Japanese sushi rice, while it sounds intimidating, is actually very easy to make in a home kitchen with little equipment.
When I think of sushi, I generally think that the star of the show is the seafood. However, when people say sushi (zushi) in Japan, they are actually referring to the flavored rice. Believe it or not, the rice is actually a big star of the show when it comes to sushi.
Brief History of Sushi Rice
The history of traditional Japanese sushi rice comes from the way people used to preserve fish. They would use rice to help ferment fish and keep the fish edible for months at a time. At first, the rice was discarded and just the fish was eaten.
Eventually, the Japanese picked up this concept and began to eat the fish and the rice together. A Japanese chef, Matsumoto Yoshiichi, began to use rice vinegar to season the rice, thus speeding up the fermentation process and allowing the sushi to be eaten immediately. And this is how the sushi we know today was born.
Here in America we have obviously put our own twist on sushi by adding ingredients such as cream cheese, fried elements, and lots of sauce.
Components of Sushi Rice
Let's break it down a little more! When it comes to sushi rice, there are two vital components:
- Short-grain rice: Part of the role of the rice when crafting a sushi roll is to hold everything together. We need the starch from the rice to help with this process. It's very important to purchase a short-grain Japanese rice in order to achieve the right texture.
- Sushi Vinegar: Sushi vinegar is a mixture of rice vinegar, granulated sugar, and salt. It adds the flavoring to the rice. Mirin, a Japanese rice wine low in alcohol, is sometimes also used.
Sushi Rice Tools
Sushi rice requires minimum tools. To begin, you'll want to have a bowl or strainer to help rinse the rice. You can cook the rice in either a basic pot, or a rice cooker. I find it helpful to have a bamboo paddle to help handle the cooked rice.
If you are using a rice cooker, the cooking measurements will look a bit different. A standard rice cooker measuring cup is 180 ml (about ¾ U.S. cup). If you use a rice cooker, measure 3 rice cooker measuring cups, and then fill water to the '3' line on the rice cooker.
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Japanese Sushi Rice
- 3 cups short-grain sushi rice
- ⅓ cup rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Add rice to a strainer. Rinse rice by adding water over the strainer, swirling the rice around for a few turns, and immediately draining the rice. Repeat this process 3-4 times until the water runs clear when draining the rice. Allow rice to sit in the strainer over a bowl for an additional 15 minutes to allow the excess water to drain out.
- Cook rice according to the package (see note if using a rice cooker).
- Combine rice vinegar, sugar, and salt into a small microwavable bowl. Stir to combine. Microwave mixture for 45 seconds - 1 minute, until sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside to cool.
- Once the rice has finished cooking, transfer to a glass 8.5 x 11 inch pan. Spread out the rice evenly, and add in the sushi vinegar while the rice is still hot. Mix sushi vinegar with the rice, making sure not to smash the rice. Allow rice to cool.
- Once rice is cooled, it is ready to be made into sushi rolls. Keep rice covered with a damp towel (in a temperature controlled space under 41°F) until ready to use.