When people are asked about Japanese food, sushi usually comes to mind. However, while living with my homestay family in Japan I quickly realised that homemade sushi or sashimi wasn’t featuring on the menu at all. Later I learned that, while sushi is an important part of Japan’s food and culture, Japanese people tend to eat sushi out and rarely make it at home themselves. It was from my mother-in-law Hiroko that I learned how to make sushi and fell in love with the art of sushi making.
People across the world are fascinated by sushi, how beautiful it looks and how great it tastes. There is a certain respect and appreciation for the “art of sushi“. It takes ten years to become a sushi chef, with the first few years dedicated to learning how to wash and cook the rice. It can be found on the menu of restaurants in any large city or town across the world. Some of the most popular types of sushi such as the Californian roll were actually created outside of Japan. I believe the secret to great homemade sushi is patience, along with well-prepared sushi rice, good-quality ingredients and, of course, a little skill with a sushi mat.
If you have an interest in sushi and Japanese food culture I’d recommend watching a movie called Jiro Dreams of Sushi. It tells the story of a Japanese sushi chef’s dedication to his work and the element of ‘kaizen’ (continuous improvement) in Japanese culture.
Here’s my sushi Q&A:
What’s the difference between sushi and sashimi?
Sashimi is thinly sliced raw fish served without rice. Sushi includes various types of sushi rolls that use sushi rice, seaweed and different ingredients used inside the roll. There are also types of sushi that don’t use seaweed, such as nigiri.
Is it true that sushi is raw fish?
Both cooked and raw fish can be used to make sushi. Furthermore, you can make sushi without using fish and instead use ingredients such as meat, fruit or vegetables.
Where can I source raw fish suitable for sashimi or sushi making?
Go to a reliable fishmonger and ask for ‘sashimi-grade’ fish or tell the fishmonger that you want fish that can be eaten raw. Sashimi-grade fish is essentially fish that is fresh enough to be eaten raw, so it’s super fresh.
How can I tell if fish is fresh?
Really fresh fish should smell of the sea and not fishy or unpleasant; the eyes of the fish should be clear not cloudy; the skin of the fish should be firm and shiny; if you lift the gills and look under them they should be bright red. Whole fish will always stay fresher for longer. If you don’t fancy cleaning and filleting the fish at home, ask your fishmonger to do it for you.
<strong>What is sushi rice: ‘sushi meshi’?
Sushi rice is Japanese cooked rice seasoned with sushi vinegar. Sushi rice was traditionally made to preserve the rice and is now used to make all types of sushi.
What do I need to make homemade sushi?
A sushi mat, Japanese white rice (you cannot make sushi with other types of rice), sushi seasoning, roasted nori seaweed sheets, a water bowl and a damp cloth.
What is nori?
Nori is a type of seaweed that is made into dry roasted seaweed sheets to make sushi rolls. It’s also sold milled and this is used to sprinkle on dishes just before serving. When you open a pack of nori sheets they should be dry and crispy. Once nori is exposed to air it will become damp and soft so it’s important to store it in an airtight container.
What should I serve with sushi?
Pickled ginger called ‘gari’, wasabi and soy sauce.
What’s the difference between ‘sushi’ and ‘zushi’?
There is no difference except that the word ‘sushi’ changes to ‘zushi’ when added to certain words. It still means the same thing.
If you’re eager to learn the basics of homemade sushi making in an easy-to-follow and relaxed style check out my recipe here on TheTaste.
A self-taught cook, food-writer and author, Fiona Uyema is one of Ireland’s leading Japanese cooks and cookery instructors. Passionate about bringing the art of Japanese home-cooking into kitchens across the country and further afield, her first book, Japanese Food Made Easy was published in September 2015.
Fiona Uyema’s love of the Japanese language, culture and cuisine began in Dublin City University where she studied Japanese and International Marketing. She then spent three years living in the beautiful village of Nishiyama. After her introduction to her now husband Gilmar, her love of Japan was sealed.
Fiona now lives in Co. Kildare where she teaches workshops, provides corporate classes on the art of Japanese cooking, provides consultancy to restaurants and the food industry and blogs about her Japanese food adventures on Fiona’s Japanese Cooking Blog.