Making rice is easy, right? That’s what we’ve been told our whole lives. It’s a staple of weeknight dinners, simple yet easy to dress up, and ideal when topped with luscious raw fish. How can you mess up rice? Yet not all kinds of rice are simple to make. Anyone who’s ever had a dense grocery-store tuna roll or a dry, crumbly piece of nigiri knows that sushi rice can be tricky.
That’s why our friends at ChefSteps asked Taichi Kitamura of Seattle’s Sushi Kappo Tamura to walk them through the process of making the best damn sushi rice you’ve ever had. The key is attention to detail — picking the right kind of rice, washing it clean of all its impurities, seasoning it just enough without going overboard and using the right tools to do it all. The results are consistent — perfectly plump, perfectly seasoned little rice pillows ready for whatever delicacy you want to top them with.
Short-grained sushi rice, as needed
Rice vinegar, as needed
Cane sugar, as needed
Sea salt, as needed
Why use short-grained rice?
It’s shorter, plumper and stickier than long-grain rice, and it’s what gives sushi rice its oomphy texture and bite.
Do I really need a rice cooker?
That really is a personal choice. Do you make a lot of rice? Do you like having perfectly cooked rice without having to monitor your stove? Then yes, you should have a rice cooker.
Why do I need to wash my rice off?
Washing rice in cold water removes the residual starch. Extra starch makes cooked rice creamy, and while this is great for dishes like risotto, it’s not great when you’re pairing that rice with raw fish.
1. Rinse your rice with water to remove excess starch. Keep rinsing until the water runs clear.
2. Soak the cleaned rice in cold water for 15 minutes — this will help it cook better. Without soaking, the grains will expand quickly and lead to mushy rice.
3. Use the ratio of water to rice that your rice cooker recommends, and go ahead and cook that rice. Follow the directions on the cooker — this should take roughly 45-60 minutes.
4. While the rice cooks, make the vinegar seasoning or sharizu. Don’t get too worried, but this will take a little math on your part. You want a total of 1 fluid ounce of seasoning for every cup of rice. The mixture uses nine parts rice vinegar, four parts cane sugar and one part sea salt. We recommend making a big batch; it’s better to have extra than not enough!
5. Once you’ve mixed the vinegar, sugar, and salt together, cook for 2-3 minutes over medium heat until everything dissolves.
6. Remove the rice from the cooker and place it in a large bowl. The bottom layer of rice may be scorched, so discard it or use it for another purpose.
7. Puncture the mound of rice to allow it to better absorb the seasoning. Then pour in the vinegar mixture and stir the whole thing. Make sure to keep the sides of the bowl clean while mixing — any stray grains of rice will become hard and dry.
Tip: Keep your paddle or mixing device moist to prevent sticking. Have a wet cloth ready.
8. You can serve this rice after a quick 10-minute rest or reserve while you tend to other parts of the meal. To keep it nice and moist, just place a wet towel over the rice while you slice some sashimi or ready your rolls.
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