It all depends on your quality of fish (or veg) and one easy technique for forming the rice (that I'm going to show you).
Other than that, you can customize your nigiri to your heart's content. It certainly doesn't need to be limited to raw fish - steamed fish, tofu, vegetables, and even other meats make for great sushi. I've even seen BBQ chicken nigiri on a menu. So don't let your fear of making sushi stop you any longer.
Step 1: Ingredients
It's not easy to find sashimi-grade fish unless you live near a Japanese market.
Most supermarkets and fishmongers will not carry this grade of fish.
Some grocers will care "sushi grade" fish, which has undergone deep freezing, intended to kill bacteria.
If you aren't fortunate enough to live somewhere that sashimi grade fish is available, either cook your fish or research more on the freezing process to remove parasites.
You can also purchase sashimi grade fish online. Here's just one highly reputable vendor for example: Catalina Offshore. They even carry some harder-to-find items, like abalone, uni, and monkfish liver!
- Maguro (tuna)
- Hirame (fluke or halibut)
- Hamachi (yellowtail or amberjack)
- Tamago (sweet omelet)
- Short grain rice - white or brown
- Rice Vinegar
- Soy Sauce
- Nori (seaweed sheets) (typically used, but I don't like it, so I didn't use it)
- Pickled Ginger
- Tobiko or Masago (fish eggs)
- Sesame Seeds
Step 2: Make Rice
Do you rinse your rice in three changes of clean water?
Let it soak for half an hour before cooking?
Do you use a pot or a rice cooker?
Do you add salt and butter? Konbu?
Or do you add hot water to dry rice and let it absorb on its own, adding no additional heat source?
These are all acceptable techniques. I would recommend skipping the butter and salt when making sushi rice. What you want is a nice big pot of short grained rice*. Either brown or white is fine.
The important part is what you add to your rice.
For 3 cups of cooked rice:
- 2 Tbsps sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
*Japanese rice is short grain rice and gets sticky when it is cooked. Long grain rice isn't proper for sushi because it is drier and doesn't stick together well.
Step 3: Tamago
This is by no means meant to be a professional guide to making tamago (else it would be it's own Instructable, like this one!), since I don't have a proper pan or tools, and had never even attempted it before this time. But this will show you how to make a reasonable sweet omelet to slice and use for sushi.
- 4 eggs
- 3 spoons of mirin
- 2 spoons of soy sauce
- 2 spoons of sugar
Combine the ingredients for form the tamago batter.
Oil your pan and cover it with a thin layer of tamago batter.
After 2-3 min, when the bottom of the omelet gets brownish, use a kitchen spoon to fold the omelet twice. First from the closer end towards the middle, and second towards the far end of the pan.
There's no need to flip the omelet, just fold it. Even if the upper side of the omelet seems uncooked before folding, the "inner layers" of the omelet will get done by the end of the process.
Lightly oil the pan again and add another round of tamago batter. The batter you have just added should touch the omelet you folded in the last step. Mine totally did, but it still tasted good.
Repeat steps 2-3, until you run out of tamago batter.
Cut into strips. (sorry I missed that picture!)
Step 4: Prepare Fish
Cook fish, veg, or other meat to suit your tastes.
Steamed asparagus makes surprisingly good nigiri!
Next step: sharpen your knife!!!
And finally, slice toppings into even strips.
Step 5: Shape Rice
Professionally made sushi had a subtle fluffy quality to the rice that can be quickly destroyed by too heavy a hand when making it at home. This simple technique is your guide to perfectly formed sushi rice every time.
- Wet your hands in vinegar-water and place a small amount (~20g) of sushi rice into the palm of your hand.
- Pinch the rice together using your thumb and forefinger.
- Using your other thumb, hold in place and lightly apply pressure to form the shape.
That's it! It may take a couple tries to perfect, but once you do, your guests will swear you trained in Ginza.
Top your rice with wasabi to suit your tastes and hold your neta (toppings) in place.
Step 6: Marry Fish to Rice
Use the same trick you learned in Step 5 to add a bit of pressure so the topping fits neatly onto the rice.
Turn 180 degrees and repeat one last time to adjust its shape.
Finally, if adding a wrap of nori (dried seaweed), consider using a grain of rice at the edge to hold it together like glue.
Step 7: A Final Note
There's good stuff and bad stuff about it. If you're pregnant or nursing, don't do it. Don't feed it to your baby, young children or the elderly. People with compromised immune systems or liver disease - stay away. It probably contains mercury* (esp. tuna and swordfish), so don't overdo it. No, cooking will not remove the mercury. There is a very tiny chance that parasites can be passed on via raw fish. If you're concerned, cook the fish or else freeze it at least three days, though neither of these methods are guaranteed to prevent parasites. If you suffer pains within 12 hours of eating raw fish, go to the hospital.
The good stuff is that sushi is a relatively low-calorie, low-fat, nutrient-dense meal, which can provide you with extra vitamins, complex carbs from the rice (bonus fiber and whole grains for brown rice!), a great source of protein, and healthful omega-3 fats. Many countries have strict guidelines on what can be defined as "sushi grade" fish which may entail special deep freezing, intended to kill any bacteria present.
And remember, you can still enjoy sushi without the raw fish. Be creative!
* According to the Food and Drug Administration, one week's consumption (<12oz) doesn’t change the level of methylmercury in the body much at all.