Sushi, the popular Japanese dish, made from bits of seafood (mainly fish/shrimp) wrapped in vinegared rice and seaweed, is fast gaining popularity all over the world, including Oman, which is evident from the fact quite a few sushi joints have mushroomed in the capital in recent years. This comparatively expensive delicacy may not appeal to every palate but those who love sushi cannot really have enough of it.
Most people imagine raw fish when they hear the word sushi, others go a little more wild and think of creepy-crawlies on one’s plate. Actually, sushi comes from a Japanese word meaning ‘sour rice’ and it is rice that is at the heart of sushi. The word for raw fish is ‘sashimi’ in Japanese.
Sushi is said to have originated in southeast Asia as a way to increase the shelf life of fish by placing it in fermenting rice. By and by, the Japanese, however, preferred to eat fish wrapped with rice, known as ‘namanare’ which is consumed fresh, before it changes flavour. This new way of consuming fish no longer remained a form of preservation, rather it became a new dish in Japanese cuisine that has currently caught the fancy of fine diners all over the world.
You may be hesitant to enter a sushi restaurant for mainly two reasons – you don’t really know what to expect on your plate, and you presume it to be outrageously expensive. And both your fears could be quite true. But, before you decide to let your senses explore the unknown, how about trying out some simple sushi at home? Here’s how:
To prepare simple sushi rolls (vegetables and raw fish wrapped in a layer of sticky rice and covered with a strip of nori (seaweed), you will need some basic requisites like a cutting board, a sharp knife, and a bamboo mat – these enable the preparation of neat sushi rolls.
2 cups sushi rice (400g)
200g smoked salmon or 200g raw tuna
1 large ripe avocado
1 small cucumber
1 small carrot
5-6 nori sheets (available in supermarkets)
¼ cup rice vinegar
Cook the rice following packet instructions. In a small bowl, combine vinegar, sugar and salt and mix until the sugar is dissolved. Pour this over cooked rice and mix well. Set aside to cool.
In the meantime, cut the veggies into thin strips – as thin as possible. avocado and salmon can be cut into strips 8-10cm long. Now place the bamboo mat onto your work table and place a sheet of nori on it, with the smooth side down. Place 2-3tbsp of cooked rice on it and spread evenly, leaving around 2cm of the sheet free – the end away from you. Now place a thin row of salmon, cucumber, carrot, and avocado in the middle of the rice, horizontally. Wet the rice-free end with water and roll up the assembly of rice and vegetables, using the mat to form a tightly shaped roll, with a little pressure. Make sure the roll is held tightly together, then using a sharp knife cut 1-2 cm thick slices. Place on a plat and serve with soy sauce, wasabi paste or pickled ginger.
There are countless options and combinations of what fillings can be placed within the rice in sushi rolls – it all depends on your own taste and how creative you can get. Remember, you are not a sushi chef, so don’t go by convention, experiment and enjoy your creation. First decide whether you want your sushi roll to be vegetarian or non-vegetarian.
The ideal veggies for home sushi include cucumber, carrot, radish, avocado, bell peppers (capsicum), lightly toasted or steamed asparagus, lettuce, bamboo shoots, celery, lightly steamed shitake mushrooms, etc. You can even try grilled eggplant/sweet potato tofu/paneer – just experiment!
For the traditional non-vegetarian style, combine some of the veggie strips with raw/cured fish – salmon or tuna (cured with vinegar/lemon juice) are most common. You can also use smoked salmon, crab sticks, sauted shrimp/baby octopus.
Sushi is commonly served with soy sauce, wasabi, pickled ginger, and seaweed salad. You can purchase these from a store to have an authentic experience of sushi at home. Again, since this is your own creation, go wild with the accompaniments to suit your own taste – try marinara sauce, chilli sauce, mustard sauce, anything that can add more colour and zing to your platter.
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