Roll With It

YOU DON’T HAVE TO EAT OUT TO EAT SUSHI.

BY ERIC BUTTERMAN

If you’re looking for something light to eat, few things satisfy like sushi.With properties that promote better memory and overall well-being, it’s long been one of the staples of the East. But over the last two decades, Americans have increasingly wanted to make it for themselves. The good news is, it’s not as hard as you may think—but it will require patience.

Wing Lam, owner and head chef of Zen Sushi, says making sushi rolls at home comes down to two things: practice and creativity. “It’s like anything: keep at it and [the finished product] will continue to get better,” he says, “…as long as you buy good rice!” Beyond that essential ingredient is seaweed, which forms the outside of the wrap, and then whatever you choose to put inside. It’s best to use rice that’s short and thin, mixed with vinegar, salt and sugar. To save time, Lam suggests buying the pre-made rice mix at your local Asian market (or order online at asianfoodgrocer.com).

Now for the seaweed. Ever wonder how chefs are able to wrap it so perfectly around the rice? Using a bamboo mat is their clever secret. Decide how thick you prefer your sushi rolls to be and choose your mat accordingly: the thicker the individual bamboo sticks that make up the mat, the thicker the roll will be. Cut one-half to two-thirds of a sheet of your purchased seaweed, place it in the center of the bamboo mat, and cover all except the outer edges of the seaweed with rice.

Now comes the creativity. You can put anything inside a sushi roll. However, there are certain standbys to consider. The California roll is among the most popular, containing crabmeat, cucumber, avocado and carrot. The Philadelphia roll highlights salmon and cream cheese, sometimes along with avocado or cucumber. Or make up your own! Once you’ve decided, make sure to distribute the ingredients evenly over the width of the seaweed; otherwise, when you cut the roll, some pieces may not contain any filling. Then lift the edge of the bamboo mat and begin to push it forward, rolling the contents within. Slowly open the mat and slice your finished roll into individual sushi pieces.

Even once you’ve created your roll, the product still isn’t finished. You’ll notice many sushi establishments don’t just throw them on the plate; style is almost as much a part of sushi as substance. Try artfully drizzling your chosen sauce over the plate in an eyecatching design, or lining up individual sushi pieces to form a pattern. In addition, consider the serving plates you use: smaller ones tend to accentuate the sushi’s own beauty. You can even perfect your at-home sushi experience right down to the music. Choose soft melodies to enhance the already relaxing atmosphere which goes along with eating a light and healthful meal.

“Making sushi takes skill, but don’t be afraid to try different things,” Lam emphasizes. “Some of the best flavor combinations come from experimentation.”

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