The seductiveness of sushi

I'm orginially from Colorado, and I thought I would never see the day that someone else would agree with me that there is yummy sushi in Colorado...now, I know what you're thinking...


And the honest answer? I have no idea how Colorado can have good sushi. And truly, I prefer not to think about it and instead, just enjoy the fruits of the sushi chef's labor. The sushi I ate in college, the first sushi I had ever had, far exceeded any of the sushi I had while I lived in Monterey, CA for two years, and even in many places I've eaten in Oregon (though Hawaii beat the pants off any of it, and I now have some favorite places in San Francisco too).

But I did eventually learn, from a friend in Hawaii, and my friend Keiko here, and through lots of trial and error with Loving Boyfriend by my side, to make my own (although there is still much to learn!). Recently, my parents discovered sushi after a new restaurant opened up in my hometown, and I could think of nothing more bonding than to try and make it together while they were visiting us a while back (I started this post quite some time ago, but didn't finish it until our latest sushi soiree so that I could get better pictures of the process). Besides, we are blessed by having a large asian market only two blocks from our house where we can get all kinds of goodies for making sushi.

As part of the fun, we took them to the market and got broiled unagi (freshwater eel, we buy the seasoned kind), spicy daikon sprouts, sweet and succulent enoki mushrooms, mochi-covered ice cream in cappuchino, azuki bean and mango flavors, and a very big bottle of sake that the woman behind the counter helped us pick out. We even found fresh edamame (soybeans) still in their pods at the farmer's market and very fresh yellowfin tuna (for searing), salmon, and Dungeness crab meat at the fish market.

broiled unagi

daikon sprouts

enoki mushrooms

edamame (just boil for 5 min, then salt)

You can pretty much put anything you want into sushi rolls. We usually cut up a mixture of sprouts, long matchsticks of carrots and cucumbers (english cucumbers work best, without the seeds), avocado, cream cheese (excellent with salmon), and the enoki mushrooms, sometimes even fake crab (I'm not sure if this has a 'real' name), tofu, freshly smoked and very thinly sliced lox, and the fish...lay it all out on a cutting board, then let our friends make their own rolls. Cut everything into long, thin strips. Sushi is a fabulous food to make with lots of friends - a perfect excuse for a party!

It does help to buy a couple of those bamboo sushi mats, but it's not necessary. Also, you'll want to buy a few packages of Nori, or seaweed, that's been toasted. You can get most of this stuff at your local grocery store...but do make sure that you buy the freshest fish available, and even ask if it's sushi grade. It should not have any fishy smell whatsoever...it should smell like the ocean (and no, not that rotting seaweed smell at the beach, the ocean...cool, clean saltwater on an ocean breeze). The rice is the most important part about sushi - you want it cooked, cooled and sticky! Here's the recipe we use:

Sushi Rice
1 3/4 cups sushi rice 2 cups water 6 tablespoons rice wine vinegar 2 tablespoons sugar 2 teaspoons salt

Wash the rice well and drain. Cover with the measured water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 12 minutes then leave to sit for 5 minutes with the lid on. Meanwhile, heat the vinegar, sugar, and salt until dissolved then leave to cool. Turn the cooked rice out onto a flat tray to cool. When cool, place in a bowl, stir in the vinegar solution, and mix with a wooden spoon. This makes enough sushi for 4-6 people - and we always end up with leftovers (which I let Loving Boyfriend eat because I'm not so hot on leftover sushi), but you'll probably have to experiment to get the right amount every time. We're definitely still learning!

You want your work space as dry as possible - especially if you're not using sushi mats. Lay out your peice of nori in front of you with the shiny side down, on the mat if you're using mats. We've had debates aboutOnce you have everything cut up and laid out for accessibility, make sure your work surface is whether or not the lines should be perpendicular or parallel with the mat, but I really don't think it matters. Try both, and see what you think! Practice makes perfect, after all. Take a small bowl filled with warm water, dip your fingers into it (to keep the rice from sticking too much), and place a mound of rice on top of it. Using your dampened fingers, spread the rice in a thin layer (this first picture may be a bit much) out to the edges of the nori, leaving a few centimeters on all sides and about an inch towards the top. Like so:

Next, lay out all your goodies that you want in the middle of the roll (not too much!):

Pat everything down so that it fits:

Then take the bottom edge of the roll and fold it over (in this picture, she's folding from the top, but I find it easier to fold towards the top, rather than from it...but then again I'm only 5'0," so this may have something to do with that - just do whatever is easiest for you).

Squeeze it together along the length of the roll to make sure it's tight and won't fall apart on you - you can even fold the mat over and use it to squeeze things, or just use your hands.

Dip your fingers back in the bowl of warm water and run your finger along the inch-long space that didn't have any rice - this will allow the seaweed to stick to itself. Then connect the damp side to the rest, and seal your roll, smoothing things out as you go.

You can then cut your rolls into gorgeous little circles of sushi to eat. If you use a really sharp knife (I use a filet knife), they'll cut smoothly, but if you don't have one, dampen the blade of the knife you are using with a bit with water to prevent it from sticking to the rice.

Arrange your presentation and *Tah-Dah!* You did it! You made your own sushi!
Now enjoy with many cups of sake (of course)!

9 comments from you:

vlb5757 said...

Wow, this is something I have never done but would do if I could just work up the courage. Maybe this is just the shove I need. Hubby would love to eat sushi more often. We usually go out to eat it in our local spot on Sundays.
I am a beginner eating Sushi so I have a ways to go. Nice photos showing the process.

Kalyn said...

Very impressive. I love sushi but have never tried making it. I do believe that there could be good sushi in Colorado because Salt Lake has some absolutely amazing sushi places.

ilva said...

I refuse to read this, I'm so bl...y envious that I am green! I love sushi but it is difficult to find here unless you are a very rich person which I'm not! I eat it when I go to Sweden though but I only go twice a year...

Nerissa said...


LOL Just kidding! But really, I love sushi and I like making it too. You use products different than me but then I don't have access to as many things as you. I take what I can get and it's usually stuff that will last in freezer or fridge. When I'm south I transport up things like frozen unagi (seasoned... OH DROOL YUM) and pickled daikon. Pickled daikon is so good that using an explicative in the description would probably be meritted. Also brought fried fish cakes (eh.. ) and crab stix and pickled umeboshi plums (haven't had the nerve to try them yet can you believe it!?)

Kudos to you for taking a picture of each step. I don't know if I'd have the patience! I've only shown one or two pics on my blog if memory serves.

michelle said...

Hi Vickie!
You should try it, it's actually very easy! If you can't find any of the (non-perishable) ingredients, just let me know and I can send some your way. You can also do just plain vegetarian sushi, for starters!

Hi Kalyn!
Thanks for visiting! I've never tried sushi in Salt Lake, but I'm glad to know I'm not crazy! I checked out your site and I'm definitely going to share it with my mom, she's on the South Beach diet and would love to have a good resource for recipes!

Hi Ilva!
I love sushi too - but it is expensive - and that's why we make it at home! You can also make just vegetarian sushi which is cheaper too. If you want to try it and can't find something, I'd be happy to send you whatever you might need too.

Hi Diningdica!
Oh if I could only beam all my foodie friends here to eat and cook with me I would be in heaven! You gave me lots of great ideas for new stuff to try next time I make it - I've never had the pickled daikon or the plums...I'm sometimes intimidated in the asian market because lots of things aren't in English so I don't know what they are or how to prepare them! You don't have to have the pictures - you're cunning and wit shine through! I need the pics because I'm not as funny as you are!!

Dawn said...

Michelle, your sushi looks great! I LOVE sushi but rarely have been adventurous enough to make it at home...I think it's the fear of not being able to get AAA quality fish. But I like the rolls with rice, pickled radish, cucumber, and sometimes meat or cooked egg. I have to admit, tho, that living near a couple of Japanese stores has spoiled me a little...I can just walk in at dinner time and buy discounted sushi that didn't sell earlier at lunch (made that morning). You can't get much better for a few dollars!

michelle said...

Hi Dawn!
Thanks! We mostly make sushi when we have a lot of friends who want to make it with us, and then it's much cheaper than buying it at a restaurant or the store. And you should be able to find really good fish down in SoCal, but veggie sushi is always delicious too! Your rolls sound really yummy - I hadn't thought of putting cooked egg in them before!

LisaSD said...

VERY impressive! I thought this had to be done by a professional!

michelle said...

Hi Lisa - Well, they're obviously look a bit better and probably have more unique combinations, but the basics can be done by all!