What began as a simple method of preserving fish many centuries ago, has transformed into one of the most iconic food items in the world. I’m talking about sushi, the most famous Japanese dish, popular all across the globe. However, before it became such an artistic – and dare I say, expensive – food item, it was a cheap and quick method of preserving dried fish in rice soaked in vinegar to make it last longer.
In fact, the word sushi itself is derived from the words “su” (Japenese for vinegar) and “shi” (shortened version of ‘meshi’, which means rice). So, sushi literally means ‘vinegar rice’. However, sushi now refers to almost any type of bite-sized finger food, made by rolling raw fish or shellfish in a bed of rice, often wrapped up in a film of seaweed, or nori. Another interesting bit of trivia is that the original recipes for sushi didn’t even use nori. According to some food experts, sushi was originally designed as a finger food, not to be eaten with chopsticks. The nori was added much later, only to keep the fingers from getting messy.
Given the humble origins of the dish, preparing sushi at home need not be such a daunting task as it is often made out to be. It is true that most professional sushi chefs pride themselves on using exotic ingredients and even their artistic preparation style and presentation. But, the great thing about sushi is that it can actually be prepared right at home, without too much of a fuss. But, beginners can very easily start preparing sushi rolls, known as Temaki-zushi, which are absolutely easy to prepare and fun to eat.
What Is Temaki-zushi?
Temaki-zushi is a simple rolled up form of sushi, and does not require any elaborate sushi making tools or even a lot of experience. Newbies are often introduced to sushi using temai-zushi. With a few basic ingredients, some practice and a little bit of imagination, you can make really tasty temaki-zushi in no time. So, let’s not waste any time, and lets start putting together the few key ingredients you need to start making your very own hand-rolled temaki-zushi rolls.
List of ingredients
The best thing about hand-rolled sushi is that, apart from a few key ingredients, you don’t need very specific things. You can customise every sushi roll to suit your own taste and preference. Other than the ingredients for the rice and vinegar, what we have listed down are just a sample list of items that you can add to your own temaki-zushi. But, in reality, you can add almost anything that you feel will go well with the vinegared rice and sheet of nori.
For the steamed rice
300 gms Japanese Rice
430 ml Water
1 tbsp Sake
1 2” x 2 “ sheet of Dashi Kombu Seaweed
2 tbsp Toasted White Sesame Seeds
1 tbsp Ginger Root chopped
For the sushi vinegar
3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp raw sugar
1 tsp salt
For the temaki-zushi fillings
- 100 gms fresh, medium-fatty tuna
- 150 gms fresh fatty salmon
- 100 gms chopped salt-water eel
- 150 gms fresh scallops
- 1/2 new onion, finely diced
- 1 cucumber, sliced into tiny juliennes
- 1 carrot, sliced into tiny juliennes
- 1/2 avacado, finely diced
- 50 gms pickled diakon
- 50 grams yam
- Toasted sheets of nori seaweed
- Half an inch of Ginger, finely diced
- Wasabi paste, as per taste
- Mayonnaise, as per taste
- Soy Sauce, as per taste
Preparing the rice for sushi
The vinegared rice is the most important part of the sushi. Cooking it can be a bit of a challenge for newbies, as seasoning the right will enhance the flavour of the sushi tremendously. But once you have mastered it, preparing temaki-zushi becomes a breeze. Here’s my trick for preparing the rice the right way :
- Boil the sushi-rice in the water, with the dashi kombu seaweed
- While the rice is cooking, add the vinegar, raw sugar and salt together in a separate bowl and mix well.
- Gently crush (or squeeze) the white toasted sesame seeds with your fingers to release the flavours. Dice the ginger root finely into very tiny bits.
- Transfer the cooked rice to a bowl. Remove the kombu piece, and add the ginger bits and sesame seeds. Mix well.
- Add the vinegar mix to the rice mix, and stir quickly once again.
- Blow away any excess moisture with a fan, to stop the rice from cooking further. Mix the rice and fan again, to remove any extra moisture from the rice.
Preparing Temaki-zushi rolls
Cut the temaki-zushi fillings, or sashimi, into thin slivers. Lay out all the slivers of the sashimi, on a tray so that you have easy access to the ingredients for the fillings of the takemi-zushi. Remove the nori seaweed from the can, and gentle toast it over a hot pan for a few seconds, to give it a crispy texture.
Take a sheet of nori seaweed in your hand, and with a spoon, scoop in a small amount of vinegered rice into the nori. Add a small dollop of wasabi paste on the rice, for an extra kick. Add in the sashimi slivers or portions of your choice – salmon, tuna, avocado, cucumber, carrots, etc – to the nori with the rice. Don’t put too much filling into the nori, or else it would become difficult to wrap the sushi.
Gently roll the nori with the fillings your hands, and prepare an ice-cream cone shaped takemi-zushi roll.
Dip the takeme-zushi roll into a small pot of soy sauce. Alternately, you can pour a tiny amount of soy sauce into the roll, with a spoon. Make sure you hold the rolled up sushi in your hand at an angle, prevent the soy sauce from dripping all the way down from the other side.
Enjoy your very first takemi-zushi roll!
Although takemi-zushi is quite easy to prepare, the final taste of the hand-rolled sushi depends on the quality and crispiness of the nori. Temaki-zushi is best eaten right away. Otherwise, the seaweed will get soggy and lose its flavour and crispiness. So, prepare all your other ingredients before opening the tin of nori seaweed.
You can try various combinations, including avocado and cucumber; scallops with carrots and daikon juliennes; eel with wasabi paste and yams. In fact, if you don’t have any nori, you an easily replace it with lettuce leaves to give a more crunchier taste to the sushi. My personal favourite is tamagoyaki, Japanese styled omelettes, along with a bit of wasabi, and some pickled carrots slices. As a general principle, anything that tastes good with pasta, should taste good with tameki-zushi.
One last thing. Remember there are no rules in takemi-zushi. Let your creativity overflow, and if you think, it will taste good, you can most definitely try it out next.
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