Most American restaurant foods are easy to replicate at home: grilled cheese, burgers, the classic BLT. Japanese and hybrid-Asian foods are another matter. It might seem simple to toss together some rice, crab, seaweed and avocado to make a basic California roll, but ask any sushi chef and they'll tell you there's an art to it.
Much of the success of a roll depends on the sushi rice. You can't use any plain old supermarket rice; look for high-quality short grain rice at a local Asian market such as Lee Lee or House of Rice. Avoid using Cooking Virgin's former staple, Minute Rice, or you'll end up with a sticky, glutinous mess that looks and tastes like lumpy kindergarten paste.
Trust us; you don't want to eat that.
Read on to find out how to (and how NOT to) make perfect sushi rice at home...
1. Measure out the rice you need. A pound of uncooked rice will make enough sushi rice for several good-sized rolls. If, like The Virgin, you've got a house full of people who think that being served raw fish is always a cooking error, feel free to cut the recipe in half. It just means more sushi for you.
2. Pour the rice into a pot or deep bowl half-filled with cold water and use your hands to move the rice around in the water until the liquid turns a sickly grey. Don't be alarmed that your rice is so nasty; remember what makes it grow. Rinse the rice and repeat a few times.
3. Leave the rice to soak for about an hour. Go for a walk, get some laundry done, read a book. Or get so hungry that you go out for lunch while you're waiting for your damn rice to be ready.
4. Give the rice a final rinse and strain. (Hint: DON'T use a colander, or the grains will escape down the drain and you'll have to wait another effing hour.)
5. If you have a rice cooker, skip the next few skips and follow the instructions on your machine. Actually, if you have a rice cooker, why the hell are you reading this blog? Clearly, your equipment is decent enough that you probably have the skills to make sushi rice without The Virgin's help.
6. Put the soaked rice in a covered stainless steel pot (sans no-stick) with an equal amount of water and turn the heat up to medium-high.
7. After the water begins to boil, continue cooking for 7-9 minutes. Accept the fact that your pound of usuable rice has likely become a half-pound of potentially edible rice and a half-pound of "something that smells like burnt ass" (at least, according to The Virgin's significant other).
8. Reduce heat to low and simmer for another fifteen minutes. Tip: Resist the urge to vomit at the stench. Turn off smoke alarms, if applicable!
9. Take the pot off of the stove and allow the rice to cool down. Spreading it out will help, but you'll need a wet towel to help retain the moisture.
10. In the meantime, mix 1/3 cup rice vinegar with 3 tbsp. of sugar and a teaspoon of salt in a small pot and heat until sugar and salt dissolves. Pour mixture over 3 cups of cooked rice in a wood or plastic mixing bowl. Toss lightly and cool.
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If you've done everything correctly, you should have usable sushi rice. By the time this ridiculously long process is over, you might be tempted to leave it behind and head to your favorite sushi restaurant. But at least you'll have a better appreciation for the work that goes into making your favorite rolls.
Check back next week, when Cooking Virgin wraps this sushi-making session up into a California roll.