If you’re a sushi lover, you probably have a list of your favorite rolls, know which fish you’re in the mood for, which additional condiments come with each roll (if any), and know exactly how much wasabi you can handle. However, this list leaves out one of the most important components of sushi: the rice. At Sushi Joa, your Kirkland Japanese Restaurant, we understand that perfecting rice is a vital part of making the best authentic Japanese sushi. If you’re adventurous and want to try to make sushi at home, here are our tips for good sushi rice:

Pick the Right Rice

For sushi, the best rice to use is a short- to medium-grain; many options will specifically say sushi rice, but other alternatives are a short-grained Japonica or medium-grain Calrose. Also important to making good sushi rice is the texture. In this sense, sushi rice is a bit like pasta in that it should be al dente. With sushi rice, you want each individual grain to maintain its texture to balance the texture of the fish; the rice shouldn’t be mushy, but it shouldn’t be hard in the center either.

Preparing It

Despite what you may assume, the first step to making sushi rice should never be dumping dry rice into a pot or rice cooker. The first step is to get rid of the powdery coating and a bit of the starch from the dry grains. To do this, first soak the rice in cool water for half an hour to an hour. Then, strain that water away and rinse it twice more. This will remove a good deal of the starchy rice fragments that could make the rice go mushy. However, don’t try to continue rinsing until the water runs clear. Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to cook the rice as directed by the packaging.

Seasoning

Japanese food is known for its simple clean flavors. This is what makes Japanese cuisine so simple yet so difficult to make well. When it comes to sushi rice, it should be seasoned, but delicately so. To do this, you’ll want to make sushi-su, which is a mixture of rice wine vinegar, sugar, and salt. The simple ratio is 4, 2, 1:  4 parts rice wine vinegar, 2 parts sugar, 1 part salt. This means 1 cup of rice wine vinegar would call for half a cup of sugar and a quarter cup of salt. Warm the vinegar on the stove and stir in the sugar and salt until they have dissolved then remove and let the mixture cool to room temperature.

Mixing It Together

Mixing the sushi-su and the rice is the most labor-intensive step to making sushi rice. Don’t worry, it’s not difficult! However, you may want a second set of hands to help you, if possible. Once the rice is cooked, move it from the pot or rice cooker to a large mixing bowl. Don’t use a metal bowl, as this will leave your rice with a metallic taste, but wood, ceramic, glass, or durable plastic are all good options.

Pour a small amount of the rice wine vinegar mixture over the rice, then use a small spatula (or, preferably, the paddle that came with your rice cooker) to turn the rice over. While you’re doing this, you should also be fanning the rice with a fan or a piece of cardboard to help the rice cool – this is where the second set of hands may come in handy. Repeat this process until the grains are shiny and beginning to separate rather than clump together.

At this point, you should have delicious sushi rice just like you can get at our Japanese restaurant in Kirkland! If you want delicious sushi and other Japanese cuisine without all that time and effort, come to Sushi Joa today!