Sushi is actually just fish (raw or not) prepared specially for consumption in bite-sized pieces. It doesn't have to be just fish either. It can be meat or veggies prepared in a similar fashion. Basically, the most important ingredient in preparing sushi is the rice. The rice is usually purchased as sushi rice or short grain rice. It has lots of starch in it so it needs to be washed before being cooked. Here is a "quick" sushi rice preparation :
2 cups short grain (sushi) rice (yields around 5 cups cooked)
2 cups cold water
1/2 cup sushi vinegar (you can find it in specialty stores)
Wash the rice in cold running water until the water runs clean and clear. Drain the rice for about half an hour to be sure to remove as much of the starch as possible. Put the rice in a pot and cover with the water. Place over medium heat and put the lid on. Cook till you hear the lid jiggling and usually some of the rice starch will seep out of the cover. Turn to high for about 2 minutes (still covered) then reduce to medium heat and cook another 5 minutes till the foam stops coming out and you hear a light crackling sound. Turn off the heat and let the rice sit COVERED for 15 minutes. After steaming, uncover and fluff a bit then wrap the lid in a kitchen towel and let it steam for another 15 minutes. After this, you can actually transfer the rice to a flat surface or bowl to cool the rice evenly. Be sure that you transfer the rice to a ceramic bowl - not metal - when you add the sushi vinegar otherwise the reaction with the metal may give it a bad taste. Fan the rice to cool it as much as possible. You can cover the rice with a damp towel if you're not going to use it straight away. NEVER refrigerate sushi rice ! It will not stick together as it should if it gets refridgerated. Sometimes you can heat it up in the microwave but it never sticks like it should. Besides, rice doesn't go bad over nite so why put it in the fridge ?
You can form little oval meatball shapes and lay bits of omelet or steamed and chilled shrimp on top. Or you can prepare sushi rolls. The rolls can be filled with anything you like. You can use cucumbers cut into julienne strips (carrots are great too) along with tuna salad or crab salad. Crab legs are great too. Avocado is also a wonderful sushi roll stuffer. You will need to find Nori seaweed (usually sold in packages at the grocery store. Be sure to seal it up if you don't use the whole package as it will dry out) and some wasabi (horse radish) sauce. Here is a simple cucumber roll to make :
Be sure that your hands are wet while working so the rice won't stick to you and have a sharp knife on hand to cut the rolls into even portions. There are actually little markings on most nori sheets to help you guage the cutting.
Here are two of my bentos made with sushi rolls. One with tuna salad,
and one with imitation crab leg. The green paste is the wasabi. It can be added to the soy sauce for dipping. (Thanks to Karen for the little dipping bowl!)
Remember that traditionally, the sushi is cut to size for the whole thing to go into your mouth. That's even tough for me but in any case it is considered bad manners to bite into one and put it back on your plate (sort of like "double dipping"). If you can't shove it all into your mouth on one go, at least hold on to it till you can get the second bite in. As for dipping, only the corner is usually dipped into the soy. You don't give the sushi a donut dunk. Just a touch on the end is sufficient - especially if you've seasoned your soy with the wasabi. It's customary to eat sushi with your hands so not to worry about finger fooding it. And the final touch is the pickled ginger. It can be a bit spicey but it's perfect for cleansing your mouth from one kind of fish to another.
Thanks to "The Sushi Chef Cookbook" which came with the sushi mat and pallet which I bought at the local grocery store. It has some great recipes for sushi toppings and nice suggestions for preparing a meal. And here is today's bento :