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5 Tips on Perfect Sushi-Making From the Experts at Nobu

A hand-rolled sushi with scallops and cucumbers, masago (fish eggs) roll, different types of nigiri, cut California and spicy tuna rolls, and a new invention by our photographer aptly titled, “The Margaux.” photo by Margaux Anbouba
A hand-rolled sushi with scallops and cucumbers, masago (fish eggs) roll, different types of nigiri, cut California and spicy tuna rolls, and a new invention by our photographer aptly titled, “The Margaux.” photos by Margaux Anbouba

Sushi can be a polarizing topic for many people. There are those that can’t seem to wrap their brain around chewing raw fish and those who are such avid fanatics that they seek out sushi eating opportunities at every corner. I fall somewhere in the middle of these two reactions. I like to trick myself into thinking that I’m a sushi connoisseur when really, my palette is about as diverse as the California roll. I can handle crab meat, but ask me to eat a piece of raw tuna and I’ll promptly gag.

Regardless of how I feel on the matter, I couldn’t deny the chance to learn the tricks of trade in making sushi myself. This intricate process was shown to us by the expert chefs at Nobu yesterday for a technique class in perfecting the art of sushi. Their task wasn’t easy. They had a table full of media personnel to work with, all of whom seemed to share my lack of experience in the kitchen.

I noticed several flustered faces and a lot of talk about having anxiety attacks while our chefs were walking us through the steps, though I’m not sure why. Really, people, making sushi is not rocket science, but it definitely takes a bit of focus and perseverance. Here are some tips I picked up from our helpful chef, Sohta:

A California roll, spicy tuna roll, and several types of nigiri including shrimp, yellow tail, salmon, and tuna.
A California roll, spicy tuna roll, and several types of nigiri including shrimp, yellow tail, salmon, and tuna.
Sushi condiments including sesame seeds, masago, ginger, green onions, wasabi, and spicy mayonnaise.
Sushi condiments including sesame seeds, masago, ginger, green onions, wasabi, and spicy mayonnaise.
  1. Make no mistake, sticky rice is in fact sticky. Your most faithful ally during this entire process will be water. Not only does wetting your hands keep the rice from sticking to your fingers, but it can also help to mold your rice ball tremendously.
  2. When you work with the seaweed, always keep the shiny side away from you. It seemed like every roll we learned, we were working on the opposite side of the wrap.
  3. The amount of sticky rice you need is equivalent to how much you can roll into a ball with one hand. Any more or less than that probably won’t cut it.
  4. While your hands are capable of making haphazard rolls, having a sushi-rolling mat is what makes them look so pretty and professional. You’ll also have the option of making your sushi square shaped or round.
  5. I don’t know about you, but after eating a lot of sushi, a feeling of intense dehydration tends to wash over me. I’m not sure if it’s the vinegar from the sticky rice or the salt from the seaweed, but in case you’re feeling a bit cotton-mouthed, try adding more spicy mayonnaise or other condiments to keep your sushi moist and easier to eat.

 
Other than these easy tips, making sushi basically encompasses the act of spreading sticky rice onto seaweed, filling the wrap with your favored ingredients, and rolling it all up to create a long sushi roll that you can cut into your desired pieces.

I may have been a bit overconfident after the class since I felt the need to ask chef Sohta when we could start working there, given that we’d taken the training seminar and whatnot. He was kind enough to smile and nod, but in a way that let me know he was thinking, “Yeah, you think you know, but you have no idea.” Okay, so maybe my work wouldn’t pass at Nobu, but I still feel like I learned a cooking skill that I can now brag about to everyone else, regardless of how amateur it may be.

D Magazine intern Iris Zubair graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in December 2011 with a BA in Magazine Journalism. She has written for Austin Monthly Magazine and UT’s student newspaper, The Daily Texan.

 

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