Kim and I love sushi. When we are down in Vancouver one of our favorite places to order from is Maguro at 5241 Ladner Trunk Road they’ve got some of the freshest and best tasting sushi in the Lower Mainland and a warm and cozy atmosphere in which to enjoy it. Around here though there isn’t a sushi restaurant in a fifty-mile radius, so if we want to eat sushi, we have to make it ourselves. It’s no matter though as with a bit of patience and practice just about anyone can make some great tasting and great looking sushi rolls. Sourcing the tools and ingredients may be a bit tricky, but many of the items such as bamboo mats, sushi nori, kombu, ajinomoto, powdered wasabi, and pickled ginger can probably be found at your nearest Asian supermarket.
The core requirement for sushi is vinegared rice. If you don’t use the proper rice or follow a good recipe then the quality of your homemade sushi will really suffer. Rice is typically categorized by grain length and starch content. in this case, you will want to select either a premium sushi rice like calrose or in absence of that, another short grain rice such as arborio. Short grain rice contains a higher amount of starch compared to other types which is responsible for the stickiness of sushi rice or the creaminess of risotto.
2 cups short grain rice
3 cups water
2 tablespoons sake (optional but makes the rice taste better. If you use it, remove two tablespoons water)
small piece of Kombu (dried seaweed) or pinch of Ajinomoto
Sushi Rice Seasoning
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar (to taste. Some like it sweeter – up to 5 tablespoons)
Wash rice thoroughly with water until it runs clears to remove excess starch. This will help to keep the grains of rice individual and not stick together as much. Add rice to a medium saucepan and add kombu (Ajinomoto), sake, and water and turn on the heat. I like to boil my water in a kettle first before I put it in so I don’t have to wait as long to set my timer. Once the water just starts to bubble and boil put on a tight fitting lid, reduce heat to low, and set timer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes remove from heat and let sit for five minutes or so. Carefully transfer the rice from the pot into a mixing bowl or a rimmed sheet pan… I just invert the pot. You don’t want to damage the rice grains by smashing or cutting them as this will affect the presentation of your sushi rolls. Now this is the part where it’s good to have a kitchen assistant 🙂 Using a large flat spatula, gently turn the rice over to cool it and add seasoning mixture slowly while your assistant fans the rice. The fanning will help dry it out so it achieves its final sticky texture. Once the rice has absorbed the seasoning, feels sticky, and doesn’t seem wet, allow it to cool while you are preparing the ingredients.
Now, sushi can contain any ingredients your heart desires such as fish, vegetables, fruit, or whatever but for this recipe we are going with America’s favorite, the California roll. Named after the most populous US State this recipe was actually created by Chef Hidekazu Tojo near my home town in Vancouver. He is well known as the owner of Tojo’s Restaurant, a high-end sushi bar located on West Broadway near 12th ave. The typical recipe is an inside-out roll containing crab or imitation crab with cucumber and avocado and often garnished with flying fish roe. As crab and flying fish roe are hard to find where we are (and canned crab is just plain bad) we will be substituting these ingredients with imitation crab and sesame seeds. The star of this particular recipe is the imitation crab filling. The cucumber and avocado are simply sliced very thinly and sometimes we use carrot peelings to add a bit of color but in this case we didn’t.
Morgyn’s Imitation Crab Filling
3/4 package imitation crab, cut into chunks
1/2 cup mayonnaise
5 spring onions. just the ends, thinly sliced
half a lemon, juiced
one rasher of cooked bacon, cut into bits
1 tablespoon real brewed soy sauce
splash of fish sauce (optional, but makes the recipe better)
pinch of salt to taste
Add all the above ingredients as described to a food processor and blitz to desired consistency. Let filling sit for a half hour or so for flavors to mingle a bit.
Now for the Philadelphia rolls… these are also inside-out sushi rolls that take after a popular NYC favorite… bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese. They are of course named after the most popular brand of cream cheese out there. Typically these rolls are very similar to California rolls in the way that they also contain cucumber and avocado. We are fortunate that we are able to obtain wild smoked sockeye salmon at our ‘local’ Superstore… about an hour and a half away in Kamloops. You could probably substitute raw sockeye salmon in a pinch, but without the smoked salmon this recipe would just not be the same. There is little advanced preparation involved with this recipe other than cutting up the cream cheese into long strips and preparing cucumber and avocado in the same fashion as for California rolls.
With all the prep work done it’s time to roll! Inside-out rolls have rice on the outside so they require a two-mat process and one mat should be covered in plastic wrap so that the rice doesn’t stick. You start by placing a piece or nori on the uncovered mat and covering evenly with rice. It helps to wet your hands with water before you start and periodically as you go along. The water helps to keep the rice from sticking to your fingers. Many people just cover the whole sheet of nori with rice, but I like to keep a small ‘flap’ at the top free of rice. This flap can be tucked in when you perform the roll as shown in the video and makes it so that the fillings are defined within a circle in the middle of the roll instead of the nori making a spiral shape. The rolls are much prettier this way when done properly.
After covering the nori sheet with rice, shake on some sesame seeds (for California rolls) cover it with the cling-film covered mat and flip over vertically. This will place the ‘flap’ close to you and will be in the right position for tucking/rolling; Now it’s time to add your filling. California rolls have imitation crab, cucumber, and avocado, and Philadelphia rolls have smoked salmon, cream cheese, avocado, and cucumber. Once you have added your fillings bring the bottom flap up and over them and tuck/squish it in underneath, then bring the top of the nori sheet down to rest on the flap and squish the rice edges together. This can take some practice but once your technique is perfected you will be rewarded with some amazing looking sushi rolls!
Now that your California roll is holding together you can optionally garnish it with some fanned out avocado slices or in the case of Philadelphia rolls, the thinly sliced smoked salmon. Cutting the rolls is a bit tricky, but it helps to have a very sharp knife and a wet towel to wipe it on before you make each cut. I like to cut them in half, place the pieces side by side, and then finish cutting them two pieces at a time. Once you’re done you’re ready to garnish (optionally) with some hot sauce or spicy mayo.
Serve with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger. Enjoy!