Sushi rolls may seem like a daunting dish to prepare, but with an introduction to the basics of the meal it can actually be simple to make. A common misperception about sushi is that it always involves raw fish. Actually, sushi just means “seasoned rice.” The key to a good sushi maki roll is fresh, properly seasoned, warm rice. This gives the rice the texture that it needs to glue the roll together to keep it from falling apart after it’s sliced. The three main things that any aspiring at-home sushi chef needs to know before making sushi rolls is how to prepare the rice, how to select and prepare the fish or other fillings, and how to roll and cut the sushi.
To achieve the perfect texture of sushi rice, you will need to use short grain sushi rice such as Nishiki or Cal Rose rice. Other varieties of rice will not be as sticky. The rice will need to be rinsed and then soaked for 30 minutes before you start cooking it.
To season your rice perfectly, you will need to prepare a rice vinegar dressing. For 2-3 cups of rice, use 1/8 cup rice vinegar, 1/2 tbsp. of sugar and 3/4 tsp. of salt. 2-3 cups of rice will make 12 or more sushi rolls, and will easily serve 4. Whisk the ingredients together and allow the sugar and salt to dissolve into the vinegar. Set it aside at room temperature until ready to use.
Cooking the rice can take up to 60 minutes. Once the rice is cooked, you will need to transfer it into a shallow bowl (such as a bamboo sushi rice bowl). Corningware baking dishes work fine for this as well. Once you have the rice spread out, you can drizzle it with the dressing and fluff the rice so that it’s seasoned evenly. Lastly, you will need a very damp, but not soaking wet, dishtowel to cover the rice to keep it moist while you roll your sushi.
If you plan to use raw fresh or frozen fish, for your safety, it is imperative that you buy sushi-grade fish. This is only available at select seafood markets. Raw fish should be cut away from the grain, and around the bloodline to produce the optimum texture and flavor. Fish should but cut into thin, flat strips. Vegetables should be julienned and set aside.
You will also need the right equipment to properly roll your maki. You can buy wooden sushi kits or bamboo sushi rolling mats online, at culinary specialty stores or at Japanese markets. Many beginners opt for the wooden sushi kit, but with a little practice, the bamboo rolling mat is very easy to use and the preferred tool of sushi chefs.
To prepare your roll, you will need to lay plastic wrap across the bamboo rolling mat. Lay your nori (seaweed paper) on the plastic wrap. Have a bowl of warm water nearby so you can dip your fingers in it and then grab the rice. Lay the rice out evenly in a thin layer across the nori. Be sure you leave about a finger’s width of the nori uncovered so that you can “glue” the roll together. Then, layer your fish and/or vegetables in a single layer on top of the rice. Rolling the maki takes practice to get it right. Once you have the roll in place, dab some water on the open end of the nori paper. This is how you “glue” the roll shut. Shape it into a square with the bamboo rolling mat. Then, on a cutting board, cut the roll into six or eight even pieces. Now eat and enjoy!