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Sushi 101

Beginning as a method of preserving fish centuries ago, sushi has evolved into an artful, unique dining experience.

01 Mar 2012

You needn't book a table to enjoy it, we're going to show you how to do Sushi at home.

In its earliest form, dried fish was placed betsaween two wads of vinegared rice as a way of making it last. The nori (seaweed) was added later, or so they say, as a way to keep one's fingers from getting sticky.

Technically, the word `sushi' refers to the rice, but colloquially, the term is used to describe a finger-size piece of raw fish or shellfish portioned with vinegared rice. This can be eaten as is, or is often dipped into soy sauce and then eaten. One widely-held misconception is that sushi is raw fish. This is actually called sashimi, paper thin slices of raw fish (Cape Salmon, Tuna, Red Roman, Rock Cod, Yellowtail) or octopus, served with finely sliced ginger, shredded radish and horseradish mustard.

Kinds of sushi
There are different kinds of sushi, eg. Nigiri -Sushi (little fingers of rice topped with wasabi and a fillet of raw or cooked fish or shellfish), Oshi-Sushi (rice put into a mould, covered with fish and pressed into a slab, then sliced into blocks.), Maki-Sushi (rice and seaweed rolls with fish and/or vegetables) and Chirashi-sushi (scattered sushi or a bowl or box of sushi rice topped with a variety of sashimi). The changes are not in form or preparation as much as they are in the ingredients and the atmosphere where it is served.

The success of home-made sushi depends almost entirely on the quality of your ingredients. If using fish, it must be extremely fresh; preferably no more than 24 hours out of the water. Frozen fish won't work well because the texture tends to soften and the natural juices leach out during thawing. Fish like tuna, yellowtail, Cape Salmon, Red Roman and Norwegian Salmon, as well as calamari, octopus and salmon roe are favourites. Cooked prawn, pickled mackerel and grilled or smoked eel are also good.

For sushi rolled in seaweed, you'll need nori, layered seaweed pressed into thin sheets. Good nori is dark green, almost purple-black in colour, with very few holes in the sheets. To improve the taste you can roast nori by passing it over the burner of a gas stove just before serving.

The rice should be firm and moist enough that it doesn't disintegrate the moment you pick one up with your chopsticks or fingers. However they should be able to crumble in your mouth in a heap without too much of a munching effort on your part. Ask your Asian food stockist for Tamaki rice, or choose any short-grained, sticky Japanese rice.

If you must use condiments like soy sauce when eating your sushi, remember not to dip the whole sushi in. Just dip the end of the sushi, actually only the fish or vegetable, not the rice, as you eat. Traditionally pickled or finely sliced fresh ginger is nibbled on between bites of sushi to refresh your mouth for each new taste.

Eating sushi
Sushi is meant to be finger food, you don't have to fumble with chopsticks. Tip the nigiri, eg., onto its side and pick it up with your fingers so that your thumb is holding the fish or vegetables and your index and middle fingers are pressed against the rice. If the nigiri has garnish on it (like ginger, roe or green onion), it's okay to mush it down into a paste so that it doesn't fall off. Don't soak it in too much soy sauce, the rice will fall apart and you'll taste more soy than sushi. The same goes for topping with wasabi and eating pickled ginger, too much and the taste of the rice will be concealed instead of complemented.

Always place the sushi in the mouth so that the filling (fish or vegetables) touches the tongue first. And if you find you can't eat the roll in one bite, take no more than two bites. Why? The chef will have placed a bit of wasabi on your nigiri. If you take three bites, then the first and last bites will have no wasabi and the middle one will have all the wasabi.

Drinks with sushi
In today's sushi bars you can be served any drink you like with your sushi, but saké and green tea are always obligatory. Saké is served warm, and before you eat, not while and not after. The tea on the other hand is served during the whole meal. Green tea is essential for the full enjoyment of sushi, it removes aftertastes and leaves the mouth fresh for the next serving. Finally, sushi must be consumed by the eyes as well as on the tongue, otherwise you've wasted your time and the chef's.

5 Things to do with sushi:

How to cook sushi rice - video


Nori-maki (rolled sushi)

Sushi-style smoked salmon rolls

Sashimi with avocado and soya sauce

Read more on: 2010

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