We were recently invited to attend a sushi-making class at Niji Sushi Bar in Sydney’s Double Bay. The much-loved by locals restaurant features contemporary Japanese menu infused with traditional Japanese Izakaya dishes, Western ingredients and modern taste.
Head chef Koji Matsuda, was on hand to help the class of novices become confident sushi-making machines.
According to the samurai of sushi, the key to creating perfect sushi begins with the perfect rice.
“Preparing the sushi rice might look complicated and pedantic at first, but as you go along with it you might notice that it’s just like making ordinary rice, only with rice vinegar added to it, and a bit of Japanese methodology,” Matsuda explains.
Using the right rice is highly important, and short grain rice is preferred. The special rice you need for sushi is called ‘Calrose Rice’ (Kapika in Japanese).
You will need:
5 cups ( 480g) short grain rice
3 cups ( 720ml ) water
1 25 ml rice vinegar added with 2 table spoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of salt
A “Hangiri ” if you have one, it is a cypress wood barrel / tub used in sushi rice preparation process. A large wooden Spoon or spatula
Plus a bowl of water to dip your fingers into – to stop rice sticking to your hands.
How to create the rice:
Gently mix the rice with plenty of water and then drain immediately.
Repeat this process 3 to 4 times until the water becomes almost clear, then drain. Place the rice gently in a pot.
Add 3 cups ( 720ml ) of water and leave to soak for 30- 60 minutes.
Cook the rice on medium to low heat for 10 minutes until it boils, then reduce to a very low heat for another 15 minutes. Cover the pot with a lid, and allow to steam for 15-20 mintues.
Remove the lid quickly and turn in your hand at the same time to prevent any condensed steam falling from the lid and back into the rice which will ruin the texture.
Wet a large wooden spoon/spatula and gently mix the rice, using a folding action to make the rice fluffy. Note – a metal spoon will damage the rice and can also react to the vinegar which is added later.
Mix the rice vinegar, sugar and salt into a small pan on a medium heat until all granules have dissolved into the mixture. Pour mixture on the rice and stir well.
Allow the rice to cool to room temperature. It is now ready for you to create sushi! Note – putting the rice into the fridge will damage the rice.
The great thing about attending one of Matsuda’s classes is that his friendly staff at Niji have done all the hard work for you and prepared the sushi rice, so your ready to go and start creating the various morsels.
How to make an inside-out roll or 裏巻 裏巻 (Uramaki)
Nori (seaweed) sheets
Filling ingredients – tuna, crab, prawn, chicken, cucumber, avocado, the choices are endless
Japanese-style mayonaise , to taste
Sushi mat (available at all good Asian grocers and stores)
Wrap the rolling mat with 2-3 full rounds of clingfilm to prevent the rice sticking to the mat. Squeeze out the air locked inside or poke small holes in with a toothpick to ensure all air is removed from the clingfilm.
Place a small sheet of nori (seaweed) on the bamboo mat, with the shiny side facing down.
Lightly wet your finger and start gently spreading a 1cm layer of rice across the nori from left to right. (Leave a 1cm strip of nori uncovered by rice, this will ensure your roll comes together easily)
Flip the nori over so the rice is on the mat, with the bottom edge of the nori right on the bottom edge of the mat.
Add ingredients of your choice, avocado and crab meat is a great combination, and place them 2-3cm in from the edge of the nori. If you like you can place some mayonaise on top of ingredients.
Using the mat, fold the bottom edge of the nori so it covers the top edge of the filling and squeeze firmly together.
Pull the mat back slightly and gently roll the sushi roll so that the rest of the nori is now part of the roll.
Continue to use the bamboo mat to firmly compact the sushi roll.
Cut into pieces of 6/8 and serve on a rectangular dish with wasabi, ginger and soy sauce as traditional accompaniments.
Other types of sushi at Niji that you can also create:
握り寿司 Nigirizushi: When we talk about sushi, we are mostly referring to this form, the “hand pressed sushi”.
To create: Press a small amount of the prepared sushi rice into a small rectangular box between the palms of your hands, then drape a topping of your choice ( ネタneta) over the top. Thinly sliced salmon and wasabi is perfect for this.
軍艦巻 Gunkanmaki (ship): Soft, loose or finely-chopped ingredients are served in this form because it requires the confinement of nori.
To create: Wrap the nori around a small oval shaped lump of sushi rice, ensuring the top half of the nori is sticking up away from the rice. Place your ingredients, such as finely chopped seaweed, into the nori on top of the rice.
細巻 Hosomaki ( mini roll ): a cylindrical piece with nori on the outside. A typical mini roll has a diameter of about 2.5cm and contains only one filling.
To create: Using the same method as the inside-out roll, just don’t flip the nori over. Keep the rice on the inside as part of the filling and leave the top 2cm of the nori free from rice before rolling.
手巻 Temaki ( Hand Roll ) : Large cone- shaped piece of nori wrapping the ingredients in a cylindrical fashion, so the shape is that of a cone, with the ingredients traditional spilling out slightly at the top (wide end).
So, if like us, you’ve admired the art of sushi from afar, why not get your hands dirty and learn how to make your very own sushi and sashimi at home to satisfy your cravings. With the help of Niji Head Chef Koji Matsuda you will know how to create:
- Perfect sushi rice
- Cut a filleted piece of fish
- Crabmeat mini rolls
- Ange maki
- Salmon sushi
- Seaweed salad ships
- Tempura prawn hand roll
For more information on classes at Niji Sushi Bar, visit www.nijisushi.com.au