In my post Use What you Have, I wrote about my family’s commitment to eating at home for awhile—so far so good. While I don’t consider sushi standard dinnertime fare for most American families, I have made sushi twice in the last month and I wanted to dispel the notion that it is difficult to make. It also can be a relatively inexpensive meal to make.

I didn’t grow up eating sushi. My love affair with sushi began in my twenties. Before that, the thought of eating raw fish struck me as slimy and gross. At that time, I didn’t know there were different types of sushi. I started my sushi-eating habits with the ubiquitous California roll—a mixture of rice, seaweed wrapper, avocado, and imitation crab. With a dab of wasabi and a splash of soy sauce, the tangy, sour mouthful was a delight.

When our family lived in Vancouver, I had many opportunities to expand and develop my sushi palate. From tuna rolls to sashimi, I sampled my way through sushi menus at Japanese restaurants. While I can’t recall the details on how I found myself sitting in Jan’s apartment with my friend, Rebecca, learning how to make sushi, that’s exactly what happened.

The first detail I learned about making sushi was the type of rice. It is called sushi rice and the reasons chefs like it is that it holds its shape, meaning it doesn’t turn into mush, and it is a lighter, fluffier rice. Some people prefer brown rice and that works too. In a bind, I think most types of rice (except instant rice) could work. The next important detail I learned was to brine the sushi rice. That’s where the tangy, sour flavors come from. The brine consists of white vinegar, sugar, salt, and some saki. A friend who makes sushi regularly says you can leave out the saki if you don’t have any. However, you do need to plan when you make sushi. The rice is best when you cook it the day before and let it brine overnight. Again, these steps aren’t difficult; they just require a bit of planning.

The only other supplies you need to make sushi are some seaweed wrappers (you can find them in any grocery store) and some bamboo mats for rolling your sushi. I bought mine in Vancouver, but any Asian market would sell them and I imagine a good many grocery stores carry them as well. They are inexpensive too. If you like a little heat, buy some wasabi, which will last forever in your refrigerator, and perhaps some pickled ginger—the little pink shards served with sushi.

From there, you decide what ingredients you want in your rolls. The last two times I have made sushi I have used vegetables to fill my rolls—some avocado, some cucumber, and some carrots. If you like California rolls, imitation crab is fairly cheap. Or you can go all out and buy some fresh salmon or tuna and roll away. Sushi also lasts several days in the refrigerator if you store it properly. Make your rolls and before cutting them, wrap them securely with plastic wrap so they don’t dry out. When you are ready to eat them, cut the roll into half-inch slices and enjoy.

I have found sushi rolls a perfect appetizer to bring to parties. They are one of the first items to be eaten. Perhaps as you think about your next party or think about your weekly menu, you can consider sushi. Several Youtube videos will walk you through the process step-by-step. Have fun and remember your rolls don’t need to look like the ones ordered in a restaurant. I find they taste just as good, even if they look a little lopsided.

Here’s the recipe for making the sushi brine:
2 cups water to 1 cup rice (Kokuho Rose is a recommended brand.) I cook my rice in a rice cooker with perfect results every time. You can also cook your rice on the stove. Once the water boils, cook the rice for 15-20 minutes–until all the water is absorbed.
1/2 c. white vingear
2 Tbsp. saki
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix the cooked rice (you can do this while the rice is still warm) and the ingredients in a 9 x 13 pan. Cover with a damp cloth and store in the refrigerator.

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