By: Justin & Kayla Butts Photos by: Rachel Benavides
By all accounts, the best sushi in the world is served on the sidewalks of Japan. As you weave your way through the bustling crowds of the big cities, there are thousands of street vendors with carts, one after another, selling sushi.
These street vendors are actually artisan chefs at the top of their game. You might see an old man behind his cart with white hair and deep lines in his face, but his fast expert hands deftly roll your sushi as you watch. It is the best thing you have ever tasted.
Or you might pass a tiny two-wheeled cart with a serious young female chef rapidly serving nigiri to a line of people who take their order and briskly walk away while eating. The nigiri of this unknown chef is world-class, better than anything you will find at a five-star restaurant back in the United States.
Why is the sushi on the sidewalks of Japan so unbelievably good? First, the competition is fierce and relentless. There are thousands of chefs on the streets competing for the passing crowds of diners. Each piece of sushi must be its own work of art.
Second, the ingredients are of the highest quality. The seafood arrives freshly-caught on boats just minutes away from the sidewalk vendors. Sometimes you can see the boats unloading within view of the cart where a chef is preparing your roll. The fish is so fresh that chefs must often let it sit for a while to develop its flavor.
Serving great sushi at home is not nearly as difficult as you think. In this recipe, we will help you make unbelievably good sushi on your first try.
Here is the good news: great sushi is 1% technique and 99% ingredients. If you shop wisely, your sushi night will be unforgettable. Never skimp on the ingredients for sushi.
The first and most important ingredient is rice. In a typical Japanese supermarket, there are more than 200 varieties of rice on the shelves. Even a tiny gas station will sell twenty or thirty types of rice. We have several Asian markets in The Bend that feature authentic sushi rice and other must-have ingredients.
Sushi-grade seafood can be found at a good local fishmonger. Gulf shrimp and flounder are excellent in sushi. Ask for sushi-grade tuna, salmon, roe, squid, and shellfish. Sushi-grade seafood is frozen at a very low temperature to help ensure the fish are safe to consume raw.
Sushi is an art form best practiced at home. Your only competition is the last roll you made, and each one just gets better!
Types of Sushi
Maki: Strips of fish, vegetables, herbs, etc., encased in rice and wrapped in nori and cut into slices.
Futomaki: What one thinks of as a sushi roll; fish, vinegared rice, and other ingredients rolled in nori.
Temaki: Literally “hand roll;” rice and sushi arranged in a tapered, cone-shaped nori.
Uramaki: commonly known as an “inside-out roll;” a maki roll where the fish and vegetables are on the interior of the roll, followed by nori, and lastly a layer of rice.
Sashimi: Raw slices of fish served on their own or with a sauce or vegetable.
Nigiri: A slice of raw fish on top of a mound of rice, often with a small dab of wasabi.
TIP: Sushi rice should be sweet and stick together when pressure is applied–never slimy, mushy, or al dente. Sushi rice can easily be prepared using your stovetop in just minutes.
Makes about 4 rolls
Prep time: 3 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
2 cups uncooked short- or medium-grain rice
2 cups of water, plus more to rinse rice
½ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
In a colander, rinse rice with cool running water while stirring and agitating with your fingers until water runs clear. Place rice in a 4 quart pot and cover with 2 cups water. Bring water to boil over high heat, stirring occasionally.
While water boils, combine vinegar, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Stir until sugar and salt are mostly dissolved.
Cook the rice in boiling water for 2 minutes. Cover rice and move pot to the smallest burner on your stove top. Continue to heat rice on the lowest heat setting, stirring once to prevent the bottom layer of rice from burning. Remove from heat once rice has absorbed all the water.
Let the rice cool to about body temperature. Add vinegar mixture to cooked rice and stir until liquid is absorbed, taking care not to mash rice. Cover with a damp towel to keep rice from drying out with preparing sushi.
Gulf Shrimp Uramaki
Makes 1 roll
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 2 minutes
¼lb raw gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
Heavy pinch salt
½ tsp Chinese five spice
1 sheet of nori (dried seaweed)
1/3 cup prepared sushi rice
¼ avocado, thinly sliced
¼ cucumber, seeded, and thinly sliced length-wise
¼ red bell pepper, seeded with pith removed, thinly sliced length-wise
1/8 mango, thinly sliced length-wise
1 scallion with end removed
2 sprigs fresh cilantro
Optional: 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds or roe to garnish
Place 2 cups water, salt, and Chinese five spice in a small pot over high heat. Add shrimp to the pot once it begins to boil and cook for about a minute, until shrimp turn pink. Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon and reserve to the side.
Cover your sushi mat with a sheet of cling wrap. Place a sheet of nori on your mat, with the longest side facing you. Spoon rice onto the nori. Wet your hands with water and using your fingers spread rice to cover the surface of the nori leaving only the top ½” uncovered.
About two inches from the bottom of the roll, place avocado end to end in a horizontal line across the length of the nori. Repeat with remaining ingredients, including reserved shrimp. Pick up the end of the bamboo mat closest to you, and while securing the inner components with your fingers, roll the mat away from you with a fair amount of pressure. Continue to roll the mat away from you, adjusting mat as necessary. Leaving cling wrap intact around the formed roll makes the roll easy to cut. Using a wet, sharp knife, cut the roll into 1/2” sections. Remove the cling wrap and garnish with sesame seeds or roe if desired. Serve roll with pickled ginger, wasabi, soy sauce, and spicy mayo (see recipe).
Prep time: 2 minutes
¼ cup high-quality mayonnaise (recommend Duke’s)
1 tbsp, plus 1 tsp Sriracha sauce
In a small bowl, mix mayo and Sriracha well. Add more Sriracha if desired.