Among participants at Tokyo Sushi Academy Singapore, many are sushi-lovers who are keen to get their hands on making sushi themselves.
The most often asked question we hear from our participants is: How do I make sushi rice?
It is not an exaggeration to say that the quality of sushi rice is the key factor in determining how delicious a piece of sushi is.
Rice is of supreme importance to sushi.
If the rice does not taste good, the sushi will not taste good even if you pair it up with the freshest and most delicious piece of fish ever.
Sushi rice is made by adding sugar, salt, rice vinegar and other seasoning into cooked rice and mixing them together.
As vinegar can only be absorbed well when the rice is warm, let it steam for 15 to 20 minutes with the lid on and then mix it with sugar, salt and
Cut the rice into pieces with the spatula so that it will not turn sticky. Fold thoroughly to make sure that each grain of rice is well-coated with the vinegar.
You can tell whether the vinegar and the rice are mixed well together from the colour of the rice.
Next, cool the rice with a hand held traditional fan (uchiwa) for 10 seconds. It is important to keep the temperature of the rice close to one’s skin temperature.
In sushi restaurants, when sushi chefs prepare the rice, they actually calculate the timing by deducting the preparation time from the estimated time of arrival by the guests.
To keep the rice fluffy, sushi rice can be kept in a covered wooden tub known as the ohitsu. Sushi chefs also have to be careful to not let steam droplets formed on the lid drop onto the rice.
Sushi restaurant adjust the taste of their rice, making it a bit sourer or sweeter, according to seasons and weather conditions.
Recently, there are many different variations of sushi vinegar sold in the market. Consumers can choose the sweetness of the vinegar or whether they would like to have it with kombu (seaweed) added in.
Sushi vinegar is sold in both liquid and powder form.
It is very convenient to purchase and easy to use for home cooking. Although many Japanese mothers are working now, the cultural notion that the task of cooking for the whole family is a mother’s job is still very prevalent in Japanese society.
Hence, food ingredients that are easy to prepare and seasoning that helps working mothers to whip up delicious dishes in a shorter time are very popular.
We often get questions from enthusiastic students about how to make sushi rice and how much vinegar to use when cooking sushi rice.
For students currently not residing in Japan, we often tell them to adjust the seasoning to the taste preferences of the people in the countries they live in.
For example, there are many different types of sugar with different levels of sweetness.
Sugar produced in Asia are generally sweeter.
The amount of salt and vinegar to be used in sushi rice cooking also differs in countries.
Hence, it is important to not follow recipes too strictly and adjust the taste accordingly when you cook sushi rice.
It takes trial-and-error to find the correct proportions.
In general, sushi rice is sweeter in countries outside Japan. Even within Japan, sushi rice in Kansai tastes sweeter than that in Tokyo.
In the past, sugar used to be a high-class commodity.
During the Edo period, a sugar, known as wasanpon, was a very expensive sugar. Therefore, sushi rice in the Edo period tastes salty.
However, as the sake lee vinegar (kasuzu) used has a very smooth and mellow characteristic, it gives a tinge of sweetness to the sushi rice.
As the price of sugar dropped, people began to use it in the cooking of sushi rice and rice vinegar is used instead of sake lee vinegar.
As rice vinegar is expensive overseas, some sushi restaurants use diluted wine vinegar instead for their preparation.
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