First, the terms. Sushi actually means rice that has been boiled and then sweetened with rice vinegar (not the entire roll or fish). Nori is the delightfully salty seaweed wrapped around a sushi roll, and sashimi is the delectable thin slices of raw fish.
Sushi-making wizardry, however, is not magically learned overnight.
“When I was learning to be a sushi chef, I spent my first months solely doing prep work. I prepared cucumbers, carrots and vegetables for six months. Then, after a year, I was able to begin work as a sushi chef,” said Sushi Neko’s chef Jeab Chansahdee.
“The rice is the most difficult part to handle. It sticks to the hands and everywhere,” said Jack Surya, owner of Jiro Sushi, 1101 NW 23rd St. “Rolling out the sushi rolls and cutting them perfectly takes a while to learn.”
Sushi variations and trends abound as well.
“Deep-fried ingredients are more popular here in the U.S., and requests for spicy mayonnaise are on the increase,” said Jiro Sushi manager Mickey Chan.
It’s easier than you think to shop for the sushi tools of the trade. Start with a bamboo sushi-rolling mat, a wooden bowl for mixing rice and a rice paddle for stirring.
Some of the most important utensils to own — sushi and sashimi knives — are found at Super Cao Nguyen, 2668 N. Military Ave. Ask for them at the front manager’s counter. (Serrated knives do not work; they tear fish.)
Sushi rice, rice vinegar and soy sauce can be found at almost any grocery store, along with nori (seaweed). Other types of rice won’t do; the stickiness of sushi rice is essential.
On to the produce section. Pick up some cucumber, carrots and scallions for basic sushi rolls. Spicy hot wasabi paste is easily found in a tube, as is sweet and tangy pickled ginger.
Whole Foods Market, 6001 N. Western Ave., sells sashimi-grade frozen salmon and yellowfin tuna in a special section. This fish is specifically for sushi, “super frozen” to maintain peak freshness — using fish other than super frozen is, of course, never recommended.
Despair not; there are instructions on how to slice the fish and roll the sushi on the packaging.
Insider chef tips include having a bowl of water to wet hands and moisten the nori, having a wet towel to frequently wipe the sushi knife, using a good cutting board for slicing rolls and remembering to work quickly when making rolls because the nori dries up fast.
Any serving plates will do, but authentic sushi dishes are so beautiful.
You can find sushi presentation bowls, miso soup bowls, spoons, teapots and sake serving sets at Sabi, 3703 N. Western Ave.
Learn the basics of sushi-making at Sushi Neko, 4318 N. Western Ave. Classes are offered once a month and cost $63.19 per person. (Dates and times vary. Call Sushi Neko at 528-8862 for reservations.)