There are a ton of sushi ingredients and condiments on the market that you could have in your home kitchen. But you only need a few basic sushi ingredients to get started making good sushi. Outlined below are the basic items you need to get started. Keep reading on!
Sushi Rice (Sushi-Meshi)
Without any doubt, Sushi rice plays the most important role in making good Sushi. It also has one of the most pleasing textures in the world. Sushi rice is made by cooking a super premium grade short or medium Japanese white rice and then mixing it with rice vinegar, salt and sugar mixture while fanning it to cool it off. This combinations of ingredients and activities together make the sushi rice fluffy, but still firm, and with a shiny sheen to it. Sushi is sticky, gooey and chewy – in the best possible way. And the sweetness from the sugar and the bright pop of vinegar added to sushi rice don’t hurt anything either.
Learn how to prepare the perfect sushi rice at home, and you will be able to make your great sushi rolls at any time you want. Cooking the sushi rice at home might look complicated, but as you go along with it, you might notice that it’s just like making your ordinary rice, only with some ingredients added to it, and a bit of Japanese methodology.
Japanese rice vinegar (Komezu)
Rice vinegar is another important ingredient of sushi. For those who don’t know, sushi gets its name from vinegar, SU meaning vinegar and SHI meaning the skill of hand. Rice vinegar is a type of vinegar made from fermented rice in China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam. Japanese sushi vinegar is around 5% acidity and is rather mild and slightly sweet in taste. The ready-to-use Japanese sushi vinegar is easy to use and of very high quality. The right taste is obtained by adding salt and sugar into the sushi vinegar. Rice vinegar is used in combination with salt and sugar to form the seasoning for your sushi rice giving it that sweet and tart flavor that we all recognize in good sushi rice.
Although Japanese rice vinegar can be made at home, it can also be readily bought in any local Japanese grocery store.Rice vinegar is not only used to cooked rice to be used in making sushi, it is also used to make sunomono (vinegar dishes), tsukemono (pickles), nimono (simmered dishes) as well as used in salad dressing varieties popular in the west, such as sesame dressing or ginger.
Kombu is technically an edible kelp from the brown algae family known as Laminariaceae. It is widely eaten in most East Asian countries such as China, Korea, Japan. The majority of the available Kombu is cultivated in the seas of Korea and Japan. Over 90% of the Japanese variety is harvested from around Hakkaido, which is the second largest island of Japan.
In Japan, Kombu is a sort of sea-weed used in many Japanese foods. It may be pickled with sweet and sour flavoring, cut into strips about 2 cm wide and 5 cm length. These are often eaten with green tea. It can be used to make pickled or added to the sushi rice during cooking. It may also be eaten fresh in sashimi.
But perhaps it is a dried seaweed mainly used in dashi, a soup stock used in Japan similar to the way that we use chicken stock here in the United States. Dashi is made by putting dried kombu in cold water and heating it to near-boiling.
How to use Kombu in sushi?
Although its most notable use is in making Dashi, it is also one of the “required” sushi ingredients for making the perfect sushi rice. This is not used as the actual wrapping but instead is for flavoring the sushi rice. When cooking the sushi rice, just before you turn on the rice cooker, throw in a few small pieces of Kombu (5x5cm per 3 cups of rice). It is helpful to make slits in one or more sides of the Kombu to help release its flavors. Kombu typically gives the sushi rice a hint of dashi flavor.
Kombu can be found at your local Asian food store or Japanese market. It can also be found online here.
Nori is the Japanese name for edible seaweed species of the red algae (though it looks green) genus Pyropia, including P. tenera and P. yezoensis. Nori is gotten from the sea, washed with water and then passed through a shredding machine to make it smaller. These small pieces are mixed with fresh water, passed through rectangular or square frames, drained and then dried on a heated surface. The results are dried edible seaweed sheets that are immediately packed and sealed to keep them from absorbing moisture.
Sushi Nori, which you use for rolling the sushi ingredients in, is very important. Not any type of Nori can be used for making sushi. To get the good sushi, you need to use high quality nori. The taste and quality of the Nori is a function of location, water temperature and mineral content of the sea. This might explain why the best Nori is usually produced on the Ariake Bay, Kyushu Island of Southern Japan. The finest Nori for sushi is the one which is uniformly thick and very dark in color (like black). The dark Nori is rich in protein, vitamin A, calcium, and iron.
Nori is used in most kinds of sushi. Its mild, salty and unique seaweed flavor makes a perfect paring with sushi rice, fish and the other ingredients of sushi. A fresh nori should come very dry. But it will become sticky once it interacts with the moist sushi rice. Thus, it acts as a firm yet sticky skin for the sushi when wrapping the rice. So to make the most of the nori, it must be kept in a dry environment before used or it will not stick well and the sushi will fall apart soon.
As in most sushi ingredients, you can get Nori in most Asians stores or Japanese markets. There are many suppliers at different costs and values. In order to get the good sushi rolls, it’s important to find the good Nori.
For culinary, and sanitary reasons, the freshness and the quality of raw fish must be superior to that of cooked fish. Sushi chefs are trained to recognize important attributes, including firmness, color, smell, and freedom from parasites that may go undetected in the commercial inspection.
If you want to use raw fish in your sushi, be careful where you buy it. Not any raw fish can be used for sushi – Look for sushi- or sashimi-grade fish. Regular fishes are not handled with the intention of raw preparation as they are likely to contain parasites and bacteria. You may want to ask at a local sushi bar or check out Asian markets.
Here’re some popular fish types that you can use to make sushi:
Bluefin Tuna (Maguro)
Bluefin tuna is one of the prized fish in Japan – so much so that only 20% of the Pacific and Atlantic bluefin tunas are consumed outside of the country. Bluefin tuna is also one of the most popular fish found in sushi. It has a firm yet tender texture and fresh, mild flavor.
The Japanese have been using tuna for making sushi since the mid 19th century when a chef marinated some pieces with soy sauce and called it nigirizushi.
These days, sushi chefs prepare three different cuts of this fish: akami, chu-toro, and o-toro. Akami is the red meat that is at the top of the back of the tuna. Chu-toro is the milky-pink marbled meat which is located in the belly of the tuna. It has a rich buttery texture. O-toro is the fatty part of the tuna which is found at the fattiest portion of the belly. Toro is considered the most prized and expensive part of the bluefin tuna. It has a richer texture and flavor.
Along with bluefin tuna, Salmon is one of the easiest fish for sushi novices to enjoy. It is the fish of choice for making nigiri sushi. It has a soft texture and a pleasing, mild flavor and its flesh could appear as peachy orange or deep red. Many sushi lovers insist on salmon even when they are presented with many other options. So salmon can be found in almost every sushi restaurant. The fatty part of the salmon, called “Beni toro” in Japanese, is considered the most prized part of the salmon. In addition to its tasteful freshness, salmon also contains nourishing protein and two types of omega-3 fatty acids: DHA and EPA, which the body cannot produce by itself.
Japanese amberjack or yellowtail (Hamachi)
This fish is a seasonal favorite in the cold months because of its high content. Prepared either cooked in a roll or raw as nigiri, Japanese amberjack has a buttery texture with a bold tangy flavor. In Japan, about 120,000 tonnes of Japanese amberjack are sold every year. While the fish reach 3 kilograms are sold which is called hamachi, others left to grow bigger till they attain a weight of 5 kilograms is called buri. American sushi chefs believe that Japanese amberjack is better for sashimi or nigiri since the marbled fat give a versatile flavor profile that can make a dish which is rich, salty and spicy.
Mackerel is generally more attractive to the Japanese than to us sushi-rookie Westerners. In fact, many non-native Japanese avoid eating mackerel at sushi restaurants. The fish gets a bad rap for being “fishy”, with a tendency for the potent flavor to linger on one’s palate (or hands) for extended periods of time.
On contrary, Mackerel is quite popular in Japan and it is commonly served as sushi. It is especially healthy that is packed with omega-3’s, DHA, and EPA. Mackerel is a shiny fish that has a potent fishy flavor and aroma. There are four types of mackerel most commonly served in sushi restaurants.
- Saba – is cured for hours with vinegar and salt before being served as sushi. This mackerel is known to be a fall-season fish.
- Spanish mackerel (sawara) – a large variety with a whiter color. The fish’s best season is spring and it is very popular from spring to early summer.
- Horse mackerel (aji) – This fish is smaller than other types of mackerel and has a lighter flavor. Its best season is summer.
- Mackerel pike (sanma) – This fish actually belong to another family. Sanma was not commonly served as sushi in Japan until recently. The best season is from late summer to fall.
Fun fact: While tuna doesn’t have “mackerel” in its name, it also belongs to the mackerel family.
Albacore tuna (Bontoro)
Albacore tuna, the bluefin tuna’s smaller cousin, became a popular sushi fish in recent times. Since albacore lives in the warmer parts of the sea, it has a more delicate flesh and smoother texture compared to bluefin tuna. Sushi chefs use a method called tataki in order to further concentrate the albacore’s flavor. They grill it quickly, cook the outside and then drunk it on ice water to tighten up the flesh. Albacores are one of the most affordable fishes, so in Japan, you will find them in kaiten-sushi (belt-conveyor sushi chains). At sushi restaurants in the U.S, this type of tuna will often run a bit cheaper than all other types of tuna.
There are some vegetables that show up in sushi more than others such as cucumbers, avocado, carrots, spring onions and steamed Asparagus. You should find out which types of sushi you want to make and then get needed vegetable(s) depending on your favorite type. If you don’t know what types of the sushi are, then visit our types of sushi page to learn more.
Japanese horseradish also called “wasabi”, is a Japanese spice root and has a potent, hot flavor, but not in the same way as capsaicin in hot peppers produces heat. It generates vapors that are felt more in the nasal passages than on the tongue. Wasabi will add a spicy punch to your favorite sushi roll. Start with a tiny dot of it the first time you try it.
For most people, wasabi is an important member of sushi table. Some like to swipe wasabi onto the sushi rice when making sushi, and some prefer to add it to the soy sauce bowl for dipping.
Wasabi products for sushi can be found in your local Japanese grocery or Asian food stores in either paste or powder form.
Nothing is as good as dipping your sushi roll in soy sauce combined with some wasabi and taking a juicy bite. So how could anybody eat sushi without it?
Soy sauce, also known as shoyu, is a dark, salty sauce. It is traditionally used in many Asian cuisines, including Japanese sushi. It helps enhance the umami flavors of the sushi ingredients. It may be served in a small bowl (per person) for dipping. It is made using the paste of soybeans that have been boiled and mixed with grain (rice, wheat, or barley), Aspergillus sojae and brine. You can choose between low-salted soy sauce or the sweet sashimi-shoyu.
Sushi ginger (Gari)
Wasabi’s pink (or yellow) companion is thin-sliced pickled ginger, also called gari. Gari is a sharp, fragrant and slightly sweet condiment. It is there to be eaten between pieces of sushi roll (or with it if you prefer) as well as before and after a sushi meal in order to cleanse the palate. It is made by salting slices of ginger, then pickling them in a solution of sugar and rice vinegar.
It is a common item that you can find in Asian markets in various sizes. Not much of this condiment needed for one meal of sushi, so the smaller jars are commonly the ones taken.
These are some ingredients and condiments which are considered “classics” due to the traditions and tastes if Japanese cuisine. However, If you’re making you sushi at home, you ‘re free to put whatever you want in your sushi.