Sushi refers to the rice. The rice is cooked up and mixed with a rice vinegar and sugar mixture and usually has some nori (sea weed) cooked with it.
Once the rice has cooled it can be served in a number of ways with many different items to add flavor and interest.
Chirashi - A bowl of sushi rice topped with a variety of vegetables and fish. It will typically have ten different items.
Maki - Sushi rolls - The sushi rice is spread on sheets of nori, some vegetables, fish or combination of items is placed in the center and it is rolled up. It is then sliced into small cylinders.
Hand Rolls - A sheet of nori rolled up like an ice cream cone and filled with sushi rice and other items.
Nigiri - an oblong lump of rice formed and topped with fish or vegetables.
Sashimi refers to the fish served without any sushi rice.
To make the classic rolled sushi us Westerners love so much, follow these steps:
Feel the nori sheet from both sides and you will find one side to be a bit smooth and the other a little rough. The nori should lay on the rolling mat with the rough side facing upwards.
Get your hands wet, and make about a handful of rice to a ball of rice. It's important to keep your hands wet while working with sushi rice because it is sticky. When you work with the nori though, you should keep them as dry as you.
Gently put the rice ball in the middle of the nori sheet, and start spreading it equally on the nori, creating a layer of rice covering almost the entire sheet except the upper margin of about 2 cm that should be kept uncovered. Later on, the margins need to be empty of rice in order to close to sushi roll properly.
Now it's time to place a slice of fish (preferably no more than one) on the edge of the nori, along with 1-3 pre-cut slices of vegetables (carrot, cucumber, green onion, asparagus, and so on... allow yourself to get wild on this matter).
Using the closer edge of the rolling mat, close on the filling with the nori making a rectangular shaped hill and tighten it from above.
Move forward, continue rolling in the rectangular hill steps, keeping it tight with every move until you reach the end of the nori. Put pressure on the roll from all three sides at all time, especially on stops to allow it to roll tightly.
Use a wet, sharp knife to cut the roll in to little sushi units. 6-8 units per roll - that's your call.
Enjoy your maki-sushi roll!
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