Seafood: Certainly the majority of sushi is made with raw fish and other seafoods. For both aesthetic and health reasons, fish that are to be eaten raw
must be fresher and of a higher quality than fish that will be cooked.
A professional sushi chef is trained in recognizing good fish, which
is clean-smelling, vivid in color, and free from harmful parasites.
Only ocean fish are used raw in sushi; freshwater fish, which are more likely to harbor parasites, are cooked. In addition to fish, common seafoods used in sushi are squid, shrimp, eel, fish roe, sea urchin and various kinds of shellfish.
Sushi rice: The rice used in making sushi is a short-grained,
sweeter variety rather different in consistency from the long-grain
and Indian rice strains Westerners may be more used to. It is cooked
with rice vinegar, or vinegar may be added after cooking, and is cooled
before being used to make sushi.
Nori: The seaweed wrappers used in maki and temaki are made of a
cultivated sea vegetable known as nori. Originally, this plant was
scraped from dock pilings, rolled out into sheets, and dried in the
sun. Today, it is farmed and industrially produced, and can be bought
pre-cut into neat, ready-to-use squares. Some novelty shops also offer nori with decorative cut-outs in the shape of popular cartoon characters.
Other ingredients: Not all sushi contains seafood. Many things can find their way into sushi:
pickled daikon radish, fermented soybeans (natto), avocado,
raw quail eggs, tofu, pickled plum, omelet, beef, ham, and more.
Condiments: Sushi is served with soy sauce, wasabi (green
horseradish paste), and sweet pickled ginger (gari). Wasabi is said
to be an effective antidote against fish poisoning.
A basic recipe for sushi rice is as follows:
Take one cup of short-grained rice and rinse in cold water until water runs clear. Combine rice, 1 1/4 cup cold water, and a small piece of dashi kombu (a type of seaweed, optional if not available) in a saucepan and turn heat to high. Remove kombu just before water boils. After water begins to boil, turn heat to low, cover pan tightly, and leave to simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and leave in covered pan for 10 more minutes. Use a wooden paddle to scrape rice into a large bowl, then gently stir it with the paddle while adding about 2 tbsp. of seasoned rice vinegar (season with just under 2 tbsp sugar and just under 1/2 tsp salt over low heat). Stir until rice has cooled somewhat and looks shiny.
Cover rice with a damp towel and use in any sushi recipe within one day.
See also: sashimi, Japanese cuisine, list of types of sushi
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