I recently got goaded again into making sushi for a potluck at Drew’s work. This has caused me to become more efficient with the sushi-making itself, as most of it has to get done in the morning before he goes to work. I could always make it the night before, but there’s two problems with this. First of all, I eat sushi as I make it, and stuffing my face with sushi just before I go to bed would lead to far more interesting nightmares then I really want to have (wasabi demons, anyone?). And second, the sushi would be all dried out by the time his coworkers got to eat it the next day. Meaning that while they might openly compliment Drew on his choice in potluck bringings, on the inside they’d all be cursing the awful sushi with the hard rice that I’d burdened them with. Then again, this would mean I wouldn’t have to get up at Ridiculous O’Clock in the morning anymore to make sushi for future potlucks. Wait, why is this a bad thing, again?
A few new things I tried this time around included:
Black Sesame Seeds
I should have gotten these long ago. Flavor-wise, they’re not that different from the regular sesame seeds I’ve been using. For visual contrast, however, they are wonderful. A lot of sushi enjoyment can come from presentation, and these black sesame seeds are another tool to make rolls as pretty as possible.
Bacon bits! I wish I’d thought of this before. I mean, I’ve made sushi with straight-up bacon and all, but that is a lengthy process. With bacon bits, there’s no frying/baking, no hacking of the meats into teeny pieces, and there’s significantly lower chance of a sushi-induced heart attack! Also, if you buy the cheapo bacon bits like I do, you can make bacon sushi for your vegetarian friends as well, since cheap bacon bits usually have no bacon in them at all.
The bacon bits worked well in rolls that also had tamago (egg omelet). It’s a nice lazy way to make a breakfast roll. They also look nice when sprinkled on the outside of a roll, and give it an extra bit of crunch.
I’ve had a giant bag of seaweed (wakame, to be precise) that I mostly use for miso soup and sunomono. I decided to try stuffing rolls with it this time around. First, you soak the seaweed in a bit of water, and drain any remaining water once the seaweed is no longer dehydrated. Next, sprinkle some sesame seeds on it and stir. Then, take a giant glob of this mixture and place it inside of a roll. It works quite well!
Leaving the crab sticking out
OK, I may have done this before, but I don’t think it was until now that I appreciated the full value of doing this. So you buy your crab sticks, and slice them into whatever thinness you want for your rolls. When you put your crab onto the flat nori, one stick is too short, and two sticks are too long. Rather then hacking the crab sticks in half, just leave the rest sticking out the ends! This remedies the fact that the end sushi pieces usually don’t look nearly as exciting as the other pieces. You can also do this with cucumber, carrot, and anything else that isn’t liable to get all squishy on you. Something I’ve seen in Japanese restaurants that I should try is shredding the crab that is sticking out, to make it look extra fancy.
I have a sushi failing that I need to work on – the rice itself. These rolls looked good and tasted good, but it was despite the rice. I can blame some of this on the early hour, but the rice ended up being way too mushy. I’m really bad at measuring rice, measuring water, and measuring the sugar/vinegar that you mix in afterwards. Also, back when I first started making sushi my rice would usually be too hard, and psychologically I might still be trying to compensate for that by making my rice too squishy instead. What I really need is a decent rice cooker, and from there I can force myself to be more disciplined about the rice making.
What got me thinking about the rice was my recent impulse buy at the Pacific Mercantile Company. If you like Asian food (especially Japanese food) and live anywhere near Denver, you need to go visit the Pacific Mercantile Company right now! They’ve got a great selection of food, plus a section of kitchenware and gifts, including some bento boxes I desperately need to spend some extra dollars on! Anyhow, the last time I was there, I noticed they carried sushi. Not a great variety, mostly futomaki and California rolls, but I have an undying need to buy sushi wherever I can, so I got a box of California rolls.
Note: I blame that blasted sun for the weirdness of the sushi in the above picture.
The rolls were pretty good for grocery store sushi – maybe a bit bland, but that’s what soy sauce is for, I suppose. I bought these a day or two after having made the sushi tray, and what really stood out to me was the rice. Good sushi rice has this special way of having individual grains that are distinct, yet stick together as a whole. The rice is soft and tender, yet not so soft that it merges with all of the grains around it into a gooey mass. The Pacific Mercantile rice had this quality, and it’s something I need to focus more on achieving in my own sushi rice.