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The BloggerAid Cookbook

How to make Sushi Rice

After months of hesitating to join Daring Cooks, I decided to take the plunge. I'm excited but at the same time scared - what if I can't meet up the challenges?

For my first Daring Cooks Challenge (the November 2009 one is brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen), we are asked to make sushi from scratch. Lucky me, I love sushi!

After a bit of researches, I found that the traditional form of sushi is fermented fish and rice, preserved with salt. The fermentation of fished and rice produce vinegar which breaks the fish down into amino acids. This results in 1 of 5 basic tastes (along with sweet, salty, etc.) called umami in Japanese (a.k.a. glutamates). Narezushi, the oldest form of sushi in Japan, still resembles closely to this process and it has evolved into Oshizushi, and finally Edomae Nigirizushi to which the world knows today as Sushi

Although sushi in various forms has been around for fourteen centuries, the modern version was invented in Japan by Hanaya Yohei (1799-1858) at the end of Edo period in Edo. An early form of fast food where a 'hand-formed' sliced fresh fish and vinegared rice ball could be eaten with one's hand on roadside or in a theatre. This sushi was known as Edomae zushi because it used freshly caught fish in the Edo-mae (Edo Bay or Tokyo Bay). Nowadays, sushi is made with various seafood, meats and vegetables, raw and cooked.

There are 4 parts in this challenge and I will show you how to make each of this in separate posts for easy reference:

  1. Making proper sushi rice with home-made sushi vinegar
  2. Dragon Sushi Roll - a covered inside-out rice roll with a tasty surprise filling
  3. Spiral Sushi - a nori-coated rice roll which reveals a decorative pattern when cut
  4. Nigiri Sushi - hand-shaped rice rolls with toppings

It's really fun making your own sushi. I challenge you to do make some! But first, let's learn how to make Sushi Rice, the process is somewhat long but not as complex as it looks.

Sushi rice

Total Preparation time: 1¾ hours

  • Rinsing & draining rice: 35 minutes
  • Soaking rice: 30 minutes
  • Cooking and steaming time: 25 minutes
  • Finishing the rice: 15 minutes
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups short grain (round rice) or Japanese rice
  • 2½ cups water
  • 3 inch square dashi konbu (or kombu - dried kelp seaweed) wipe with a damp cloth to remove white powder & cut a few slits in the sides of the kelp to help release its flavours - OPTIONAL
  • 2½ tsp sake (Japanese rice wine - don't use cooking sake) - OPTIONAL

Sushi vinegar dressing

  • 5 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 5 tsp sugar
  • 1¼ tsp salt
Directions
  1. Swirl rice gently in a bowl of water, drain, repeat 3-4 times until water is nearly clear. Don't crush the rice in your hands or against the side of the bowl as dry rice is very brittle.
  2. Gently place rice into a strainer and drain well for 30 minutes.
  3. Place the rice in a heavy medium pot with a tight fitting lid (if you have a loose fitting lid use a piece of aluminum foil to make the seal tight).
  4. Add 2½ cups of water and the dashi konbu (if you are using. This is optional.).
  5. Set the rice aside to soak for 30 minutes, during this time prepare the sushi rice dressing.
  6. After 30 minutes of soaking add sake (if using, again optional) to the rice.
  7. Bring the rice to the boil. Then reduce heat to the lowest setting and simmer, covered for 12-15 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this process.
  8. Turn off heat. Let stand with the lid on, 10-15 minutes. Do not peek inside the pot or remove the lid. During this time the rice is steaming which completes the cooking process.

Preparing the Rice Vinegar Dressing

  1. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small pot.
  2. Heat on low setting. Stir until the mixture is clear and the sugar and salt have dissolved.
  3. Set aside at room temperature to cool until the rice is cooked.

Turning out the rice

  1. Lightly moisten a flat thin wooden spatula or spoon and a large shallow flat-bottomed ceramic, plastic or glass dish. Do not use metallic objects as vinegar reacts to it and will produce sour and bitter sushi rice.
  2. Remove the dashi konbu (kelp) from the cooked rice (if you added it).
  3. Use the spatula to gently loosen the rice and tip the rice pot over the dish, gently letting the rice fall in one central heap. This is to avoid damaging the rice grains.
  4. Slowly evenly pour the cooled sushi vinegar over the hot rice by dripping it on the spatula.
  5. Using the spatula, gently spread the rice into a thin, even layer using a 45° cutting motion to break up any lumps and to separate the rice. Don't stir or mash rice.
  6. After the rice is spread out, start turning it over gently, in small portions, using a cutting action, allowing steam to escape, for about a minute.
  7. Continue turning over the rice, but now start fanning (using a piece of stiff cardboard or fan) the rice vigorously as you do so. Don't flip the rice into the air. Continue to gently slice, lift and turn the rice occasionally, for 10 minutes. Cooling the rice using a fan gives good flavour, texture and a high-gloss sheen to the rice. The vinegar dressing will be absorbed by the hot rice.
  8. Stop fanning when there's no more visible steam, and all the vinegar dressing has been adsorbed and the rice is shiny.
  9. Your sushi rice is ready to be used.
The Verdict

The rice turned out perfect and deliciously good. It's worth making your own sushi vingear as you will taste a big difference. (I did not add sake or dashi konbu to my rice)

Sushi is easy and cheap to make at home. Best of all, you do not need to use any special equipment to make this and it is fun to make together with family and friends.

Sushi Rice
Notes

To maximize your time in preparing sushi, prepare your rice vinegar dressing, sushi fillings and toppings while rice is draining and soaking.

If you cannot get sushi Rice, replace it with short (round or pearl) or medium grain rice. Do not use Arborio, long-grain, or parboiled white rice.

For rice vinegar, make sure there is no salt or sugar added in it. You can substitute it with apple cider vinegar, and if you don't have apple cider vinegar, use mild white wine vinegar or mild red wine vinegar. Do not use normal white vinegar - it's too harsh.

Dashi konbu - or ( dashi kombu) - dried kelp, it looks like broad, leathery, wrinkly greenish ribbon often coated with a white powder. The darker green the leaves, the better the quality of kelp. Dashi konbu adds a refreshing light ocean taste to sushi rice.

Keeping the rice moist

Cover with a damp, lint free cloth to prevent the rice from drying out while preparing your sushi meal. Do not store sushi rice in the refrigerator. Leave it on the counter covered at room temperature. Sushi rice is best used when it is at room temperature. Cooked sushi rice can be placed in plastic bags and frozen for 3 months, microwave when needed.

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Rolled Roasted Pork

My sincere apologies to my readers for my lack of posts lately. I promise to do better and get back on the wagon on things - it just seems my routine has been shattered after moving house.

Little One was ill with flu and cough (so did Pierre). She seems to have made a fast recovery but she still coughs a bit now and then. Now the super bug has caught up with me and I'm sick again. It seems that as a girl born and raised under the equator, I'll never get used to winter !

Now back to food, while going through my documents, I realized that I have not posted this interesting dish that I made some time back. Who would have thought a combination of pork with dried fruits stuffing would turn out this delicious. Oh... please avoid making the same mistakes as I did.

Rolled Roasted Pork

Serves: 6

Ingredients
  • 2.5 kg boneless pork shoulder with rind/skin
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 375 ml chicken stock

Stuffings

  • 130 g long grain rice
  • 75 g dried apricot (finely chopped)
  • 105 g dried seedless prunes (finely chopped)
Roasted Pork with stuffings
Directions

The Stuffings

  1. Cook the rice in a pot until it is almost cooked and drained. Let it cool.
  2. Mix the rice with finely chopped dried apricot and prunes.

Making the crispy rind strips

  1. Preheat the oven at very high temperature.
  2. Lay the pork with the skin laying on the chopping board.
  3. Using a very sharp knife, slice the skin off the pork leaving about 5 mm of fats on the pork.
  4. Place the skin on a big baking tray or dish and lightly mark the surface diagonally with the knife. Brush it with half of the olive oil and season it with salt.
  5. Roast it in a very hot oven without covering for about 40 minutes until it is crispy and well brown or golden.
  6. Cut it into strips and keep it aside.
  7. Lower the oven temperature.

The Roast

  1. While the skin is being baked, prepare the stuffings.
  2. Lay the pork with the fat part laying on the chopping board. Slice the meat into half on the thickest side without completely cutting it at the end. (in the direction of the longest side).
  3. Spread the stuffing (at the beginning only like you make sushi roll) on the longest side of the meat.
  4. Roll it up tightly and tie up the roast with a cooking string every 2 cm apart.
  5. Place the roast in a baking tray that was used to bake the skin and brush the roast with the remaining olive oil.
  6. Grill it in the hot oven without covering it for about 1 hour until it is perfectly cooked.
  7. Once the roasted pork is cooked, take it out of the oven. Cover it and keep it warm.
  8. Once the sauce is done, serve the roasted pork with the sauce and the crispy strips.

Making the sauce

  1. Keep 1 tbsp of the juice from the roast in a small pan and keep the rest in a bowl.
  2. Heat the pan under medium fire and stir in 1 tbsp of flour. Stir the mixture until it bubbles/boils and the flour turns mousse like or roux to your liking.
  3. Add in little by little the rest of the juice and the chicken stock. Continue to stir until the sauce boils and thickens.
  4. Pour the sauce into a saucière.
Rôti de porc rouléRoasted Pork with stuffings
The Verdict

Although my roast didn't have enough fats to cover it and keep it moist, it still turned out good and tasted fine on its own without the sauce. The taste of it...how shall I describe it? Imagine taking a bite of the roast, you get the tasty taste of meat and fruity flavoured rice - salty, sweet and a bit acid (from the prune) all in one. Pretty interesting tasty combination isn't it. Hmmm... roasted pork !

Notes

Shame on me: I didn't make the crispy rind as my pork roast came with a small layer of fats only.

Mistake #1
I sliced the meat on the wrong side. Instead of length wise, I cut it width wise as you can see from the photo. Duh!

Mistake #2
I bought the meat prepackaged from the supermarket that had hardly any fats. So if you are buying a prepackaged one like me, do ask your butcher for extra skin fats. It would make a difference to the roast as it would keep the meat moist and prevents it from drying out.

Rôti de porc roulé
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Gateau de Riz Meringué

After spending a week in Paris with the public transport on strike, we were lucky enough that the TGV (bullet train) decided to resume work over the weekend and we were able to get home without a hitch 2 weeks ago. Last week it was Air France's employees turn to stop work - in a big way on La Toussaint's holidays. Thousands of peoples ended up as hostages, stuck at the airport with no flight to return home for their work the next day or worst ... some found themselves spending their holidays at the airport going nowhere. Thank goodness, we didn't planned any trip. My friend, Bee Ean posted some funny caricatures about this whole mess.

It seems like November will also be a worthy month for strikes: I just heard on the news that EDF (electricity company), SNCF (trains) & other public transport are threatening to go on strike (again) next week. The fishermen, in difficulties because of rising oil prices, are also demonstrating and threaten to block the petrol supplies. Looks like it will be a fun month for the French and Mr Sarkozy.:-p

Anyway, as I was saying, we got back from Paris to find a day old expired bottle of milk in our fridge. We decided to salvage it by turning it into a all time delicious and favourite French dessert, Gateau de riz or Rice Pudding.

Gateau de riz meringué

(Michèle's recipe)

Ingredients
  • 270 g round grain rice or short-grain rice
  • 50 g butter (approximately)
  • 4 medium sized apples or apricots (peeled and sliced)
  • 2 eggs (separate the yolks and whites)
  • 7 tbsp sugar
  • 1 litre milk
  • a little bit of vanilla extract (bean or essence)
  • a pinch of salt
  • candid fruits (optional)
Directions
  1. Wash the rice and cook it in a pot of boiling water. When it comes to a boiling point again, let it cook for 5 minutes. Then drain the rice.
  2. While the rice is being cooked, sauté the apple slices in a pan with a bit of butter. (Optional: spread some cognac on the apples while it is being cooked.)
  3. In the meantime, boil the milk with the vanilla. Once it's boiling, stir in the drained rice.
  4. When the rice completely absorb the milk, stir in 5 tbsp sugar and eventually the candid fruits if desired. Turn off the heat.
  5. Mix in the butter and stir quickly when adding the egg yolk to avoid it being scrambled.
  6. Spread the rice on a baking dish. Then lay apple slices (or apricots) on top of the rice.
  7. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, delicately fold in the rest of the sugar. Spread it on top of the apple slices
  8. Bake it on grill mode to golden brown the egg white. Be careful, it only takes a few seconds to brown.
  9. Chill the pudding in the refrigerator and serve cold.
The Verdict

As I was pressed for time, I did a simple version of it - just the pudding without fruits and the meringue (we covered it with home-made strawberry jam instead). It still tasted as good but I have to admit that the fruits and meringue version (which Michèle normally makes) give this pudding a special taste and kick. The meringue is soft and creamy - it's like you are eating a coating of melted marshmallows.:-D It's a rather filling dessert that'll keep you from going hungry too soon.

Gateau de riz meringué Rice pudding
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Bibimbap

Bibimbap (literally means "mixed rice" or "mixed meal" ) is one of most popular dish in Korea - a simple yet highly nutritious meal incorporating a variety of different vegetables along with beef and egg. In many parts of Korea, they also serve a vegetarian version, as well as another variation called dolsot bibimbap ("dolsot" meaning "stone pot" ) - served in an iron or stone pot or bowl with a raw egg on top of it. The bottom of the pot is then coated with sesame oil making the layer of the rice touching the bowl golden brown and crispy.

My Korean friend Sol-Yi, who introduced me to Gochujang Bulgoki, also prepared Bibimbap for my Japanese friend Yumi and I for lunch in her tiny student apartment. It was simple yet filling, nutritious and delicious. Both of us loved this dish immediately. Since then, I have made it a few times at home and as I change the ingredients, each time the taste of my Bibimbap is unique and different.

Bibimbap

(Sol-Yi's receipe)

Serves: 2

Ingredients
  • 1 carrot (cut in thin sticks)
  • 1 zucchini (cut into thin sticks)
  • ½ yellow bell pepper (sliced)
  • 125 g ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • Gochujang (Korean chilli paste)
  • Salt, pepper & sesame Oil
  • a pot of Japanese or round rice
Bibimbap ingredients
Directions
  1. Marinate the ground beef with a bit of sesame oil and salt or light soya sauce and pepper.
  2. Heat the wok with a bit of oil, stir-fry the carrot till cooked. Do the same with zucchini and bell pepper.
  3. Heat the wok with some oil, fry the eggs sunny side up.
  4. Lastly stir-fry the ground beef with a bit of oil.
  5. Scoop some cooked rice in a large bowl, put the egg in the centre, then arrange the vegetables and the meat around the egg.
  6. Serve it hot with a spoonful of Gochujang and a drop of sesame oil (optional). Mix (stir) them all together well and enjoy !
  7. Add more Gochujang if needed according to one's taste.
Conclusions

Hehehe... when you mix it up, it really doesn't look that appetizing but it is truly delicious. Normally I always put some bean sprouts in my Bibimbap but this time, I decided to try out with the bell pepper. It gives a different taste but still delicious. I have yet to try it with mushrooms and other chinese vegetables.

Notes

What I like about this dish is its versatility - you can use any type of vegetables. You can turn this dish into totally vegetarian or you can include some meat. Some of the vegetables commonly used in bibimbap include julienned cucumber, zucchini, carrot, mu (white radish), mushrooms, doraji(bellflower root), and nori, as well as spinach, bean sprouts, and gosari (bracken fern stems). Dubu (tofu), either plain or sauteed, or a leaf of lettuce may also be added, and beef can be substituted with chicken or seafood.

Bibimbap
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Pineapple Fried Rice

Pineapple - a good source of manganese, rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin B1, exotic in fragrance and tangy in taste - my family's favourite but strangely not mine. Frankly tried as I might to like this lovely fruit, I'm still not a big fan of it ... perhaps it's the strange juicy mix of sweet and sour that just doesn't please my palate.

Pierre has been asking me to cook pineapple rice for him ever since he had this dish when we were in this Thaï restaurant in Los Angeles 2 years ago but somehow it has always slipped off my mind:-p I wonder why ...hehehe. Then at the supermarket recently, he casually remarked that the big wagon of juicy delicious pineapples would certainly make a delicious plate of pineapple rice... huuu, what, where, which pineapples?

Pineapple Fried Rice

(taken from Thai Cooking)

Ingredients
  • 1 medium ripe pineapple
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 3 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • 1 to 2 tsp red chillies (seeded and chopped)
  • 150 g pork loin or chicken (diced in small bite size)
  • 150 g raw prawns
  • 3 cups cold steamed rice
  • 2 tbsp fresh Thai basil (finely chopped)
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 spring onions (finely sliced)
  • 2 tbsp coriander leaves (finely chopped)
pineapple rice ingredients
Directions
  1. Cut the pineapple in half length-ways. Run a knife around the edge of the pineapple and then cut and scoop out the flesh. Cut into small pieces, discarding the core and set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a wok at high heat. Stir fry garlic, onion and chillies for 1 minute.
  3. Add in the pork; stir-fry, tossing constantly, for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the prawn, stirring for another 3 minutes. Then remove all the meat from the wok and set aside.
  5. Reheat the wok and stir-fry the pineapple pieces for about 3 minutes or until heated through and lightly golden; remove from the wok.
  6. Pour the remaining oil to the wok. When oil is very hot, add the rice and stir fry for 2 minutes, tossing constantly.
  7. Then add the pork, prawns and pineapple and stir thoroughly. Remove the wok from the heat.
  8. Add the basil and fish sauce, and toss well.
  9. Fill the pineapple shells with the fried rice. Scatter spring onions, coriander and chillies over the top and serve immediately.
pineapple fried rice
The Verdict

If you like pineapples, you'll certainly like this one. And even if you are not a big fan of it like me, it's in fact quite nice. Sweet and salty at the same time, and it goes well with any spicy meat dish.

Notes

The book said that it is important that the cooked rice be refrigerated overnight before making fried rice and I forgot about it. So I cooked my rice early in the morning, letting it cool down before putting it in the refrigerator and cook it later that evening. It still works. The rice is easy to cook and separate well in the hot wok. Never try to cook fried rice using freshly cooked steaming rice: I have tried that before and the result I get is a big ball of fried rice.:-p

Reduce the quantity of chilies if you are not used to spiciness or simply leave it out. It still tastes good.

Pineapples are chill-sensitive so do not store them in the refrigerator.

pineapple fried rice
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Saffron & Cardamon Flavoured Rice

(Taken from Indian - Shehzad Husain & Rafi Fernandez)

Serves : 6

Ingredients
  • 450 g / 2 ¼ cups Basmati rice
  • 750 ml / 3 cups Water
  • 3 Green cardamom pods
  • 2 Cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp crushed Saffron strands
  • 2 tbsp Milk (semi-skimmed)
Directions
  1. Wash the rice at least twice and place it in a medium saucepan with the water.
  2. Toss all the whole spices into the saucepan along with the salt. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, place the saffron and semi-skimmed milk in a small pan and warm. Alternatively, put the ingredients in a cup and warm for 1 minute in the microwave.
  4. Check the rice to see if it is fully cooked. Use a slotted spoon to lift out a few grains and press the rice between your index finger and thumb. It should feel soft on the outside but still a little hard in the middle.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully drain the rice through a sieve (strainer).
  6. Transfer the rice back into the pan and pour the saffron and milk over the top of the rice.
  7. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and place the pan back on a medium heat for 7-10 minutes.
  8. After cooking, remove the pan from the heat and leave the rice to stand for a further 5 minutes before serving.
The Verdict

It was good but it wasn't as fragrant as I thought it would be. Everyone seems to enjoy it though. I have an empty pot at the end of dinner.

Perhaps this is because I used the rice cooker instead and I put a little bit too much water -the rice wasn't fluffy and loose. Unfortunately yesterday night I was rushed for time to prepare dinner so I didn't try out their method.

And also the book asked for green cardamom pods but I didn't have any so I used white cardamom instead. I don't know whether this has any effect on the final results or not. Will have to try this recipe another time and let you know the differences.

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