Sushi or Sashimi

By Kristen Hoffman

Eating sushi can mean something very different from one person to the next. For me, my sushi menu only includes cooked fish, vegetables, and fruit. I have never ventured into the world of sashimi, which is sliced fresh fish served with soy and other sauces. While I can understand some people’s aversion to raw fish, don’t discount the sushi roll. The term sushi refers to "vinegar flavored rice topped with sashimi, omelettes and vegetables or rolled with a variety of fillings in dark green nori seaweed" according to the Quick & Easy Sushi Cookbook by Heihachiro Tohyama. While you can get a wide variety of sushi at many sushi restaurants, preparing sushi at home gives you ultimate control over including all your favorite items. While I was living in New York, I fell in love with fruit sushi: apples, bananas, and a few more things wrapped in rice and seaweed. I haven’t been able to find this at any restaurants I’ve been to in Lexington but I’d love to make it at home and share it with friends.

Preparing sushi at home is probably not as difficult as you think. All you need is the right equipment and a good set of directions and ingredients. The key tools you will need are a bamboo rolling mat (available at Good Foods Market & Café), a bowl with a lid, a flat non-metallic bowl to prepare the sushi rice and a chopping board. A recipe is also essential if you are making sushi for the first time because you will need to know how large to make the nori seaweed sheets and how much sushi rice to put in. These amounts vary depending on the amount of other ingredients you are using. If your recipe calls for raw fish, please consult a manual or sushi expert to guide you in this process.

The other key component to making sushi at home is to know how to prepare sushi rice. Oriental groceries and some chain grocery stores will carry rice especially labeled for sushi. If you cannot find this, make sure you are using short grain Japanese rice. Once you have your rice cooked, you are going to have to add a vinegar dressing to it. This is what allows the rice to stick together. You can find various recipes for the vinegar in cookbooks and on the Internet. The ingredients should include vinegar, rock or sea salt, and sugar. Please note that sushi rice will not last for more than one day.

There are many different types of sushi rolls that you can prepare. The cucumber roll listed below is an example of a simple, small roll that could be good to prepare for a party. Medium and Jumbo rolls will combine more ingredients, often pairing seafood with vegetables. What you include in these rolls is up to you. Sushi makes a great finger food at a party. Impress your friends by preparing some quick vegetable rolls for appetizers. Or help your family to eat more fruits and vegetables by wrapping them up in rice.
I found a few great cookbooks that will make preparing sushi a cinch. In addition to the book mentioned above, take a look at Sushi by Ryuichi Yoshii or Nobu: The Cookbook. As I’m sure many of you know, Nobu is an internationally known Japanese restaurant. It’s location in New York was virtually impossible to get into when I lived there. This cookbook includes sushi recipes along with other Japanese specialties. As this book displays, sushi and other Japanese cooking is food as well as art. "The Japanese believe that food should satisfy all the senses" according to Sushi. You too, can learn to perfect the art of sushi making. Start out simple and see what kinds of creations you and your family can come up with. n