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How to make sushi at home

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 (iStock)

Sushi, which has its origins in Southeast Asia, is a popular Japanese dish that is regularly enjoyed in the West. You don't need to go to your local sushi joint for delicious rolls. Here are some easy steps for making sushi at home.

Start with sushi rice

To make sushi, you need sushi rice. Also known as "shari," the rice is the building block of sushi.

Start with short or medium-grain rice. You may even be able to find rice that is labeled as "sushi rice."

Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Use a rice cooker or steamer. Add the rice to the steamer with equal parts water, and then follow the directions for the machine. You can also cook the rice on the stove. Once the rice is cooked, move it to a large, non-metallic mixing bowl.

Now you need to make the vinegar solution. Some recipes call for sake or rice wine in addition to the rice vinegar, while others stick with a mixture of rice wine, sugar and salt. Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Let the vinegar mixture cool to room temperature.

Pour the vinegar mixture over the rice and fold so the vinegar reaches all of the rice. Be careful not to mush the rice. It should have a shiny appearance when you are finished. Let the rice reach room temperature before you use it to make sushi. You can try substituting brown rice for the white rice if you are looking for a healthier take on sushi.

Making nigiri sushi

Now you are ready to roll, or not, depending on what kind of sushi you are making.

Nigiri sushi is a clump of rice with a long, thin piece of fish or egg situated on top. Prepare your main ingredient, called the neta. You need to keep your hands cool and wet, so dip them in ice water and then rice vinegar. Scoop some rice with your hand. Squeeze it so that it looks like a little pillow.

Take your neta in one hand and use your index finger to rub wasabi down one side of it. Place the fish on the rice. You can follow one of the different methods to make nigiri if you want to ensure that the ingredient stays on the rice.

Assemble sushi rolls 

To make sushi rolls, you need sheets of seaweed, called noriIn addition to the rice and fillings, you also need a bamboo rolling mat. A clean dishtowel with plastic wrap on top will do in a pinch, but it may not work as well, and you can find the bamboo mats for a couple of bucks.

Take a sheet of seaweed and place it shiny side down. You should be able to see a difference in the appearance of the two sides. Cut the sheet in half lengthwise or fold it in half because nori rips easily. Place one sheet horizontally at the end of your mat. Grab a handful of sushi rice and gently spread it on the seaweed. If you are making your sushi with the seaweed on the outside, leave about an inch of space at the top and bottom of the nori. If you plan on making sushi with the rice on the outside, which is how California rolls are usually assembled, cover the nori and then carefully flip the sheet over.

Add your neta. Cut fish, cucumber, avocado and whatever else you want in your sushi into long, thin pieces. Place the pieces in the middle of the sheet. If you over-stuff the inside, your sushi will be harder to roll and more likely to fall apart. Start rolling the mat away from you, pressing as you go. Keep the sides even, and apply a little bit of pressure to make sure the roll stays together.

Remove the roll from the bamboo mat, and place it on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll in half. Take the two pieces and place them next to each other horizontally so you can cut them again at the same time. Serve with wasabi, pickled ginger and soy sauce, and enjoy.