Rolling along with Japanese cooking

My final international cooking class was last week. Japanese cuisine was the the evening’s theme.

I have to admit, this was the class I wasn’t too sure about. I like Asian food, but I tend to choose Chinese over Japanese dishes. I equate Japanese food with seafood, another dish I’ll eat, but it isn’t my favorite.

Good news for the night — we weren’t working with raw fish. Even better news — we had two sticky rice dishes.

I love rice.

My cooking partner and I tackled the vegetable sushi rolls first. Considering thr trouble I had rolling the tamale husks last week, I didn’y have a lot of confidence rolling sushi, but it was a lot easier than I thought. I triumphantly shouted “I made sushi!” when I finished.

I really did. I’ve been cooking with half of the people in the class for the past month. We got to know each other pretty well. If you have ever considered taking a cooking class, I highly recommend it. I didn’t expect to love the experience as much as I did.

SUSHI

  • 1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tsps sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups short-grained sushi rice
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 4 sheets toasted nori

FILLINGS (choose 4)

  • 1 kirby cucumber or 1/2 regular cucumber, seeded and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 small yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into matchsticks
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and cut into matchsticks • 1(4-inch) piece daikon, peeled, and cut into matchsticks (or red radishes)
  • 1/2 firm-ripe Hass avocado, peeled, thinly sliced lengthwise, sprinkled with lemon juice
  • Soy sauce

A bamboo sushi mat makes the procesds easier, but it isn’t necessary. We didn’t have one in class and it worked just fine.

For the rice:

Mix together vinegar, sugar, and salt. Rinse the rice in colander and drain. Put the rice and water in medium saucepan with a tight fitting lid. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to very low and simmer, tightly covered. Cook until all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove the rice from the heat (don’t uncover) and set aside for 10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and transfer it to a large bowl.

Add the vinegar mixture and toss with the rice, using a wooden spoon. Spread it out on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Fan the rice continuously with a fan or magazine until cooled. Cover the rice with a damp towel.

To assemble rolls:

Place the sushi mat with the slats running crosswise directly in front of you on a clean work space. Lay a sheet of nori shiny-side down and lined up with the closest edge of the mat. Lightly moisten fingers with water, and evenly press about 1/4 of the rice onto the nori, with 1 1/2-inches uncovered at the far edge. Line up the fillings about 1-inch from the closest near edge, evenly across the rice. Leave 1-inch of rice uncovered at the far edge.

Beginning with the near edge of the mat, tightly roll up the nori, rice, and fillings into a cylinder. Firmly tug on the rounded mat over the roll as you pull on the far edge of the mat to tighten the roll. Open the mat, dab unsealed edge of nori with a bit of water and roll the sushi forward to seal. Transfer the sushi to a plate and cover with damp paper towels. Repeat with remaining rice and fillings.

Cut each sushi roll, crosswise, into 6 to 8 pieces with a sharp wet knife. You will need to wet the knife after each cut to keep the nori from tearing. Serve with bowl of soy sauce for dipping.

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