If you love to eat piles of sushi but hate the huge tab, here's how you can save lots of cash, have fun and entertain your dinner guests. Be like a cowboy, baby, and roll your own!
RICE FIRST: You can find a million recipes for sushi rice, but here's the gist: short grain, pearl or calrose rice is my preference, cooked in whatever way you prefer (I use a rice cooker since I usually make a huge batch). Generally it's safe to do 1.5 cups water to every 1 cup rice. Your "cup" can be any size. Just stick to the general ratio. I find that it helps to rinse the rice first until the water runs clear. When rice is finished cooking I fold in a couple tablespoons of rice wine vinegar with about a tablespoon of sugar dissolved in it. Just sprinkle it over the rice and gently fold the rice over and over. Don't actually stir it or you will make a smashed mess of the rice. Be loving and gentle with it or it will bruise and weep!
You really only need one special tool, a bamboo sushi rolling mat. This can be found for about $3 at many stores, including most cooking shops, Cost Plus, Uwajimaya or any other Japanese market. I've heard of people using a flexible plastic cutting board or even a piece of stiff cardboard (cereal box etc) so you can do without the actual mat, but they are so cheap and common (wow, that sounded like an insult!) and perfect that you really should get one if it's not too inconvenient.
You can make sushi without using raw fish, but if you want to include some, you will need to find a fish market (or counter) that sells "sashimi grade" fish.
I have made an entire vegetarian sushi feast using tofu, fruits and veggies, eggs and cheeses. Of course I am all about the fish myself, but you gotta give the people what they want, right? Play and experiment, you can't really mess this up.
Step 1: Step One
Start with a good sharp knife and a clean cutting surface.
Step 2: Gather and Slice.
Gather and slice all of your fresh and colorful ingredients. Here I have tuna, salmon, octopus, yellowtail, prawns, avocado, cucumber, tiny stalk mushrooms and radish greens.
Step 3: Inside-out.
For "inside-out" rolls you start by spreading rice evenly on cello-wrapped bamboo mat.
Step 4: Cover Rice.
Place any "in-betweens" you want, I used tobiko here for color, flavor and pop.
Step 5: Nori Layer
Place a sheet of nori over rice, then add rows of your desired fillings. Here we start with fork-smashed avocado.
Step 6: Sneak Peek.
A meek peek at the weak peaks that sneak beneath.
Step 7: More Fillings.
Crab mix and avocado.
I make my crab mix very simple. Shredded crab meat (or fake crab in a pinch) mixed with mayonaise and a pinch of salt.
Step 8: The Power of Cukes!
And a couple of slices of cucumber. This adds a delicious crisp crunch, and makes rolling easier by adding some architectural structure to it.
Step 9: Roll, Roll, Roll Your Mat.
Roll it up, applying enough pressure to form a solid roll, but not so tight that you bruise or crush the rice or squeeze the filling out the ends.
Step 10: Naked
The naked California roll.
Step 11: Nori on the Outside.
This roll would be done if we were doing it the simple way. And it would look like this.
Step 12: Back to Our Naked Roll...
Scatter sesame seeds, tobiko, or dried fish and seaweed flakes on mat, for dressing up the outside.
Step 13: Roll It Up!
Give it one final roll and a gentle squeeze to imbed the dressing, then slice into eight slices and serve.
Step 14: BEADAZZLE IT!
And here we have some tobiko bejeweling our tasty roll.
Step 15: Practice Rolls.
You can practice rolling simple rice rolls to hone your skills for pennies a lesson.
Step 16: Play With Your Food!
Add a little wasabi and soy, and the results make a pretty tasty snack!
Step 17: Sizes and Shapes.
Practice making skinny rolls, fat rolls, triangles and squares... this is a short fat rice and nori roll... sliced in half. Why, you ask?
Step 18: Rip It Again!
Quartering and inverting a short fat roll gives you some interesting possibilities for square sushi, with fillings in the center. Like this.
Step 19: Wrap It Up...
You CAN wrap fresh rolls in cellophane to store (not more than a few hours or the rice begins to stiffen).
Step 20: I'll Take It!
I suggest storing at just below room temperature, if possible, as a fridge causes the rice to become unpleasant. I suggest a picnic cooler or even laying the rolls on a plate that is resting on top of a bowl of ice.
Step 21: Plate and Feast!
Slice up your rolls, plate them on a variety of mismatched festively colored plates if you have them.
Chill (or heat) some sake, steam some edemame, toss a simple seaweed and sesame salad and prepare to feast!
Step 22: Chirashi
If you don't want to go to all the trouble of rolling, you can always opt for chirashi. A beautiful and delicious assortment of sashimi over rice.
It's also a great way to use up all those yummy scraps. I usually have this for lunch the day after a sushi party.