Everything You Need to Know About Making the Best Sushi

Making sushi at home is actually easy but if you want the results to be as good as possible, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind.

How do you make the best homemade sushi? The most important aspect of sushi is freshness, with every single ingredient being in its absolute best condition possible. Next is the authenticity of the ingredients, with the rice being particularly essential since it needs to be short-grain, white, starchy rice. From there, it’s all about balance.

You can make sushi with even the barest of pantries but the results can easily become disastrous if you choose the wrong ingredients and you could even get sick.

How to Make the Best Sushi?

Sushi is best made by masters who have spent years trying to perfect their version of the dish and it is their version of the dish. Make no mistake about the fact that even among the various sushi masters in Japan, there is not just one way to make any kind of sushi. As a matter of fact, most sushi chefs have their own philosophies regarding the dish if they are any good.

However, while you will never be able to match their skills, this doesn’t mean that you can’t make sushi that you can proudly feed to other people. You just need to know how to do it and the way to do it has to do with:

·         Quality

·         Freshness

·         Right Conditions

·         Balance

·         Right Process

·         Presentation

However, those factors might be a bit too vague for beginners, so let’s take a look at this in more actionable terms. Take a look at the tips in the table below so that you can make the kind of sushi that you will actually like.

Prioritize qualityThe quality of the ingredients you buy is of utmost importance, so you must only get the fluffiest, crunchiest, sweetest,  firmest items you can find in accordance with their individual characteristics and purposes
Plan your shoppingYou need to know exactly what you are going to get from where and when for making sushi so that you won’t waste time getting ingredients that might be too ripe, not ripe enough, to the firm, or not available when you need them
Fresh ingredients onlyThere are some sushi ingredients that are preserved, cooked, smoked, or cured, but for the ingredients that need to be fresh, you should only really get them in their freshest possible state
Authentic ingredients where possibleAuthentic sushi requires authentic ingredients so try to get everything that a real Japanese chef would use if they were in Japan if you can
Develop the right skillsWhile you don’t need to be a master chef to make sushi, you do need fundamental cooking skills, with your knife skills being a particularly important point of concern
Prepare the right toolsMaking sushi will require you to have certain tools depending on what you are going to make such as the right knife and a sushi rolling mat
Research sushi typesThe more sushi types you know, the more capable you will be in creating the kinds of sushi that you will enjoy the most
Find base sushi recipesBase sushi recipes are basically recipes with the simplest ingredients and steps that will then allow you to build on them
PracticeOnce you have made your first attempts at sushi, you can practice to iron out any flaws that you may have and correct mistakes
ExperimentDon’t be afraid to try different combinations, methods, and recipes for your sushi

As you might have noticed there, making good sushi is not just about throwing ingredients together in a haphazard manner. Likewise, it isn’t too difficult either, especially to someone who already has some experience in cooking.

With enough practice and with access to the right ingredients, pretty much anyone can make the sushi of their dreams. It will just take some doing, which we will be looking into a little more by discussing the items in that table in more detail.

Quality – Quality is a very important point to focus on when you are making sushi and this goes for everything, including the ingredients and the stuff you are cooking them with. This means not compromising on anything, be it the source, the size, the texture, the variety, or the taste. If you have to go for fish eggs, for example, choose only the best that you can afford.

This particular aspect cannot be emphasized enough, especially for those who want the best with their sushi. You cannot settle for the dregs or the spares. You need the choicest cuts, the best portions, the pick of the season, and butcher’s best. However, you may put it, the phrasing does not matter as long as you get what you need.

Shopping – With the quality emphasized, it is now time to discuss the issue of how you will actually get those items and it is all about planning. In professional operations, chefs would often go out early at dawn to get the fish they will be using that day or have the fresh ingredients delivered to them. If you are not a professional chef, you will need to put some more thought into this.

Know when you will use the ingredients and see if you can use items when they have yet to truly ripen. Save the shopping on the day for ingredients that you don’t want to freeze. Things like the seafood, the fish, and the eggs are best purchased a few hours before using them. Pickled or preserved ingredients can be bought ahead of time, though, so just take that into consideration.

Freshness – Freshness is a quality that cannot be overemphasized in sushi because it relies on that particular aspect for several things. One is the issues of safety with fresher ingredients being less likely to carry deadly microorganisms. This goes for both the raw ingredients and the cooked ones, with fresh vegetables being as essential as fresh meat.

On that note, freshness does not necessarily mean things that you purchase on that day. Take fruits, for example, which you can purchase in their unripe stage and wait for them to ripen. This will help you plan your activity of making sushi a bit more and avoid letting the fruits go to waste if you can’t make it on the day you bought them.

Authenticity – The issue of authenticity is one that has plagued the food industry for decades. People want authenticity on a much deeper level where you can no longer rely on a rough approximation. When it comes to the rice you will use for sushi, for example, authenticity can often push chefs to get only the Japanese rice that comes from Japan and nowhere else.

The same goes for the fish, the vegetables, the fruits, and the like, which can really increase the costs. Not everything about your sushi needs to be authentic but you might want to go for it whenever possible. Real wasabi, for example, is not an essential requirement if all you want is the best sushi.

Skills –  If you want to get better at making sushi, there is just no getting around the requirement of skills. At the very least, you should be able to cook rice and that is the minimum level of ability involved. You will also need to know how to use a knife properly so that you will be able to slice not only the ingredients but also the sushi in the appropriate shapes and sizes.

Then again, since you are making the sushi yourself with the aim being to create the best you have ever made, you should already have some level of cooking capabilities. Now, it’s just a matter of polishing it so that you can get to the point where you can easily slice raw fish to the appropriate thickness and angle.

You should also remember that a big part of making sushi is the assembly, which is not as easy as you might think. Making sure that your rolls are compact, shaping your rice balls to accommodate the toppings, or handling the knife and board so that everything is clean can be a bit challenging. Fortunately, with the right preparations, you should be able to handle these issues.

For those who are still lacking in this department, though, it might do some good to attend actual sushi cooking classes. You won’t be able to learn everything from them, but they can give you enough skills so that you can find your own way forward. Just don’t expect too much from classes that are only meant for beginners.

Tools – Making sushi requires tools and these tools will come in different shapes, sizes, and of course, qualities. The very best sushi chefs practically have their equipment custom-made to suit their specific styles and preferences, with some going so far as to make it themselves. The knives are particularly essential because of the roles they play in making sushi.

Generally speaking, knives need to be in their sharpest states if they are going to be used for sushi because the chef can’t risk the fish meat looking ragged. Everything from the eggs to the vegetables, to the maki sushi rolls themselves, must all be cut in a clean and neat fashion. If not, it could affect the texture, the presentation, and ultimately, the taste.

You can never underestimate the effects that a dull blade can have in causing sushi to become misshapen or to bruise meat, after all. Then there is the sushi rolling mat, which is not exactly something that you use every day if you are not a sushi chef. As such, you might be confused as to what type you should go for.

If you want the best results, the mats made of bamboo would work best for you. This is because they are easy to dispose of, are cheap, and you can buy more than one of them in case you need a spare. The quality of this type of mat would vary, as well, so that’s something you need to watch out for. There are some bamboo sushi mats with wide strips or thin, round stripes.

Research – Next to the tools, the next most important matters for you to look into is information and knowledge, which you can only get if you do appropriate research. There are many different types sushi and if your goal is to make the very best of them, you will have to know which ones you actually want to have.

Aside from the most common sushi rolls, nigiri, and hand rolls, there are also sushi that is basically composed of rice on a deep container and is then topped with a lot of ingredients. If you go to Japan, you will find that there are many ways in which sushi is served and enjoyed, with some including the actual presentation of sea urchin meat inside the sea urchin.

Without the necessary information and knowledge about the different varieties of sushi, you won’t be able to say that what you are making is actually the best sushi. At best, you can comfort yourself in the knowledge that you were able to create the most delicious sushi you have ever had. However, that’s not exactly the same thing, is it?

More than anything else, you need to know that what you are making is actually sushi in the technical sense of the word. Otherwise, you might end up with something that can be compared to sushi pizza, which is just not sushi. Even allowing the phrase “sushi pizza” to exist is pushing it since such a thing would never have been made by real sushi chefs.

Recipes – A lot of people rely on recipes in order to cook anything and that’s fine. Not everyone has the ability to adjust flavors or find a balance in aromatics to make food without relying on precise measurements. You can do this too if you want to make the best sushi but it must only be to a certain point.

The purpose of the recipes that you will use for your sushi is to get the kinds of results that allow you to get to a point where you can prepare things like the sushi rice in a reasonably competent manner. You will need to flavor the rice in order to prepare it for the sushi, after all, and it’s not as if this is easily done if you are not a trained cook.

To that end, you can use recipes as a way to supplement what you lack until you will be able to make it on your own. You will build on the base recipes by adjusting amounts to your likings such as by adding or reducing the sugar, the mirin, or whatever else. You should also be able to adjust the texture of the rice by switching out varieties until you get the one that you want.

From there, you can swap fillings, use different types of fish instead of the one suggested by the recipe, and so on. You have to remember that a recipe can be used other as an instruction piece or as a guideline. You can choose which it will be based on how closely you adhere to it or if you want to make changes to it.

Practice – Naturally, all of the recipes in the world won’t be able to help you if you can’t even assemble a sushi roll to save your life. You will want to practice as often as possible so that you can make the kind of sushi that you like instead of the sushi that you are restricted to. The more you practice, the abler you will be to make the kinds of changes that you like.

Experiment – Finally, if you really want to make the best kind of sushi, you will want to experiment a bit. That is to say, you will want to use ingredients that you never have, throw in condiments you would not have thought of, or even try new brands instead of the known ones. You never know when you will come across a combination that has everything you need.

You have to understand that the best sushi is those that are made of the ingredients that speak most to your preferences. What would be the point of sushi that others like if you can’t stomach it? More importantly, what would be the point of making sushi that was only declared the best by others?

You should be the one decide if the sushi that you made is the best and you can’t say that it is unless you tried multiple other combinations. It’s as simple as that.

What Makes Sushi Ingredients High Quality?

It was already iterated here that the sushi that you must make should be of high quality, but the question now is what makes sushi ingredients of high quality, in the first place. We can divide the answer based on what ingredients we are talking about, which boil down to the fruits and veggies, the rice, the cooked items, the raw items, and the condiments.

Starting with the fruits and vegetables, the best ones are those that are in their optimal period of ripeness where everything just falls into place. Everything from the crispiness, to the sweetness, to the creaminess, and the brightness of the colors all coalesce to help you achieve sushi perfection you finally make it.

If you use them too soon, you end up with fruits and vegetables that can be too tough, too sour, too tasteless, or too discolored to even consider. If you use them too late, you end up with items that smell foul, are mushy, and would only leave you with a stomach ache if you eat them.

Then there is the rice, which needs to be short-grain, white, starchy, and neutral in both taste and flavor. You won’t get this with just any old rice and you better believe that using anything less than those will result in a terrible meal. You will basically be dealing with rice that is too loose, too dry, too chewy, and too smelly.

Moving on, we have cooked items, which would be your spicy tuna fillings, your chicken, your eggs, your beef, eel, pork, and more. The quality of these things will depend a lot on where you get them, but they should be full in flavor, must contain no preservatives, and must come from high-quality sources. Imagine the difference between wagyu beef and Angus beef.

On the matter of the raw items, quality depends on size, cut, origins, and of course, freshness. The freshest, choicest cuts are naturally going to be the most expensive ones and you can count on the bigger ones being more expensive. You will also need to think about the fat contents, the firmness of the meat, and the flavor when you sample it.

Finally, we have the condiments, which can be a bit trickier to deal with. These include the soy sauce, the wasabi, and the Japanese mayo. As long as you make sure that all of these are actually coming from Japan, you should be good to go.

How to Choose Which Sushi to Make

If you are having trouble making up your mind as to which type of sushi you want to make, the solution is simple: trust your gut. Assuming that you already followed the tips given above, you will already have the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary to make any kind of sushi you want. At that point, the sushi world is your oyster, so to speak.

If you want to make a nigiri, you will be able to do just that. If you want either California maki or maki sushi, those should be fairly easy, as well. The important thing is that you are fulfilling your desire for sushi in a way that will not lead to regret. Laziness must not come into the equation and your biggest obstacles will have to be money, time, or availability of ingredients.

Related Questions

What Sushi is Best for Beginners?

When it comes to sushi for beginners, it can be a bit difficult to choose the right one if you don’t know much about the dish. So, just to get you accustomed to this particular type of dish, you might want to start with the tamago nigiri, which is just a fried egg roll on a ball of sushi rice with nori.

What Are the Most Common Ingredients in Sushi?

The most common ingredients in sushi are the rice, the nori, the raw fish like tuna and salmon, and the fruits and vegetables like cucumber, mango, and avocado. You will be able to find those in the market at any time at cheap prices, which makes sushi quite easy to make every single day.

Simple or Complicated?

With there being so many varieties of sushi available, it only makes sense that you would come across some that are simple and some that are complicated. Examples of the latter case can be quite the doozy to witness and even more indescribable to eat. Naturally, they are a pain to make, which practically requires you to dedicate all of your time on that one task alone.

As such, if you are someone who simply cooks for a hobby and has a job, you won’t likely have time to create the most complicated types of sushi. Then again, does this mean that you have to settle for the simple kind? Not necessarily and even if you did, it wouldn’t be an issue since even the simplest of sushi dishes can be quite delicious.

Take the salmon nigiri, for example, which is just a sushi rice ball topped with a strip of raw salmon meat and brushed with a layer of sweet soy sauce. It literally cannot be simpler than that but the result is absolute heaven. At the end of the day, you can only really make your choice based on the amount of time you have and the ingredients you need to prepare.

Any Sushi is Possible

With so many different combinations of ingredients for making sushi, you might now be thinking if any sushi is possible as long as you are crazy enough to put them together. The answer is yes. As a matter of fact, as long as it has the sushi rice, anything can be sushi. One example are the rolls in Russia that are encased in nori but contain cooked chicken, sausages, mayo, and cream cheese.

In Germany, the rice can be wrapped in pickled herring instead of nori so that you can have fish both inside and outside the sushi. On that note, you really don’t want that since it would be redundant and the flavor won’t be that good anyway. If you wrap the sushi rice with a strip of pickled herring, you must not use raw fish as filling. 

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