And so a little sushi tutorial here at D&O seemed to be in order. I first learned my sushi-making strategy and technique from my oldest friend KW in her childhood Arkansas home, before I had ever even eaten sushi in a restaurant, and it has carried me through all these years. I don't know how authentic it is, but it's what I've got to share with you all for now.
The building blocks for this particular sushi night:
...plus the nori (toasted seaweed wrappers) and some wasabi (a spicy Japanese green horseradish relative, which is delicious when added to soy sauce for sushi roll dipping). More details on my particular ingredients that merit further explanation:
- Sushi Rice: Cook sushi rice (special short-grain sticky rice is best, but any rice or even another grain would work) with 1 part rice, 2 parts water. When cooked and slightly cooled, mix in rice vinegar and sugar, to taste.
- Baked Tofu Strips: Squeeze tofu to remove as much water as possible, cut into long strips, place on baking sheets in a single layer, sprinkle with oil and soy sauce, and then bake at 375 degrees F until brown on all sides, turning half-way through, 30-45 minutes total.
- Roasted Sweet Potato Strips: After peeling and slicing sweet potato, treat like tofu above (sprinkle with oil and soy sauce, and then bake at 375 degrees F until brown on all sides, turning half-way through, 30-45 minutes total).
- Marinated Portabella Mushrooms: Wash and slice mushrooms, then marinate in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and mirin (Japanese rice wine), until mushrooms have shrunk and darkened.
- Omelette Strips with Onions: In a bowl, beat eggs and add sugar (1 tablespoon per 2-3 eggs) and milk/soy milk to thin slightly. If using onions or other filling, saute with a little bit of oil in a pan until browned, then pour eggs in a very thin layer over the top of the vegetables. Cook as you would an omelette, until browned and solid on one side (~1 minutes), then flip to cook the other side for an additional 30 seconds or so. Transfer to a cutting board, cool, and slice into long strips.
- Japanese Noodle Salad: Not actually a sushi filling, but just a pleasing side dish. I used udon noodles, broccoli, diced carrots, frozen shelled edamame, and a dressing loosely based on this recipe.
Once you've assembled your basic ingredients, you just take a sheet of nori out of its package and spoon a sticky flat layer of rice onto one half of the sheet. You don't want the rice layer to be too thick (< 1 cm) and you want it to be as uniformly pressed down to the very edges of the nori as possible. Then, you lay a few long strips of your filling in the middle of the rice, running parallel to the layer of rice. Again, careful not to overstuff! Simpler flavor combinations are often better (this go-around, the combo of omelette strips, cucumbers, and scallions were a big hit). Finally, starting from the ricey end, you simply roll the seaweed and rice over and over until it's all rolled up, as tightly as possible (some people use a special sushi mat for rolling, but I've always gotten by without one). Seal the edge by dipping your finger into a small bowl of water and running that over the edge of the nori.
The hard part is what comes next: slicing the roll cross-wise to produce those beautiful circular pieces of sushi. Use as sharp a knife as possible, and move your knife in a back-and-forth motion to cut through the outside nori layer rather than just smooshing the roll with your knife. Often, the end pieces just have to be eaten on the spot (not such a big sacrifice!), as they're rarely tightly filled enough to stick together on their own.
Arrange your sushi slices on a platter, and serve with soy sauce and wasabi for dipping!