In March of this year, my wife abandoned her family. She took off for Dubai to go on a cruise leaving me to fend for myself and raise our two sons on my own. I was devastated. As I tried to pick up the pieces of my life and gain some semblance of normality, I devised a brilliant plan to ensure she would never leave me again. I ordered a knife on Amazon…as well as all of the other makings for sushi, her favorite dish. I was determined to become a world-renowned sushi chef.
I’m pretty sure Japan will never let me into their country due to the sushi-based atrocities I’ve committed: Reuben sushi, chili cheese dog sushi, fish taco sushi, etc. But, I have gotten pretty good with a bamboo mat, nori, and some rice. Want to give sushi making a try? Here are some tools of the trade to get you started:
The first knife I purchased was advertised as a good sushi knife. I liked the low price so much that I took the seller at their word and bought it. Big mistake. To cleanly cut the fish, vegetables, and rolls, you need a nice sharp knife. After consulting with my sushi sensei, I bought the Mercer Culinary Asian Collection Yanagi Sashimi Knife, which is really a sword. At twelve inches long, it doubles as home security. And, it comes with a lifetime warranty.
A high-quality knife requires a high-quality sharpening whetstone. I had never used one of these before I bought one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m doing it wrong (though I’ve researched it). Basically, the first thing I do when I’m going to make sushi is to run my sushi sword along the wetted whetstone at a 15-degree angle in both directions. I first do it a bunch of time on the coarse side then on the finer side. I use the Grocery Art Whetstone Knife Sharpening Stone. Clean and dry the stone very well after using it: I had to throw the base away because it got moldy.
I’ve only ever used Calrose rice, and I’ve only bought it at the store, never from Amazon. But, I’ve used Botan Musenmai Calrose Rice, which is available on Amazon at a reasonable price. I must warn you though: it’s “extra fancy.” If you are currently wearing a garbage bag for pants, this is not the rice for you. Some people make their rice in a rice cooker, but I just do it the old-fashioned way in a pot on the stove.
The Bamboo Bowl (plus Mats and Rice Paddles)
I originally purchased the BambooMN 10.6″ Sushi Oke Tub Hangiri 5 Pieces Sushi Making Accessory Kit, and all of the elements worked great. The only problem was that the 10.6” was too small for cooling enough rice for a dinner party. I needed something bigger. So, I upgraded to the Lipper International Bamboo Wood Salad Bowl. This serves me well and can probably hold 10+ cups of cooked sushi rice. I still use the paddle and bamboo mat from the original kit. Pro-tip: put your mat in an open gallon Ziploc bag to keep it from getting mucked up.
I have experience with a few brands of seasoned rice vinegar, and my favorite so far is Marukan Seasoned Gourmet Rice Vinegar. My rule of thumb is to use 0.1 cups for every cup of cooked rice. Also, don’t buy your rice vinegar on Amazon. The prices are terrible. You can probably find Marukan for less than half the price at your local supermarket or Asian food store. I prefer the Asian food store because you can also pick up octopus, eel, quail eggs, toasted black sesame seeds, and a weird toy cat that waves at you.
You’re supposed to help the sushi cooling process by waving a fan at the rice while stirring in a very specific fashion. Both of these actions just make my arms tired thinking about them. So, I bought a sushi-grade fan to do the work for me: Honeywell HT-900 TurboForce Air Circulator Fan. You really have to rig the fan just right to get it to blow your rice, though.
I’ve tried at least half a dozen different types of nori in my sushi making atrocities, and I keep coming back to Nagai Deluxe Sushi Nori. I like the price, how easy it is to handle, the taste, the mouthfeel, the texture, my experience eating it, and the product’s chemical and physical interaction with my mouth.
I’m not even going to attempt to direct you to anything you can order online to put in your sushi. You’re going to have to leave the house for that. My all-time favorite is smoked salmon, cream cheese, and pickled asparagus. But, other ingredients that you should give a shot are shrimp, eel, tuna from a trusted fishmonger, cucumber, avocado, daikon radish, hot dog, corned beef, ground beef, shredded cheese, sauerkraut, and well, I guess you can see where I’m going with this. Be creative. The only ingredient I haven’t been able to make palatable is octopus. Maybe you can do it. Gauntlet thrown.
Where are the chopsticks? What about the cute sushi plates that are the hallmark of all sushi meals? Well, this is part of the reason why I’m banned from Japan: I don’t really use any of these things. I eat with my hands, and I use big serving plates for the sushi. My presentation is crap, but that’s the story of my life.
I’ll give you a week or so to collect all of the above elements, then I’ll post about how to actually make the sushi. I want to make sure you’re prepared first. If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments below!