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When creating your own sushi, ingredients make a difference

When creating your own sushi, ingredients make a difference

July 19, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

Preparing sushi is not as easy as bundling rice, raw fish and seaweed.

"In Japan, a sushi chef will spend one full year making rice before he is allowed to make sushi," said chef and food instructor Barbara Cullen. "It's considered an honor."

If that seems like a lot of pressure, relax. The experts say the process isn't as difficult as it seems - if you know what you're doing. Sushi can be made at home.

Finding what you need

The difference between good sushi and great sushi boils down to the ingredients.

"You can't use Uncle Ben's rice," said Masachiro "Massey" Hirai, owner of House of Kobe, a Japanese restaurant on Dual Highway in Hagerstown. "It won't work."

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Sushi calls for stickier Japanese short-grain rice. The kind found in most store-bought instant rice packs, long-grain rice, is too dry.

Next comes the meat. "In Japan, the most important fish for sushi is tuna," Hirai said. Yellow tail, eel and shrimp also are common sushi meats, Hirai said.

Unless you're cooking the meat, finding sushi-grade fish for raw-food recipes might mean taking a trip outside the county. Cullen, the admissions director for L'Academie de Cuisine professional cooking school in Gaithersburg, Md., recommends JJ McDonnell in Jessup, Md., if you're up for a drive. The store can be reached by calling 410-799-4000.

Grocery-store-bought seafood will do for cooked-meat recipes, Hirai said.

Making the sushi

Preparing the rice is the hardest step in sushi-making, said chef and food instructor Somechet Chumpato, who teaches recreational cooking classes at L'Academie de Cuisine. She'll be teaching a sushi-making class in August.

The rice must be rinsed several times before it's cooked in order to remove the layers of starch that coat the rice, Chumpato said. Otherwise, "It won't be sticky," she said. Then, boil or steam the rice.

Next, spread a handful of rice on a half-sheet of nori, the seaweed that envelops sushi rolls. Generally, nori comes with user-friendly sushi-making kits sold at most gourmet and specialty stores in Hagerstown. They also sell the bamboo mats, which are helpful in rolling the sushi.

Place the remaining ingredients lengthwise at the center of the rice bed. "Always use a little less than you think," Chumpato said. The fish, cut with the grain, should be jullienned to slender pieces. Veggies also should be jullienned.

Then, starting with the end nearest you, begin to roll the layers so that the roll resembles a tube, covering the ingredients as you go. Chumpato recommends using a bamboo mat to assist with the rolling.

Next, using a sharp knife - preferably a sushi knife - slice the roll into even sections. It helps, Chumpato said, to rinse the knife in hot water. "The nori is also very sticky," she said.

Typically, one roll yields six pieces. Serve with wasabi and soy sauce.




Much ado about sushi



Nervous about ordering sushi?

Barbara Cullen, of the L'Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Md., shares sushi etiquette tips:

· Do learn to use chopsticks. Eating with your fingers is a faux pas.

· Don't rub the chopsticks together, "unless you're at a very cheap place and you want to make sure that there are no wood chips sticking out," Cullen said.

· Don't mix the wasabi and soy sauce

· Don't pour the soy sauce onto the sushi.

· Don't cross the chopsticks. "That means death," Cullen said.

Fixing your own sushi?

Masachiro "Massey" Hirai, owner of House of Kobe, a Japanese restaurant on Dual Highway in Hagerstown, offered the following tips for choosing fish for sushi:

· Fresh fish won't bend when held by the tail.

· The inside of the gills should be red.

· Look for tight scales and flesh that feels firm.

· Fresh fish is odorless.

Who shouldn't eat raw fish?

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, people with liver disorders or weakened immune systems should not eat raw food, and pregnant women should avoid raw fish.




Know how to talk the talk



The first step to making sushi at home is knowing the jargon. But even that can be daunting. There are more than 100 entries on sushi alone at Bento.com, an English/Japanese-language Web guide to Japanese food and culture.

Here are some of the basics according to Bento.com:

· Sushi refers to the rice - not the fish. Sashimi are thin planks of raw fish generally served with condiments.

· Sushi is typically encased in nori, a kind of dried seaweed. Nigiri are pieces of raw fish over vinegared rice balls.

· Maki is a roll of sushi. Generally one roll yields six to eight pieces of sushi. It can come with seafood - cooked or raw - or with vegetables.

· Futomaki is a fat roll.

· A California roll has cooked crab (imitation), avocado and cucumber.

Other vocabulary:

Ama-ebi, ebi - raw shrimp, boiled shrimp

Buri, hamachi - adult yellowtail, young yellowtail

Hamaguri - clam

Ika - squid

Maguro, toro - tuna, tuna belly

Sake - salmon, and rice vine, too.

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