I don’t like seaweed, raw fish or artificial crabmeat.
My wife on the other hand loves what she calls sushi and I call crap.
Because of her love for the stuff, we go relatively often for her to enjoy it. Now, because she prefers the little strip mall joint’s around where we live, that’s where we usually go. I am fully aware that there are a few outstanding quality sushi places around, but you won’t be getting your fix there for $15 to $25, which is about average around here per person for a meal of “rice and stuff “as I call it. So at this point I would be happy with a bowl of perfect sushi rice with some smoked mackerel. I make that for myself at homes many times..
The problem is, it is hard to come by good sushi rice at most sushi places, especially the ones in strip mall’s, usually labeled something like : “Sushi Thai”, “Sushi Chinese”, “Sushi anything”
If you can not attract enough customers with the quality of your sushi and have to add other, completely different ethnic cuisines to your restaurant, chances are there is something wrong. The biggest problem in my humble opinion is the fact that most customers have never had excellent or even good ”sushi”. What they usually had is a roll of badly seasoned rice, with more inferior quality ingredients added, then pressed into a dense roll or chunk of rice, , which then will proceed to be dunked into a soy / substitute-wasabi bath which covers whatever little taste and texture there was of rice and other ingredients in the first place. It will also soggy up the toasted nori, which is supposed to be crispy when it hit’s your mouth.
But, that’s a good thing, because now everybody is happy !
The owner of the restaurant: The has sold a lot of cheap rice and some artificial crabmeat, canned mayo, third class mostly wrongly labeled raw and many times contaminated fish,
( stomach flu anyone? ) Which gives him a food cost of maybe 10 – 15 % . If that much!
The customer : He got exactly what he or she expected. Never been exposed to the real stuff, there is no way of knowing what crap (as far a sushi goes) was just consumed. But, the customer is full, (all that tightly squeezed rice), and feels sooo sophisticated, having just demonstrated his or her foodie-ness by eating raw fish with Chopsticks, for all to see.
The supplier, of which many, as recent surveys prove, have mislabeled part or all of their supply in order to get a higher price for a inferior product.
As for the raw fish, condiments and sauces, those will require a separate post.
In the meantime : Fresh? Frozen? Never been frozen? Safely handled? Yeah, right!
I believe most folks would not put raw fish I their mouth if they would understand the dangers associated with it and amplified a thousand fold by uneducated and / or careless food workers.
The FDA has never created a category of “sushi grade fish.” It’s a marketing gimmick. The FDA has created regulations governing
fish that is to be served raw:
# (A) Except as specified in ¶ (B) of this section, before service or sale in ready-to-eat form, raw, raw-marinated, partially cooked, or marinated-partially cooked fish other than molluscan
shellfish shall be:
* (1) Frozen and stored at a temperature of -20°C (-4°F) or below for 168 hours (7 days) in a freezer; or
* (2) Frozen at -35°C (-31°F) or below until solid and stored at -35°C (-31°F) for 15 hours.
(B) If the fish are tuna of the species Thunnus alalunga, Thunnus albacares (Yellowfin tuna), Thunnus atlanticus, Thunnus maccoyii (Bluefin tuna, Southern), Thunnus obesus (Bigeye tuna), or Thunnus thynnus (Bluefin tuna, Northern), the fish may be served or sold in a raw, raw-marinated, or partially cooked ready-to-eat form without freezing as specified under ¶ (A) of this section.
Now for the good part:
If the customer is happy with a belly full of ordinary rice and some other stuff for meal that usually cost’s around $15 to $20, good for him / her.
You usually get what you pay for when it comes to sushi, and the fact is that most so called sushi places outside of Japan are Crap (when it comes to sushi) However, if you don’t know the real stuff and you are happy what you get for the money, more power to you.
Here are a few tip’s to achieve good quality sushi :
One of the most important element of sushi-making is the cooking of the rice. It’s so important, in fact, that future sushi chefs in Japan spend the first two of their seven years of formal training learning to master this step. If possible, buy only the best quality Japanese short-grain sushi rice.
Other types of rice contain lower levels of amylose (the sugar found in rice grains) and will not achieve the required sticky texture.
Here are some of my favorite brands: Kokuho Rose and Nishiki, but you can also opt for Koshihikari Premium or Tamanishiki.
If they are not available in your area, buy them online, it’s certainly worth the extra money and time .
Sushi rice is processed for packaging with added rice starch powders (and sometimes talc), so it’s essential to wash off this residue before cooking to avoid ending up with a pasty, goopy mess.
Start by measuring the rice according to your recipe.
Next, transfer the rice to a fine-mesh sieve. Set the sieve inside a large mixing bowl that you’ve placed in your sink, and run cold water over the rice until the water reaches the top of the sieve. Turn off the tap and swish the rice around in the sieve until the water becomes cloudy. Lift out the sieve, drain the cloudy water, and return the sieve to the bowl, refilling it with fresh water.
Repeat this rinsing process three or four times until the remaining water is 90 percent clear, and then let the rice drain for 15 minutes.
This may seem like a lot of advance work, but Japanese legend says there are seven gods living in each rice grain,
So, treat your rice with respect !
When it comes to cooking sushi rice, there’s a fine line between perfectly puffed grains and edible glue. Here is a guideline :
(The amount of minutes and liquid might vary slightly, depending on the brand of rice you are using). I recommend you experiment with different brands to find out which is your favorite, then make a few test batches and note down precisely the measurements, times and heat settings. If you’re using a rice cooker, just place the washed and drained rice into the cooker along with the appropriate amount of water, turn it on, and you’re all set. If you’re using a pot, follow a 1-to-1 ratio for sushi rice to water and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it has reached a boil, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid, reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting, and cook the rice for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat entirely and let the rice sit and steam in the pot, covered, for 10 more minutes. Whatever you do, do not peek!
Although we have a electric rice cooker at home, I always use a heavy pot.
Shari-zu, a blend of sugar, salt, and rice vinegar, is the key to perfectly seasoned sushi rice. When stocking ingredients, remember to select unseasoned rice vinegar (steer clear of the pre-seasoned variety) so you can control the amount of sugar and salt. To make enough shari-zu for 2 cups of raw sushi rice, whisk together 4 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar with 8 teaspoons sugar and 1 teaspoon salt until dissolved. I know of some chefs who add a big amount of kombu to their shari-zu, which for me is wrong in so many way’s. Kombu is kelp, it has a strong sea-flavor. (Sea flavor – fish flavor). I don’t want anything I eat to smell strongly like fish, the least my sushi rice, which should taste slightly sweetish, slightly vinegary and otherwise just like rice, but definitely not fishy !
Transfer the cooked sushi rice to a hangiri (a Japanese cedar rice tub) or a wooden bowl. A stainless steel or glass dish will also do the trick, but wood is best because it absorbs moisture from the rice. Use a rice paddle or wooden spoon to spread out the rice and break up any big clumps, and then drizzle it with the shari-zu. Fold the rice over itself to fully incorporate the shari-zu, but be careful not to mash the grains. Traditionally, you would have an assistant fanning the rice as you fold it (you can use an electric fan), but whether or not you have a helping hand, the goal is to continue folding the rice until it stops releasing steam. Once you’ve reached this point, cover the rice with a damp towel as you prepare your fillings.
Less is always more when it comes to fillings, so as you plan what to wrap up in your roll, think minimal and trade America’s all-you-can eat mentality for a refined and balanced Japanese aesthetic. Thin strips of cucumbers, scallions, daikon radishes, avocado, and other veggies are suitable for sushi, as are prepared seafood such as crabmeat, smoked salmon, cooked wild shrimp, and cooked eel. You’ll want a total of about 1 pound of fillings to make 10 maki (roughly 1/4 pound each of crabmeat, avocado, salmon, and cucumbers, for example). Cut ingredients into long, thin strips about the size of a pencil.
Sushi-making is a fun and creative process that works best in a well-organized work space. Begin by wrapping a bamboo sushi-rolling mat in plastic wrap, for efficient cleanup later. Set aside halved sheets of nori on a waterproof surface, and place a platter or plate nearby to serve as a clean landing spot for your finished rolls. Mix up some pungent wasabi by combining 2 tablespoons of wasabi powder with just enough water to make a thick paste. Finally, fill a small bowl with warm water and add a splash of unseasoned rice vinegar. This mixture, known as te-zu, is used to dip your hands in before handling the rice. Don’t skip the te-zu step, or you’ll end up with rice-coated hands, making it hard to cleanly roll out your sushi.
Once you’ve set up your sushi-making station, begin preparing your first roll by laying your rolling mat in front of you with the bars parallel to the table’s edge. With a dry hand, lay a half sheet of nori on the bottom edge of the mat, dip both hands into the te-zu, and shake off any excess (your hands should be only slightly damp). Pick up a handful of rice about the size of a tennis ball and gently spread it over the nori without smearing or mashing the rice too firmly. Spread the rice evenly, especially the left and right edges. For an extra kick, run a tiny dab of wasabi paste along the center of the rice.
Place one to three types of fillings horizontally beside the wasabi, remembering not to overfill your maki. Roll the mat and the nori up and over to lock in the fillings then release the mat and use it again to finish rolling the remaining nori. Once you’re ready to serve your rolls, dampen your knife (a sharp chef’s knife works well) with te-zu. The vinegar mixture will prevent your knife from sticking to the rice as you then cut the rolls into 1-inch slices.
Sushi should always be made and enjoyed fresh. Seasoning sushi rice with shari-zu actually thwarts bacterial growth by altering the rice’s pH, so freshly made rolls can sit out for a few hours, but don’t push it. Refrigeration can destroy sushi’s delicate flavors and textures, so try to prepare your rolls as close to serving time as possible. Nori gets soggy quickly once rolled around damp rice, so sushi chefs will always make maki last. If you absolutely must refrigerate your sushi maki, do so before cutting, and cover the rolls tightly with plastic wrap.
So, wether you like “rice with stuff” or the finest “sushi”, there is a place and a price for you :-)
Economical (cheap) does not alway’s mean lower quality, but it usually does. Labor cost plays a big part in the equation. A very good sushi chef can make a very good salary and is not easy to find outside of Japan, definitely never for minimum salary. That’s why your sushi chef’s name is usually Pepe, Fritz, James or Chang, who mostly work for much lower salaries as properly trained sushi chefs. After all, hey can be perfectly trained for their job of making “rice with stuff ” in a few day’s, it is easy to take some rice, squeeze the heck out of it so it is easy to handle, roll it up and slice it.
The “Art” of making sushi is on a totally different level of culinary accomplishment. You can feel each grain of rice as it is in your mouth, the taste of the rice very subtle so as not to cover the taste and texture of all the other first rate ingredient’s. Since the rice is perfectly seasoned, there is no need to add soy sauce to it since it then would be too salty. The right amount of wasaby has been added already by your expert chef. That leaves you with the choice of adding a bit more wasabi for your own specific preference, as well as a bit of soy sauce to the fish only ! You will do that by holding the nigiri upside down with your finger and lightly dipping the fish into the sauce. I you would use chopsticks, the rice of the nigiri would most likely fall apart and the protein or vegetable fall of. Therefore it is almost necessary to use your fingers when having nigiri.
Bon ! Appetit ! Life is Good !