A few months ago I met a Japanese lady, Yoko (not Ono), and after a few minutes of discussing the greatness of Sushi she said she would teach me how to do it. I was extremely keen on taking her up on this as after almost nine months of cooking and eating Italian pasta, I was looking for new ideas...
The next time we saw each other she handed me a neat, hand written, step by step instruction for making Sushi. Along with this, a pair of beautifully painted chopsticks, a packet of Nori seaweed sheets, and a Sushi roller.
This afternoon, my untouched, authentic Japanese Sushi instructions were laid on the table. There couldn't have been a better day for it. Sheltering in my apartment from heavy city heat, I could think of nothing cooler than putting together a light and refreshing lunch.
I had almost all the ingredients for making Sushi, minus two vital condiments. The one shop in Bologna I know which sells everything you could possibly want for oriental dishes is conveniently five minutes from my flat and it would have been a sin to kick off my first attempt without lime green Wasabi and bright pink pickled ginger.
So, all ingredients in hand, the process began, with the eager help of Georgia, another BIG Sushi fan, who had made a homemade lemon iced tea to compliment our lunch.
We boiled the rice (Arborio in this case) until sticky, and let it cool in the fridge before layering it into the centre of the seaweed sheet. Sashimi of salmon, tuna, cucumber, and fried omelette were cut into thin strips and laid in along the centre of the rice, altering the flavour combinations here and there.
The act of carefully adding layers felt therapeutic and hugely artistic. I think the best thing about Sushi, apart from the taste, is also the way it looks. The contrast of the black seaweed against the white rice, with the brightly coloured fish and cucumber, made our amateur spontaneity look like a work of art.
The rolling part proved the most difficult, as it is key to get the seaweed tight enough around the rice so the filling is held firmly inside. Once it is all rolled up, it is ready to be sliced into smaller pieces - ours were a bit too big, making conversation a little sporadic - then lightly dipped into the soy sauce and Wasabi for a mouthful of heaven.
After devouring about 6 large pieces of Sushi each, the stomach was highly satisfied. A full feeling, but not too full...and cleansed down with the iced tea it was a relief on such a hot day.
INGREDIENTS: (for 12 pieces of sushi)
2 Nori seaweed sheets
Rice: 2 cups Japanese rice (Arborio will do), 4 cups water. 20g sugar, 5g salt, 25 cc white vinegar (Rice vinegar is best) - mix seasonings well beforehand.
Filling: sashimi of salmon, cucumber, tuna, fried omelette - the choice is yours.
Condiments: Wasabi, dark soy sauce, pickled ginger
1. Before cooking, wash the rice with cold water until the water becomes clear.
2. Cook the rice with the water.
If you don't have a rice cooker:
- Put the rice and water in a pot and put on a lid. Cook it on a low heat.
- When the water starts to boil lightly, raise the heat to medium - shift the lid a little to let steam out.
- When the water starts to spout, turn off the heat.
3. While the rice is hot, put it in a wet bowl, and pour on the sugar, salt and vinegar. Mix with a wooden spoon.
1. Lay out the sushi roller with the bamboo bark facing down. Make sure the lines of bamboo are horizontal.
2. Cut the seaweed to size and put horizontally into the middle of the roller. It is best to leave a space on the lower and upper sides of the roller.
3. Layer the rice thinly and evenly onto the middle of the seaweed. Do not cover the layer completely! Leave a space on upper and lower sides.
4. Put some slices of the raw fish and vegetables - anything you like - length ways onto the middle of the rice.
5. Pick up the lower edge on the roller with both hands, and wrap the ingredients quickly. Do not roll the edge of the roller you picked up.
6. Roll it up to the end of the seaweed, tightening it up and letting the roller go to the other side. You should end up with a tightly rolled cylinder of Sushi. Slice up into manageable pieces and serve as a great starter.
This recipe is so easy and delicious. It is such a sociable dish - get friends round to help make it and why not experiment with ingredients and come up with your own version of sushi!
If you want a hot dish to go with your Sushi, try a warming coconut broth, made simply with coriander, kaffir lime leaves, stock, coconut milk and rice noodles, and any meat or vegetables you feel like adding!