We have arrived at lesson 3, which will be the most fundamentally important lesson there is to learn about sushi making. Vinegar-dressed, sticky sushi rice is the component that takes longest to prepare, so it is worth your while to make sure it is done right. Sushi rice should be sticky and glossy, with all grains being visibly distinct from one another. If you cook rice with too much water, it will become clumpy and mushy and unsuable. The mouth-feel is an important factor with sushi rice; it should seperate on your palette.
When choosing rice, you want to go for short-grain variety, like Calrose; this California-grown rice is the easiest to find short-grain rice that is well-suited for sushi preparations. A long grain rice like basmatti will not work for sushi; it is possible however, to make brown rice sushi. Have you ever seen the distinction “old crop” and “new crop” on a bag of rice, and wondered what that means? Basically new crop is harvested right away and is not as dry as old crop. The choice between the two will not effect your final product, you just have to adjust the amount of water use. Each sushi chef uses their own varying blend of the two, which also have a unique rice to water ratio.
The first step to making sushi rice is to wash off excess starch. Swish the rice around with cool water until water runs clean; about 4-5 times. Then it is very important to let the rice drain in a strainer; this step will facilitate a more accurate measure by removing excess water. If you can find Botan Calrose, you don’t need to wash it as it is already primed for sushi rice and polished rice. This is a great time saver, and it’s is available in most major grocery stores.
To measure out water, there is a basic ratio to work with that may need to be adjusted depending on the type of rice crop you are using. The ratio is generally 1 part water to 1 part rice. However, you need to remove an amount of water equal to that of your vinegar mixture. This way your rice will have absorbed the perfect amount of liquid while being perfectly glossy, sticky, and toothsome. With that formula, here is a basic recipe:
3 cups rice
2 3/4 cups water
This will yield about 6 cups of cooked rice.
Next add the rice and water to the rice cooker, turn on and let cook. It is very important to let the rice rest and continue steaming undisturbed for 35-40 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the vinegar mixture.
for the vinegar:
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt, optional
1 tsp mirin, optional
For my personal vinegar mixture, I don’t use salt, but I use mirin which is a sweet cooking sake.
Stir mixture until sugar dissolves; this does not require heating as the acidic vinegar will dissolve the sugar on its own. Heating also inhibits the desired level of stickiness.
Transfer the cooked rice to your hangiri or mixing bowl. Pour the vinegar mixture evenly over the rice, and mix into the rice using cutting motions. Spread the rice out and cool with a fan or let cool — go ahead, blow off some steam!
After I mix the rice and let it cool, I usually transfer it back into the basin of my rice cooker after rinsing it out. I store it there with the lid on, and the cooker unplugged. Now the rice is ready for use!