It takes several years in Japan to master making sushi rice before you are allowed to actually make sushi. You even spend months and years learning how to wash the rice. Yes, washing the rice. What seems to be pretty hilarious is actually quite important if you want to cook a good sushi rice. You will neither need to spend years of training nor washing the rice. I will show you what has to be taken into account to make the perfect sushi rice at home.
ESSENTIAL THINGS FOR THE PERFECT SUSHI RICE
If it was just about putting a bag of rice in boiling water and getting it out after your alarm rings, you wouldn’t need a whole blog post on this topic. For cheap basmati rice with ketchup this might be perfectly fine. But sushi rice is a bit more tricky. There are four things that you should pay attention to if you want to have the perfect sushi rice.
- Buying the right rice
- washing the rice
- cooking the rice
- seasoning the rice
BUYING THE RIGHT RICE FOR SUSHI
Sushi rice is originally made from short grain rice. There is no big secret behind that and if you buy a rice that says “sushi rice” on its packaging you will most probably buy a suitable rice for sushi. If you are still uncertain, check the labels if it short grain rice and go for it.
Good sushi rice hasn’t to be from Japan. Even the Japanese use foreign rice. Very good qualities are usually from Italy or California. It will be hard to get the best qualities from Japan as they probably won’t export them. And a good quality from Italy or California will be better than a mid-quality rice from Japan. So, free your mind from the necessity of getting sushi rice from Japan.
Once you get an advanced in making sushi rice you might want to experiment with your rice. Meaning you can start blending. Each rice variety has its own properties and two or three different rice varieties can profit from each other when mixed together. But this really is the master class of making sushi rice. You should first learn to cook the rice properly, then find out the differences between rice varieties and then you are ready to make you own perfect rice blend for sushi.
WASHING THE SUSHI RICE
Is the rice dirty or why should I wash it? Well, I wouldn’t call it dirty, but we definitely have to wash something off the rice before we cook it. The starch. The friction from the transport loosens some starch over time from each grain. This starch would make the sushi rice too sticky and too dense from its mouth feel. By washing it off, the rice still remains sticky but in a much lighter amount. The best way to do this is to put the rice into a fine plastic sieve, fill a pott with cold water and dip the sieve with the rice into the pott. Gently stir the rice with your fingers. The water will turn cloudy very soon. Empty the pott and fill in cold, clear water again. Repeat this procedure as often as it takes until the water stays clear.
After you finished washing the rice let it drain and soak for 30 minutes. This is not a can do, but a must have to get a perfect result.
COOKING THE SUSHI RICE
Two things are important when you cook rice:
- The amount of water regarding the amount of rice
There is an easy rule. You will need 20% more weight of water than you have rice. As 1ml water equals 1g this calculation is simple. If we have 250g of rice we will need 300ml water, because 250 + 20% = 300.
Some recipes say to take 50% more water than rice, but for me the result is too soft. But everybody has its own taste. So if your rice turns out too firm, take more water next time.
- The cooking process & duration
There are two ways how you can cook your sushi rice. Either in a rice cooker or in a pott on your stove. Cooking rice with a rice cooker is a no-brainer, so no need to go deeper into this. But most of you will not have a rice cooker at home and have to cook the rice in a pott. The golden rule for cooking rice in a pott is: Do not stir. Never ever.
Put your rice with the water into a pott, put a lid on it and place it on your stove. Set the heat to the highest to get the water to the boiling point quickly. As soon as it boils turn the heat down to a low-mid level (like 30% of what is possible on your stove). Do not open the pott during the whole cooking process. After 20 minutes take the pott off the heat and let it rest with the lid on for another 10 minutes.
After the rice is cooked, take it out of the pott and put it in a large plastic or wooden bowl or lay it out on a wooden board. By doing this the rice can cool down faster than it could in the pott. Do not use a metal or stone bowl.
SEASONING SUSHI RICE
Once your rice is cooked and layed out for cooling it is time for seasoning. Season the rice while it is still hot or warm.
Sushi rice needs some umami to unfold it’s magic. And you get it with the traditional sushi rice seasoning called “sushi-zu”. It consists out of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Either you buy it ready made or you make it yourself. For beginners I recommend to buy the ready to use seasoning. You should focus on cooking the rice at first and then think about your own seasoning. For those who want to mix it by themselves here is a recipe that works very well:
For 250g rice (measured uncooked) you will need 40-50ml of the following mixture:
- 250ml rice vinegar
- 160g sugar
- 75g salt
Put all ingredients into a small pot on low heat and stir until everything is dissolved. You don’t need to bring the mixture to a boil. Heating will do the job. Once everything is dissolved take your pot of the heat and let your sushi-zu cool down before using it.
USEFUL HINTS FOR MAKING SUSHI RICE
- The most efficient work process for making sushi rice goes like this:
- wash rice
- While the rice is soaking make your sushi-zu
- cook the rice and let the sushi-zu cool down during cooking time
- put cooked rice into a bowl or onto a wooden board and season it
- Let the rice cool down
- When the rice reaches room temperature, cover it with a damp cloth to prevent drying out
- If you can get it at your local Asia store put a strip of konbu on top of your rice into the water and let it cook with the rice. This will give your sushi rice an even more authentic flavour as it contains umami flavours. But don’t expect the taste to change into a whole different direction. The difference is small, but that’s what perfection is about. The little things.
- Sushi rice can be used for various dishes. Not only sushi. And whenever you need to use your hands, make sure to have water close to you to wetten your hands before you get in touch with the rice. Otherwise it will be really sticky and almost impossible to handle.