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What Is Sushi Rice?
Sushi rice is plain short-grain Japanese rice that has been steamed and flavored with vinegar, salt, and sugar. Sushi can feature all different types of fish and vegetables, but it always contains sticky, chewy sushi rice. In fact, the word sushi, which means “sour-tasting,” originally referred to the fermented rice used in sushi-making. Nowadays, the subtle sourness of seasoned sushi rice typically comes from rice vinegar.
How to Season Sushi Rice
Sushi rice is seasoned with “sushi vinegar,” a combination of rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and sometimes kombu, an umami-rich type of seaweed. (The kombu can also be added straight to the cooking pot, or left out entirely.) You can purchase pre-made sushi vinegar, but making your own allows you to control the flavor. If you make homemade sushi rice a lot, consider whipping up a big batch of sushi vinegar to season future pots of rice. Once you have the vinegar, you’ll need to carefully incorporate it into the rice by slashing and flipping with a sushi paddle, rather than stirring, which can smash the grains of rice.
How to Tell if Your Sushi Rice Is Perfect
Perfect sushi rice consists of separate grains that are chewy—not mushy—and yet stick together, making it easy to form the rice into balls and rolls. Sushi rice should form nice clumps when picked up with chopsticks, and should taste well seasoned but not overpower the delicate flavor of raw fish within a sushi roll.
Perfect Sushi Rice Recipe
Prep Time40 min
Total Time1 hr 10 min
- 2 cups Japanese short-grain rice
- 2-inch piece kombu (optional)
- ⅓ cup rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- In a large bowl, use your fingers to wash rice with cold water until water is almost clear, changing water frequently (about 4–8 times). Soak clean rice in fresh cold water for 30 minutes. Drain rice in a fine-mesh sieve.
- Cook rice on the stovetop or in an electric rice cooker with the kombu. If cooking on the stovetop, combine rice and 2 cups of water in a medium pot over medium heat. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook until water is completely absorbed, about 12 minutes. If using a rice cooker, use the “sushi” setting if available and the amount of water indicated for three cups of rice.
- In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and whisk until the sugar dissolves.
- Wet the inside of a large bowl with a damp cloth and transfer rice to slightly wet bowl, leaving behind any rice that’s stuck to the bottom of the pot. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the rice. Use a wooden spoon or plastic rice paddle to slice through rice at a 45-degree angle, flipping the rice over in between strokes.
- Once the rice is completely mixed, cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel until ready to use, because you want hot rice when making sushi.
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