Once you know how to make basic sushi rice, you can start making sushi at home. However, I don't consider the regular sushi-on-a-ball type of sushi (aka nigiri zushi) that you get at a sushi restaurant to be that good for the home cook. Making that type of sushi is notoriously difficult - sushi chefs, or itamae, go through years of training. Rather than struggle to get that just-right balance between rice ball and topping, or neta, I stick to the kind of sushi that is easy to make at home.
One of these is hand rolled sushi (temaki-zushi). This is great party food, since the rolls look so pretty and of course, they can be eaten without utensils. You can either make the handrolls ahead and put them on a buffet, or - much better - have a "roll your own sushi" party. We even have this sometimes just for dinner, since it is so easy to make.
Handrolled sushi (temaki-zushi)
- 1-2 cups of prepared sushi rice per person, depending on what else you're serving
- Several sheets of nori seaweed
- Fillings (gu) - see below.
(You may notice I use the term gu frequently. Gu in Japanese simply means additional ingredients, or filling. Another term that means filling is tane.)
Prepare the fillings. Here are some suggestions, both traditional and non-traditional:
- Seeded, julienned cucumber
- Very very thinly julienned spring onions
- Very very thinly sliced onions, soaked in cold water and drained well.
- Raw or seared (just cooked for seconds on each side) tuna, cut into strips. Make sure it's fresh, sushi-grade tuna.
- Various smoked fish - smoked salmon, mackerel, trout, haddock, etc., shredded.
- Julienned ham, or roast beef, or roast pork - any kind of cold cuts should work, provided they aren't too fatty (mortadella or salami types don't really work, neither do the "dried beef" type of things like Möstbröckli.)
- A fairly bland, firm cheese (Gouda and Tilsiter work pretty well), cut into strips. Cream cheese can work well too.
- Julienned pickled sushi ginger (gari)
- Broiled salmon skin. If you buy a whole side of a smoked salmon, you can cut up the skin (leave a bit of the flesh on it) and broil it.
- Japanese-style thin omelette, cut into strips.
- Cooked flaked crabmeat, or shredded imitation crabsticks (often sold frozen as surimi)
- Thinly sliced ripe avocado
- Daikon radish sprouts
- dashi stock, soy sauce, mirin or sake, and sugar. Kanpyo (dried gourd strips) are also prepared in a similar way. Dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water, then cooked in a mixture of
- Caviar - the sturgeon kind or the salmon kind, or if you must, the lumpfish kind.
- Have some wasabi (use the powdered kind, reconstituted with water: this is available at Japanese food stores) and soy sauce on hand also.
You certainly don't have to have all of these ingredients. Just choose a few and mix and match.
Prepare the nori seaweed. To crisp it up a bit, fan it over a low flame (if you have gas burners) or a medium hot plate (if you have electric burners), flipping it over back and forth. Be careful not to let it catch on fire! Cut the nori sheets into half or quarters, with kitchen scissors.
To make each handroll: Place the cut up sheet on nori in your hand. Place a little rice on it - you only need a couple of tablespoons worth. Make a dent in the middle and put whatever fillings suit your fancy in. Try to balance the meaty (such as tuna) with the crispy (such as cucumber or daikon radish). Make your own California roll, by combining avocado, crabmeat and cucumber. Or how about a New York roll, with smoked salmon, cream cheese and onion slices? You can either roll horozontally (to make a tube), or roll into a cone, as is shown in the picture, which is prettier.
For a "make your own" spread, put the sushi rice in a large plate or bowl, put the ingredients on several plates or individual plates. Give each guest a pair of chopsticks, a spoon, a stack of nori seaweed squares, a dipping plate for soy sauce, and a larger plate to hold their rolls.
Serve with a good miso soup, perhaps a salad, and plenty of beer and hot green tea.