Sushi requires rice in order to be called sushi but what types of rice can you use for making sushi is something that a lot of folks don’t really know much about.
What types of rice can you use for sushi? Technically, you can use any type of rice for making sushi, but there is a handful that is better suited to it than others. Among them are California Calrose, Japonica, Basmati, Bomba, Arborio, Kalijira, and Jasmine rice. There are literally hundreds of different rice varieties but not all of them are good for sushi.
There are some very important points to look into when it comes to choosing which rice you will use for sushi, with the wrong choice potentially leading to an awful, dry, and choking experience.
Types of Rice to Use for Sushi
Sushi is a dish that has rice as its main component and the type of rice that you use to make it is an incredibly important point to get right. Among the very best of them that are within the reach of most people are:
· California Calrose
Some of the varieties on that list should be familiar to you if you have been eating rice on a regular basis. If not, the reason why those rice varieties are the best is that they possess the following qualities:
· High starch content
· Pure white color
· No overpowering odor or taste
· Rice size and shape
It might not seem like it but not all rice varieties have those qualities. As a matter of fact, there are some types of rice out there that are the exact opposite of all of those characteristics. This is why you need to make your choice of sushi rice carefully. You can take a look at the table below for some details about these characteristics of sushi rice.
|High levels of stickiness||The starch levels of the rice that you are going to cook for your sushi will need to be pretty high if you are going to mold them but they should not be too sticky either|
|White, fluffy, and moldable||The purity of the white color of the rice is an important component of sushi because it is meant to contrast with the color of the other ingredients, including the blackness of the nori and the colorfulness of the fillings|
|Neutral aroma and flavor||Sushi is an aromatic experience, with the fillings and the nori providing much of the odor, which means that the rice must not have an overwhelming aroma or flavor|
|Short to medium grain||The rice grains must be of the short or medium variety because they tend to contain more starch than their long-grain varieties but it is also because they tend to fall apart less easily|
Those are just some of the most essential characteristics that sushi rice should have if it is going to be suitable for the job. Of course, you can always ignore those stipulations and go with whichever rice you have on hand, but the experience is not going to be the same. You will especially want to avoid making rash decisions about this if you love sushi that is made in restaurants or sushi bars.
Just to give you more context as to why you will want to give these characteristics some attention, we can look into them a little more.
Stickiness – Stickiness is an incredibly important part of making sushi since you will need to actually mold it in several ways. What’s more, it will need to hold the shape that you will actually mold it into from start to finish. This means that it can’t start falling apart the moment you pop a nigiri into your mouth or you might be at risk of choking.
Now, this stickiness is derived primarily from the starch content in the rice. The higher the starch content, the stickier the rice and the sweeter it becomes. Naturally, you don’t want to go overboard on this and end up with actual sticky rice, which can be a bit too sticky for your needs. If ever this happens, you can bet that your sushi will be a bit too chewy.
This is why you need to choose rice with only enough starch content to meet your needs and this is then why you need to know which varieties of rice these can be. It is worth pointing out that the ones that are listed here are just a few of many. The only reason that they are here is that they are some of the most accessible varieties in the market.
You can easily get your hands on them, either via your local supermarket or via online orders. Of course, if you have no other choice, you can always compromise and find a way to make rice grains that are not that sticky a bit more suitable. However, it might involve methods that result in less than ideal rice.
Color and Texture – There are many types of rice that have many kinds of colors and those will need to be addressed when you are trying to choose which variety to use for your sushi. It needs to be said that sushi rice is traditionally white, preferably the clear and pure kind since those provide you with the best benefits you are looking for.
For starters, the pure and white kind of rice shines brightly in contrast to the other ingredients of the sushi. When set against the blackness of the nori, the bright red of the crab stick, the yellow shade of ripe mango, or the green of the avocado, the whiteness of the rice just stands out even more.
Scent and Taste – A lot of people think that sushi is just about the weird taste of raw fish and the filling satisfaction that you get from rice but that’s just one part of the equation. There is also the smell, which comes from the nori, the filling, and if it is included in the mixture, the wasabi. As such, any smell that can overpower that should be avoided.
This includes the aroma and taste of the rice, which can be a little much if you are not careful. There are varieties like Jasmine that can really do a number on your olfactory senses because of how aromatic they are. Of course, there are also Jasmine varieties that are less aromatic, which makes them less of an issue when used for sushi.
With regard to the taste, there are also some rice varieties that come with quite an interesting range of flavors. They can go from sweet to herby, to starchy, to nutty, and those are the good ones. Some can taste sour or like dirt, but those varieties are too rare for you to really bother with. The important thing to point out is simply that you have all of those choices.
If you make sure that your rice varieties for use in sushi are neutral in both flavor and smell, it is going to be a lot easier to make the most out of the sushi that you are going to make. You will be able to get an excellent taste and texture of the rice as you chew the sushi, which will lend itself quite well to the kind of experience you are going for.
Size and Shape – Finally, there is the concern involving the size and shape of the rice that you are going to use for your sushi. This might need a bit of explaining, though, so let’s start from the basics. Rice generally comes in several lengths, widths, and dimensions. You have the long-grain rice, medium-grain rice, and short-grain rice.
Even within those categories, there are varying lengths with the longest being quite long and the shortest being quite short. There is also the shape to consider, with some grains being quite slender and others being quite stout. Then there is the matter of the shape, with some almost being square and others being quite round.
These considerations are important because of how each grain of the rice will be sitting on top of each other and how they will be slipping into each other’s spaces. This will then determine how easily you can mold these grains for your sushi and how well they can maintain their shapes when you do.
You need to understand that this is not just about aesthetics, either. Rice with the wrong shape, length, and dimensions can lead to looser sushi. When you eat loose sushi, it can come apart in your mouth and you could then choke on the grains. Even if it is not really life-threatening, it can still be quite painful.
Why Starch is Important for Sushi Rice
It has already been said that rice is an important component of sushi – even the most important – and a big part of what makes sushi rice essential is the starch. Rice grains with a lot of starch are great for sushi because they stick together better, which is what gives the sushi its structure. You can think of starch as the cement that holds together the bricks that are the rice grains.
As to why this is even an issue, you have to remember that a big part of sushi is forming them into certain shapes. In the case of nigiri, you have a rice ball with toppings that need to stick together. As for the sushi rolls, rice grains that stick together easier are make for more stable rolls. This will then lead easier slicing, which will maintain the shape of the maki.
No matter how sharp your knife might be, if your sushi roll is composed of loose rice, it is going to get misshapen. The rice needs to be compact and stable enough to offer the right amount of resistance to the slicing motion. If not, you end up with sushi with nori that looks like they were torn rather than sliced and pieces that are not perfectly circular.
Of course, the starch will play a major role in terms of the taste of the rice. More starch means a fuller flavor, but too much starch will lead to an icky mouthfeel. You really never have to deal with rice that is too starchy unless you deliberately go for sticky rice. As long as you pick any of the varieties that are listed here, you should be good to go.
Can Brown Rice Be Used for Sushi?
With all of that said with regard to the kind of rice varieties that you simply must make use of, there can be that question of whether or not you can use brown rice for sushi. Now, brown rice is great for a lot of things and is an awesome substitute for white rice in most other cases. Those on a diet will especially appreciate how this type of rice can be filling with less of the carbs.
This is then the reason why there are those who might want to use it for their sushi and it has to be said that the concept is actually quite novel. Unfortunately, if you are going for the same kind of experience as what you would get with white rice, this is just not going to happen. You basically need qualities that are just not found in brown rice such as high starch content.
Brown rice contains less rice and has higher fiber than white rice, which makes it less sticky. This lack of stickiness will then lead to less stability when molding the sushi. Of course, you can always fix this by adding a bit of cornstarch when cooking your brown rice, but the results will not nearly be as good. What’s more, you could end up getting a stomach ache if you are not careful.
Can Sweet Rice Be Used for Sushi?
Sweet rice is basically sticky rice, which contains a whole lot more starch than what you would find in a normal rice variety. This then means that if you are looking for a way to use such a type of rice for your sushi, you will need to take special steps such as rinsing them more than once before cooking.
Can You Reheat Sushi Rice?
When you have already cooked sushi and chilled it for preservation, you must not reheat it under any circumstances. If you try to reheat sushi rice, you are not only going to turn it into mush, you are also risking the acceleration of the spoilage. So the answer here is no, you must not reheat the rice.
Red Rice and Sushi
If you have not spent that much time eating sushi rice, you might not know that there are varieties with different colors. They include red, purple, pink, and black. One of the most celebrated of these is the red variety and it is used as a celebratory food item in Japan, as well as other countries in Asia. It can be used in sushi, as well.
Now, you might have already figured out that this is not exactly the usual kind of rice used for the dish because it’s, well, red. You basically end up with a dish that looks like you painted it with food coloring, which has its place, but isn’t exactly what you would consider authentic. Then again, it can be great for events like Halloween to serve sushi that is naturally red in color.
It’s just too bad that it can’t really be used for more formal events. Sushi purists will definitely raise a fuss if you try to feed them something that they don’t consider authentic.
Sushi Rice Alternatives
Although sushi is actually a dish that is commonly composed of rice, along with other ingredients, you can actually use alternatives to help make it even healthier. Among the most preferable of them are cauliflower, ground corn, couscous, and oatmeal. You might have already noticed that these are not really the most appealing options, but they are still quite healthy.
The important thing is that they can hold their shape and they won’t spill out of the rolls when you form them. You will also be able to slice those rolls so that you can eat them as you need to. However, you should remember that this is not exactly an ideal situation for sushi. You will not be getting the right texture and the smell can be rather unpleasant depending on what you use.
This is just something that you will need to accept, though. If you are going the healthy route, it is only to be expected that you will need to make concessions. You certainly will not find the results to be appealing because the most delicious types of sushi are those that have already been discovered by sushi chefs.
Anything other than what the masters have already created will need some tinkering. You will need to take some risks.