Sushi rice is essentially what makes a sushi meal. Any dish served with sushi rice is effectively sushi. It’s the only ingredient served at a sushi bar with the word ‘sushi’ in it.
It’s also one of the more difficult ingredients to make and it’s critical to make excellent rice consistently. In Japan young aspiring sushi chefs first start by working in the kitchen. Eventually they earn the right to help prepare some food items. Some will go on to being trained to make sushi rice. It may take a year to master the art. It’s an honor when the itamea (head sushi chef) awards a young aspiring sushi chef that duty.
And while it may take a year to master the art of making rice it only takes a few hours for sushi rice to turn to not so great. It will develop a sort of mealy texture. It’s no longer fresh and you’ll notice. So it’s very important to use it right away. There’s no saving for tomorrow so make bigger Futomaki! Rolls can be saved in the fridge but even with these you’ll notice.
I’m self-taught when it comes to making rice. I spent a couple months making it daily until I developed a technique that is consistent. It’s not just about using a timer correctly. There is a little bit of intuitive thought that goes into it. Breaking down timing on cooking the rice there are three parts to the boil. Remember, we are cooking Off The Grid (OFG) and without generators so a rice cooker is not an option.
- Initial boil. Brings water from cold to rolling boil.
- Simmer. Boil is turned down to a medium simmer. The goal is to turn the simmer off right as the last bit of water is boiled/steamed off. Overcooking the simmer will harden/burn the rice. Undercooking the rice will leave it crunchy. Nail this part every time and you’re half way there to mastering the rice.
- No heat final cook. Cover pan in kitchen towels to retain as much heat as possible. The rice is not done cooking after the simmer. Twenty minutes or so should do the trick.
Where the intuition matters that since we are OTG the wind and weather are a factor if you’re cooking outside. Making sure the wind doesn’t cool a side of the pot is important. Even more important is making sure the simmer cycle completes and once it’s done making sure the pot is insulated to retain its heat.
After the rice is done cooking it’s time to transfer it to the cooling bowl and add the sushi rice vinegar. With a wooden sushi rice spoon slice and flick the rice apart as you pour on the vinegar. At this point it’s important to evenly distribute the vinegar over the rice while cooling it as quickly as possible.
The vinegar in the vinegar rice sauce starts to evaporate and when it does it causes the sugar to crystalize on the surface of the individual rice grains. It’s the sticky sugar that is why sushi rice is sometimes termed sticky rice (a Chinese rice).
If all things go according the plan the rice will be easy to use and spread on a roll. The grains should break apart easily into individual grains.
Sushi Rice Ingredients
Asian markets carry sushi rice in bulk. Most rice in the US is sourced from the farms in California. While it’s often not certified as organic you should keep an eye out to make sure you see the non-GMO label. I keep a 15 pound bag on hand that usually runs about $20.
Sushi rice is a specific type of rice – it’s a milled to about 60% medium-grained white rice. For best consistent results always go with sushi rice. Pick a brand and stick with it.
Organic Brown Rice Vinegar – this should unseasoned. The Kyushu gallons available on Amazon are a good value.
Mikawa a small island off the coast of northern Japan. Over the centuries the Japanese here have brewed their Mirin. It’s the best you’ll find anywhere and what I consider the magic ingredient for many things. In particular it’s used in most sauces in my recipes. Mirin is a sweet rice wine (Sake) that’s been distilled. Koji is an important part of the process and what’s left behind after the alcohol is vented is a beautiful caramel colored liquid.
It’s important that it’s cane sugar. During the cooling process the rice vinegar evaporates leaving behind the sugar which crystalizes. This what gives the sushi rice it’s sticky texture.
Use a non-iodized finger grain salt. Himalayan Salt is great for the food items. I also use salt to make a sanitizing solution (along with vinegar) for use with kitchen knifes and dipping fingers before/during making sushi rolls. Inexpensive salt is nice to have for this.
- 1 2 quart pot
- 1 Hangiri Or large flat bowl
- 1 Rice spoon
- 2 cups Water
- 1.5 cups Sushi Rice
- Combine Rice and Water in stainless sauce pan
- Bring Water to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.
- Once all of the water has been absorbed remove from heat. With towels cover the pan to maintain the internal heat. Give it 20 more minutes or so to finish.
- While rice is finishing up combine the rice vinegar, mirin, sugar and salt in a sauce pan. Warm it while stirring occasionally to dissolver all sugar and salt. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Once the rice has finished dump it into the large rice bowl. Pour the rice vinegar sauce over the rice while using the rice spatula to break the rice apart. The goal here is to evenly coat the rice while cooling it as quickly as possible.