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In its simplest form, sushi is a Japanese dish composed of specially seasoned rice and seafood or vegetables, often wrapped in toasted seaweed known as nori. The fillings chosen are what will make sushi distinctive: cooks can use everything from tofu to fried eggs in their sushi. It can be fun and easy to make sushi at home, and if you get a large crowd to consume it, you can have a roll your own sushi party, with a platter of fillings laid out along with nori and sushi rice for your guests.
To make sushi, start by determining what type of sushi you want. The simplest kind of sushi is nigiri sushi, a hand formed type of sushi made by pressing toppings onto a clump of sushi rice. Nigiri sushi often features cuts of fish such as tuna or mackerel. Another common type of sushi is maki sushi, which refers to any type of rolled sushi including inside out rolls, sushi cones, and futomaki, or fat rolls. Some people also greatly enjoy inari, a type of sushi made by stuffing fried bean curd skin with sushi rice.
The core ingredient of the sushi is the rice, which is short grained and extra sticky. You can find sticky or glutinous rice in most grocery stores. Rinse the rice several times before soaking it in water for at least four hours, and then cook it normally. When the rice is done cooking, add one tablespoon of rice vinegar, one teaspoon sugar, and a pinch of salt to every one and one half cups of cooked rice. Set the rice aside to cool so that it will not damage the nori when you make sushi.
If you are having a roll your own sushi party, you should assemble a large platter with a lot of pre-cut filling options, allowing your guests to make sushi to taste. Common vegetarian choices include carrot, shiitake mushrooms, cucumber, tempura vegetables, grilled tofu, fried eggs, avocado, sprouts, grilled vegetables such as eggplant, and bell peppers. Fish can be cooked and set on another platter, or kept on ice if you have access to fresh high quality raw fish. If you intend to make sushi and then bring it to the table, make a variety of rolls to keep your guests intrigued and happy.
After you have assembled rice and fillings, start to make sushi! The easiest kind of sushi to make is temaki sushi, which is made by piling rice and ingredients in one corner of a sheet of nori and rolling it up like a cone. This type of sushi is very popular for parties, because guests can assemble and eat it with ease. Be aware that temaki should be eaten quickly, before the nori turns soggy and rubbery.
To make sushi in other varieties, use a sushi mat wrapped in plastic. The plastic will keep the rice from sticking to the mat and making a mess, and will allow you to easily make inside out rolls. To make a futomaki roll, dip your hands in water to prevent the rice from sticking and use them to scoop up enough rice to line the bottom of a sheet of nori. Pile ingredients on top, and then roll the nori up as tightly as possible, using the sushi mat to help keep it tight and even. Set the sushi roll aside and cut it right before bringing it to the table. To make an inside out roll, cover a sheet of nori with a thin layer of rice before turning it over and putting the ingredients along the bottom edge. Roll up as before, sprinkling with sesame seeds or fish roe for garnish.
Serve sushi with a variety of garnishes such as soy sauce, pickled ginger, wasabi, and tamari sauce. Provide your guests with small mixing bowls to use, along with plates and chopsticks. The sushi can be served individually or on large central platters from which guests can help themselves. If hosting a make your own sushi party, make sure to keep your eye on popular ingredients so that they don't run out.
A sushi mat is so important - it makes making sushi so much easier. I tried to make a roll with nori once without a mat, and the slices just fell apart. Using the mat to make sure the roll is tight and firm makes slicing and eating much easier.
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