Making the Sushi rice (also known as Shari 舎利 or Sumeshi 酢飯) may seem like a very intimidating task but, don’t worry, it’s not rocket science. It’s like making ordinary rice in a pot, except you have season it with rice vinegar afterwards.
Here are 5 easy tips to making the perfect Shari:
1. Not all rice are made equal
Yes, even in the rice universe, some are better than others. Thankfully, the Japanese have thought of everything that has to do with sushi. In their strive for perfection, they developed a special rice strain for sushi. This rice strain is round, white, and short-grained. Because of sushi’s popularity in the US, this type of rice is readily available in most supermarkets. Don’t skimp on quality grains! It makes a world of a difference once you start to make your sushi.
Wash the rice in water. Swirl the grains with your hands for a minute, and then pour the water off. Repeat this step until you’ve taken off the starch from the rice. When there is minimal to no starch on the grains, the water remains clear even after swirling it in water. After washing, place the rice on a pot. Add water with a water:rice ratio of 1.15:1, in favor of the water. If you put too much, you might end up making porridge instead of rice.
At the beginning, your rice should be cooked in high heat, with constant stirring every 1 or 2 minutes. As soon as the water boils, lower the heat to the lowest setting, and then cover the pot. Don’t worry, and do not check on it every 30 seconds. Let the rice do its thing. The Japanese made the rice that way.
After 6 minutes, check on your rice. If there’s no more water on the surface that means that your rice is ready. If there’s still some water there, check back every minute. Be careful not to burn the rice at the bottom.
4. Taking out the rice
One would think that taking the sushi out of the rice pot and into a bowl shouldn’t be so strict, right? Well, the Japanese specifically take out the rice with a wooden spoon or, during these modern times, a non-stick paddle. The reason why they prefer using the wooden spoon instead of the typical metal spoons we all have at home is because a metal spoon will damage the rice. Also, if it’s cooked properly, there is no need for you to scrape out the rice from the bottom of the pot. If there is some rice stuck to the bottom, don’t use it. It won’t have the proper texture for sushi anyway.
Remember that there’s more to Shari than just the rice. For your rice to be “sushi rice” you have to lightly season in with rice vinegar, salt, and sugar right after you take it out of the pot.
How to season sushi rice:
1. For 3 cups of rice, use 1/2 cup of rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 2 teaspoons of salt.
2. Mix the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a bowl until all dry ingredients are dissolved
3. Pour the mixture on the rice and fold thoroughly. As much as possible, each grain of rice should be coated with the mixture
4. Let the rice cool down to room temperature. DO NOT put the rice in the fridge to speed up cooling. This will damage the grains! Alternatively, you can use an electric fan or A/C.