By: Emi Kazuko
The sushi phenomenon continues and new bars and restaurants still keep opening in London. This is good news for me; my latest book Easy Sushi (Ryland Peters and Small) has just come out this month. With another festive season just around the corner I would like to introduce from the book some ideas for incorporating sushi into parties. Chefs say sushi should be served at body temperature and moulded to hardness that enables the whole piece to be picked up easily yet still loosening once in the mouth. But how sweet or sour should the sushi rice be? There seems no common consensus among chefs on this point, with the answer varying greatly from chef to chef. I know of one very old, family-run restaurant in Japan which traditionally uses only salt, and no sugar in the vinegar, whilst some sushi bars in London, particularly kaiten (conveyer belt) places, serve sushi a touch too sweet for a Japanese palate. Although we use different amounts of sugar, salt and vinegar for different types of sushi, my multi-purpose sushi rice contains 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar, 1 1/4 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon sea salt to a cup (250 ml) of Japanese rice.
Lettuce Boat Nigiri
Nigiri, hand-moulded finger sushi, is the king of all sushi. Though it looks simple, it is actually the most difficult to make and sushi chefs train for at least 5 years to get it right. It is not usually made at home, even in Japan. For parties I suggest the use of chicory and/or gem lettuce leaves to hold the rice so that it doesn't crumble before it reaches the mouth. This recipe is included in Easy Sushi. You can also use any toppings you wish such as fish or beef carpaccio, dressed crab, any fish caviar or even pastrami, ox or lamb tongue.
Makes 16-20 boats
FOR THE VINEGARED RICE:
1 cup/250 ml Japanese rice
300 ml less 1 tablespoon water
1 small piece of kombu (dried kelp), about 3 cm square, for flavouring (optional)
2 tablespoons Japanese rice vinegar
1¼ tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons Japanese rice vinegar
1 cup/250 ml water
2-3 rollmops (marinated Bismarck herring) or matjes herring
16-20 asparagus tips, trimmed to 7-8 cm long
8-10 Little Gem lettuce leaves
8-10 small chicory leaves
a small strip of nori seaweed
1 spring onion, finely chopped
2-3 cm fresh ginger, peeled and grated
shoyu (Japanese soy sauce)
- Wash the rice thoroughly, changing the water several times, until the water is clear. Drain and leave in the strainer for 1 hour.
- Transfer to a deep, heavy-based saucepan, add the water and a piece of kombu, if using. Cover and bring to the boil over a high heat, about 5 minutes. Discard the kombu. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed. Try not lift the lid too often. Remove from the heat and leave, still covered, for about 10-15 minutes.
- Mix the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small jug or bowl and stir until dissolved.
- Transfer the cooked rice to a large, shallow dish or handai (Japanese wooden sumeshi tub). Sprinkle generously with the vinegar dressing. Using a wooden spatula, fold the vinegar dressing into the rice. Do not stir. While folding, cool the rice quickly using a fan. Let the rice cool to body temperature before using to make sushi.
- Mix the hand vinegar ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
- Cut the rollmops into 4 and make a little lengthways slit in the skin of each piece.
- Cook the asparagus in lightly salted water for 5 minutes until soft. Drain and place under running water to arrest cooking and bring out the colour. Pat dry with kitchen paper.
- Dip your hands in the hand vinegar and take a handful of the vinegared rice in one hand (about 1-2 tablespoons depending on the size of the lettuce leaves). Mould it into a rectangular shape about 5 x 2 x 2 cm and place firmly on each of the Little Gem lettuce and chicory leaves. Repeat with the remaining rice, making 16-20 portions.
- Arrange 2 asparagus tips on a chicory rice boat and tie together with a nori ribbon. Repeat to make 7-9 more. Arrange a piece of rollmop on each of the 8-10 Little Gem lettuce rice boats and insert chopped spring onion and grated ginger into the slits. Arrange all the leaf boats on a serving platter and serve with a small bowl of shoyu.
© recipe copyright 2000 Emi Kazuko
Author: Emi Kazuko Email: