bib worked pretty well.  For nori-on-the-outside rolls, lay a sheet of nori on your rolling surface and top it with rice.  For rice-on-the-outside rolls, do the same thing, then flip it over rice side-down before you add the other fillings.

Anyway, get your fingers damp with the vinegar water and scoop out a handful of rice.  Press it around on top of the nori until it's uniformly flat and not quite to the edges, with a little more edge left on one end than the others (on the left, below).  When you roll it up later, some of your rice and fillings are bound to squeeze out to the sides, so you need to leave a little room.  You need that extra edge so there's a flap to stick the roll closed with.  Also, more rice = thicker roll, so keep that in mind.

On the end opposite the "extra edge", lay out a roll of fillings.  This is the fun part, and easy for kids to do.  Monkeying around with different combinations would cost a fortune at a restaurant, but at home you can make 6 or 7 rolls until you figure out your favorite, without breaking the bank!  In general, something crunchy and something smooth makes a great combination.  And avocado goes with almost anything.  :D

There's no picture of the most difficult step, which is the actual rolling.  Your goal is to roll it tightly and uniformly without squishing stuff out the sides.  And without rolling the mat in with the sushi.  ;)   I'll get a pic next time, I promise.  When you're at the very end, dampen that extra edge of nori with a fingertip of vinegar water to help it stick closed.

Transfer your "log" to a cutting board and dip your knife in the vinegar water (repeat as needed to keep it from sticking).  Slice your sushi as thickly as you like, but keep in mind the size of the mouth of the people eating it.  You're supposed to pop the entire thing in at once, to get all the flavors together.  We cut the above roll pretty thinly.  There will be two funky end pieces (top left, above) with bits sticking out.  They aren't pretty but they still taste good.

Most of the time, at our house, this many pieces would never pile up long enough for a picture.  My son would grab them and scarf them like there's no tomorrow.  Sushi has been his favorite food since he was 2 or 3.  When we were in the Burger King drive-thru, he asked for sushi.  Hey, sushi is just like veggies --- if you don't make a big deal out of it, neither will your kids!