I never had sushi until fairly recently, but I’m definitely making up for lost time. The first time I had it, I was instantly in love. I, like Jiro, dream of sushi.
This is my go-to roll and one of the reasons for that, aside from simply being ridiculously delicious, is it’s always available. Whenever I want, I can have delicious sushi ready to eat in the same amount of time it’d take to get to a restaurant (and it costs only ~$3 to feed two people very well, this recipe makes easily double the amount shown in the pictures). Availability is big for me because my whole courtship with sushi started with it playing hard to get. Going out for sushi was quickly becoming an unsustainably costly habit, but making it at home was limiting (Whole Foods, the only place in Milwaukee that sells sashimi-quality (meaning safe to eat raw), only sells sashimi-quality salmon and tuna..and only 2 days a week). So, back to availability. This roll uses frozen shrimp and kanikama (imitation crab), both things that you can have on hand..forever.
In order to make good sushi, you start with good rice. The word ‘sushi’ refers to the rice, not the fillings (specifically, vinegared rice. In Japanese, su meaning vinegar + meshi meaning rice = sushi). Japan doesn’t export rice, the production of it is heavily subsidized and the government buys and stores the surplus. Look for California-grown, short grain rice. I love Kokuho Rose (I’ve gotten it at Woodman’s and on Amazon), it’s the best tasting rice I’ve ever had and the perfect consistency for sushi. Then you have to rinse it. And rinse it. And rinse it until the water runs clear.
Yesterday Burton and I rode the bus to Phongsavan, a huge Asian market with multiple vendors and two restaurants, on 76th street. Our car has this really lovely trait of not starting when it’s cold out (and yesterday was below 0), so taking the bus it was. And bus we did, for an hour each way, passing as many churches as check cashing places and equally many daycares with misspelled names (Most Precious Journee sticks out). We finally arrive and it’s one of the least welcoming places I’ve ever seen, greeting you with its ‘Coming Soon in 2003’ poster causing you to question if it’s open and huge ads for life insurance agents covering the front of the building (picture above courtesy of google maps). We ate some pho and browsed the markets, eventually leaving with some mineral powders I’ve been looking for (for homemade toothpaste), a bar of turmeric soap, a jar of pickled bamboo shoots in chili oil and kewpie. I’m glad we went, definitely considered it worth the freezing trek, but it was my least favorite Asian store in Milwaukee (my favorite being Viet Hoa, closely followed by Pacific Produce). The actually grocery selection was small, especially the produce. But I finally found kewpie…
Kewpie is Japanese mayonnaise, the differences from traditional mayonnaise being rice vinegar and MSG. It’d be easy to make yourself, but then you wouldn’t get the star cut top or the picture of the creepy kewpie doll to cut out and save in your ‘future tattoo ideas’ scrapbook. Regular mayonnaise, of course, works just fine as well and likely what’s used as 99% of sushi restaurants in America.
Equal parts adorable and terrifying, everyone’s favorite combo.
Aside from kewpie, I recently acquired another Japanese item I’ve been searching for for years: togarashi! Togarashi is a spice mix often sold near temples containing seven ingredients, usually a mixture of dried sansho chili, sichuan peppers, tangerine peel, sesame seeds, seaweed, ginger, shiso (known as Japanese basil) and hemp seeds. I’ve been looking for the mix, or the ingredients to blend myself, every time I’ve been to an asian grocery store in the last 4 years with no luck. I finally just ordered it online. Don’t be like me, don’t let your life pass you buy. Order it now. A traditional chili powder blend will suffice, though most you’ll find use Mexican chiles vs Asian chiles.
The panko fried shrimp are pretty necessary in this roll to contrast the soft, wet kanikama mixture. I butterfly the shrimp, carefully slicing them from the top to the tail without going all the way through. That way they sit flat for ease of rolling and fry quicker/more evenly. After frying, I strain/save the oil in a jar for a few more uses and that way I can use good oil without it becoming too expensive. If I had any one piece of advice for someone to take away from this post: don’t use cheap oils, don’t use vegetable/canola oils, it’ll end up costing a lot more in the long run.
KaniKama, Togarashi and Fried Shrimp Sushi Roll
2 cups sushi rice (made from 1 cup dry rice)
4 sheets of nori
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar in a bowl of 2 cups cold water
4 pieces kanikama, shredded
1/4 of a cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into matchsticks
3 tbsp diced cilantro
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp garlic chili sauce
2 green onions, white and greens chopped
6 panko fried shrimp, butterflied then cut in half horizontally (leaving you with 12 pieces of shrimp)
Cut 2 inches off the top of the nori and place a sheet on your rolling mat. Dip your hands in the vinegar and water bowl, then carefully grab the rice. Do not pat the rice down, make sure it remains fluffy but also covers the nori well. Then top with the kanikama mix and 3 pieces of shrimp. To roll, start by lifting up your mat and, with in a rolling motion, have the front tip of your nori/rice touch the very back of your pile of rice and ‘tuck’ it in. Then pull your mat over, causing it to roll the whole thing forward. Apply the pressure with your hand pulling the mat, making sure it’s tight and secure. Using a sharp knife, cut roll into pieces with a sawing motion (as in now applying force downwards, but back and forth).
1 cup sushi rice, rinsed well
1 cup water
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp honey or sugar
1 tsp salt
In a medium saucepan, bring rice and water to a boil. Once boiling, immediately turn down to the lowest setting your stove will go to. Put a lid on and simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove from heat and let sit another 15 minutes undisturbed.
Make the sauce: combine rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a skillet, heat slightly to combine thoroughly.
Pour rice into a large bowl (wooden or glass is best). Pour sauce over rice and gently stir the rice, cutting into with a spatula as opposed to flipping/turning it over. Fan the rice until it is completely cooled – this step is very important!
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 large egg
2 tbsp flour
Cut the shrimp from the top to tail, along the back where the vein was, carefully making sure not to go all the way through. Combine egg and flour in a bowl, mixing well. In a separate bowl, place the 1/2 cup of panko. Dip the butterflied shrimp into the egg/flour mixture, then coat with panko. Bring oil over medium heat to 350 degrees. Fry the shrimp ~3 minutes a side.