Oct 4, 2011

Simple Sushi Making 101

     Last week for geography we learned about Japan. Most of what we learned were not new to the kids. They did learn that Japan is an archipelago or string of islands, and we have been reviewing that word since as a vocabulary word. We played continent hop with the continent printables from Spell Out Loud, I LOVE the printables and the kids love “traveling” to each continent.

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     I tell them left/right and hand/foot and call out a continent, then they have to “travel” there with the correct part. Even Bean gets to participate which she loves (as long as the older two don’t plow her over). She is quickly catching on to which page to put her hand/foot on and even the left/right part.

     Japan thus far has been our favorite country to “visit”. I wish we would have done more with some of the other countries but we just didn’t have the scheduling worked out like we do now, so things took longer the first several weeks. I think another reason that we enjoyed it was we know the basics of Japan due to my husbands cultural interest in the country, my WW 2 history obsession, and the fact we seriously LOVE Japanese food. So as a family, Friday night we had a sushi night, the kids love when when I announce sushi night and get to go shopping to pick everything out.

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     When my husband and I where first dating he informed me that he loved sushi and I had to try it. My response was NO WAY in ….!!, we’ll he did insist and I finally recanted and tried it. It has now become one of our families favorite foods. The whole family gets involved in making it. Now that I now how to prepare it it’s much easier then I ever expected. Now with that note, there is some trial and error involved but it’s a fun process.

     I do have a disclaimer to share; I am NOT a professional, I have had no training, this has become a family passion and we have learned using trial and error. I am going to share how we prepare a few dishes that we enjoy when we go to a sushi restaurant. 

     The first is edamame. Edamame is soy beans that are usaly steamed and then sprinkled with salt. You can buy them already shelled, but we enjoy picking the beans out of the pods, and I also think it keeps them more moist.

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     I have used several different brands, both the generic and the expensive brands and we see no difference. I buy bagged frozen edamame and throw them in bowl, microwave a few minutes, and sprinkle them with salt. Note on the salt I do not use regular table salt, we prefer margarita salt (I know strange but it tastes the best and sticks well), I have used sea salt and it works ok but doesn't stick to the pods well.

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     Yes edamame is really that easy, it tastes great and the best part is it’s really healthy and the kids love picking them out of the shells.

     Next is sunomono salad. We have only been able to find this particular recipe one time several years ago, but we love it so much I had to share even though I could not find the link.

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You will need; 2 cucumbers, a 6 oz package of blueberries, a 16 oz package of strawberries, and a half of a cantaloupe, mirin*(rice seasoning), sugar, and soy sauce.

IMG_0187*mirin, there are other brands, this is one we can get locally at a reasonable price.

     You will need a small microwave safe bowl. Add 5 tbsp mirin, 3 tbsp sugar (regular table sugar), and 1 tbsp of soy sauce. Microwave for 15 to 30 seconds and stir well, you don’t need it hot it’s just to dissolve the sugar. Rinse all produce well cut cucumbers VERY thin, if you have a slicer it’s much faster (that’s what we use). In a large bowl mix the syrup and the cucumbers, add the blueberries and mix well. You will need to cut your strawberries and mix in and then add half a cantaloupe cut into small strips. Mix everything well and let sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour. This is the kids all time favorite. It stores well in the fridge if you want to prepare it a day ahead of time or if you have left overs.

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     The last food I would like to share is the sushi. There are different ways to prepare sushi and different types but this is what we make at home. It’s simple and delicious.

What you will need; imitation crab (the small package works fine for our family), one cucumber, one avocado, mirin* (see above), rice*, Nori wraps* (one package is more than enough), wasabi* (optional), soy sauce (optional), sugar, a thin magazine, plastic wrap and cheese cloth or other lint free towel.

IMG_0179*DO NOT use regular white/brown rice, it will NOT work!!! You have to buy special rice, it will usually say right on it for sushi, it’s relatively easy to find, our local store caries this brand and I have seen this particular brand in several different stores in other cities.

IMG_0195*Nori wraps, there are lots of different brands, this particular one was not our favorite but we can’t get them locally so we have to stock up when going out of town. Do not buy soy wraps or any other wraps, you have to get the seaweed wraps, usually they say Nori wrap or sushi wrap right on the front.

IMG_0198*wasabi powder, we love wasabi powder but it’s not for everyone, especially young children! It is spicy, not the same spicy as say a jalapeño but spicy, remember less is more. Another note on the wasabi powder, not all are created equal, we have seen a lot of powders that say wasabi on the front and are just powdered horseradish, check the label, we have to get ours at the local heath store. You want it a thick paste, so just add a drop or two of water at a time.      

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     Now that you have had a sushi terminology lesson, I’ll explain how to make the rice. For our family of five (and some lunch left overs) we use 3 cups rice. Rinse VERY well in cold water, until the water runs clear. I put the rice in the pan I’m going to cook it in, add cold water, swish with my hand (the water will turn cloudy) then dump into a strainer to drain, repeat a few times, drain the final time and add back to the empty pan, add 4 cups cold water.

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     Bring to a full boil, cover, turn to low, and DO NOT touch for 20 minutes. Turn off heat, remove from burner and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Then stir well, the bottom of the pan will have rice stuck to it (but shouldn’t be burnt on), I have not figured out a way to not have the bottom layer stick. Just let your pan soak for a bit and it will scrap right off. Now you need to get your rice cooled off as quick as possible. I have found that putting it in a glass dish on a cooling rack or trivet covered by a damp cheese cloth works the best with what we have on hand.

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     While that is cooling you will need to make a “sauce” to cover the rice in. In a small dish mix 3 tbsp sugar and 3 tbsp of mirin, microwave for 15-30 seconds, again just to dissolve the sugar, stir well. Pour the syrup evenly over the rice, and mix the rice well. Let the rice finish cooling and get the crab, avocado, and cucumber cut into long strips. Note on the cucumber I don’t use the inside seed part I let the kids graze on that while they’re helping.

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     Now you will need the magazine and plastic wrap. You need to cover the magazine with plastic wrap to make a sushi roller. We now use a bamboo sushi mat but the magazine works just as well.

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     Now lay your magazine in front of you, place a nori wrap on top of it and start adding rice in a layer on top of the nori wrap. Note, the rice will stick to everything, place a small dish of cold water to dip your knife and hand into.IMG_0202

     Place the fillings in the middle (one of each or any other combo, just don’t over fill it) and start to slowly roll and squeeze so it sticks.

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     This is what they should look like, basically a log. There should not be any cracks, one of the packages of wraps was too dry and cracked, normally they would look like the one on the right.

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    Slice with a very sharp long knife. The rice will stick unless you keep the blade damp with the cold water. My hubby usually does this part and his tip is to wipe the rice off the blade then dip into the water and then cut with a wet blade.

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     You can also put the rice on the outside of the nori wrap and the fillings inside the wrap. Add the rice the same as before but instead of adding the fillings on top of the rice you will flip it over so the nori wrap is facing up, add the fillings, and roll like before. You can add your wasabi and soy sauce and enjoy. If you have any questions or something was not very clear feel free to send me an e-mail or leave a comment and I will get back to you.

Len 

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