Greetings! It's Kevin again :) Adelina is still having fun in Italy and of course I couldn't let Saturday pass without a recipe post! Thank you for your kind comments on my last post :) Hope you all enjoy this one too...
So tiny, so beautiful, so delicious... Sushi - the Japanese cuisine that has become rightly famous around the world. Seemingly simple yet yielding an array of complex combinations of flavours and textures, sushi has existed for centuries and has remained largely unchanged in the forms that we still enjoy today.
All sushi is based on a common ingredient - No, not raw fish! Sushi is based on vinegared rice (shari).
|Neon sushi fish! - Photo: Eater.com|
There are two secrets to good sushi: as most of the ingredients are raw, select fresh, high quality ingredients and prepare them with care :) the natural full flavours will come through in the finished dish; the most important factor is making good shari - follow the simple recipe below and refine it based on your tastes :)
- Rinse the rice thoroughly three times with cold water.
- Soak the rice in water for one hour.
- Cook the rice and leave to stand.
- Combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a bowl.
- Pour the vinegar combination over the rice while mixing gently.
- Put shari in a warm container.
I thought there were two main forms of sushi - Maki (rolled) and Nigiri (hand-formed) - and it is true that these are the most widely known - especially in the Western world. However there are at least six types (each with their own variations)...
Chirashi - "scattered"
A bowl full of shari with vegetables and sliced raw fish or meat on top. It is traditional in Japan to eat this filling and simple dish during Hinamatsuri (Doll Festival) on the 3rd of March, however it's fine to eat on any other day too, so feel free to make a big bowl and enjoy it whenever you want!
|Chirashi - Photo: Japancentre.com|
This is fried tofu filled with shari - I have never tried it but it's named after the Shinto spirit-god Inari who is the spirit of rice and fertility, so if it was good enough for Inari, it must be good enough for me!
|Inari - Photo: Blog.fatfreevegan.com|
Maki - "rolled"
Perhaps the most famous and iconic form of sushi - Makizushi is a roll of shari wrapped in seaweed and often containing vegetables in the middle. The makizushi is rolled using a mat to form an even cylinder which is then cut into uniform pieces for serving. The important thing is the rolling - makizushi does not necessarily have to be wrapped in seaweed - so long as the shari is wrapped in something, it is still makizushi - herb leaves, vegetable skins and even a very thin omelette can be used as shari wrapping.
|Maki - Photo: Wikipedia.org !|
Nare - "matured"
Remember my rule about all sushi being based and defined by the common ingredient of shari? Well this is the exception that proves that rule :) Narezushi is really fermented fish, traditionally matured in a wooden barrel or cask. An uncooked fish is gutted and skinned then stuffed with salt. The stuffed fish is then compressed in a barrel of salt by a heavy rock.
|Nare fresh from the barrel - Photo: Ocn.ne.jp|
Over time, the salt draws the moisture out of the fish and under the weight of the rock all the water is eventually forced out. This usually takes at least six months, but due to the preservative qualities of the salt, the fermented Narezushi can be kept for a further six months before eating.
Unlike the other forms of sushi which are relatively quick to prepare, this variation takes months, so if you try it, come back here in six months and let me know how it tastes!
|Nare sliced and served - Photo: Theasiancouture.blogspot.com|
Nigiri - "hand-formed"
Whereas maki is easy to make at home with the right tools - basically just a rolling mat! - nigiri is a form best reserved for sushi artisans and professionals. Nigiri is formed into a mound in the palm of the chef's hands and then a topping is artfully draped over the top.
The skill is not just in the forming of these beautiful mounds of course, the texture and flavour of the shari and perhaps more importantly the quality and taste of the topping and the 'journey' of the courses as each nigiri is formed and eaten in sequence is what makes a nigiri chef renowned. Often, the nigiri is handmade in front of the diners and passed across to be eaten while the next course is being made.
|Nigiri - Photo: Kitchen-chefmate.blogspot.com|
It is my dream to visit Japan and taste a series of Nigiri made by a great chef. The variations and combinations of the toppings (neta) are almost limitless - tuna, squid, eel, octopus and salmon are all commonly used - sometimes tied to the mound of shari with a seaweed strip.
|3-star Michelin chef Mizutani - Photo: Stan Svimonoff|
Oshi - "pressed"
Oshizushi is formed in a wooden mould, as opposed to nigiri being moulded into shape by hand. The neta is placed at the bottom of the mould, then the shari added on top. The lid of the mould is then pressed down, forming a regular shape which is cut like makizushi into pieces to be served.
|Oshi mould - Photo: Cutoutandkeep.net|
|Sliced oshi - Photo: Yourjapanesemenu.blogspot.com|