Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tuna Nigiri Sushi - Video Series

My experience with sushi goes way back, to the mid-1970's. Little did I know that when I moved to Los Angeles, an explosion of sushi dining was underway. My first job in the "biz" was as a video editor for a Japanese-owned post production company.

I was lucky enough to eat out almost every week at a different sushi restaurant -- on the company's dime! Growing up in the South, we did not eat raw fish, just raw oysters. Everything else was fried and I liked it that way. I was quite wary when my first plate of raw fish was placed in front of me, but I knew it was a test to get along with everyone at work -- I just dived in.

My workmates knew this and so they started me out on milder cuts of raw fish like tuna and salmon. While the first bite was more fish-tasting than I expected, it was not objectionable. I immediately liked the sensuous tender texture. And watching the sushi chef in action, I knew there was care and expertise at work behind the refrigerated glass counters -- displaying clear plastic wrapped filets of beautiful orange marbled salmon, rosy red tuna, and chilling cuts of seafood I'd never seen.

I quickly moved on to musky silver-skinned mackerel and pungent creamy sea urchin. It was literally love at first bite.

For my first sushi stop motion animated video I prepare Tuna Nigiri Sushi. It's a gateway sushi that most novices start with. But it's also sushi that's highly prized when done right. I was spoiled in my first sushi dining experiences, but I won't let that stop me from cutting corners, getting seafood cheaply wherever I can.

I can only make this video because of the generosity of my neighbor Don. He goes out to Baja, Mexico once or twice a year deep sea fishing for bluefin (maguro) and yellowtail (hamachi) tuna. And, I am the sometime recipient of his largess. He'll knock on my door and say: "Come on over with an empty bag, we had a good catch this time." And he hands out 4 or 5 of the most beautiful vacuumed packages of fresh caught tuna -- for free! To see what I am writing about, just click here to see the video post I did last month.

It pays to be friendly and chat with your neighbors. But if you are not as lucky as I am, don't worry, I have plenty of sushi recipes coming up that anyone can afford, like a California Roll recipe that's made with fake crab (which is priced cheaply at any market.) And if you are not a pescatarian, then do check back because I have another vegetarian sushi option: Portabella Mushroom Sushi.

The thing with sushi is what a big deal the Japanese make of it. Now I'm all for perfection, but they take it way too far. The rice has to be short-grained sushi rice and the fish preparation is way too convoluted. (Just check out the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi sometime - click here to see the trailer.) If you can find fresh fish from your local grocery fishmonger or a fisherman friend that's good enough. As for rice, I use regular long grain rice, it makes a decent sushi rice and the average person will not know the difference. My Sushi Rice video recipe is here.

Making Nigiri Sushi is not that hard. You will get better after a few tries at it. The hardest part is dealing with Japanese-style sticky rice. You want to make small 2 1/2 x1 1/2 inch ovals of rice that the raw slices of fish rest on. But if you keep your hands moistened with water, even that becomes easy to do. I would recommend steaming some Sushi Rice using my recipe and practice making a dozen or so ovals of rice - before you defrost and slice the raw tuna. That way you don't waste any expensive fish. And use a cheap topping like my recipe from a couple of weeks ago of Nigiri Carrot Sushi (click here to get the details.)

As for the raw fish you want to make blocks that are 1 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches wide and as long as the tuna steaks come. Then you just slice them across the grain into individual sushi pieces that fit on the sushi rice ovals. The tuna slices and rice ovals don't have to be a perfect uniform size. The tuna slice can be larger than the rice oval. And the rice ball can be square or longer -- it will taste delicious no matter how it looks. Is the rice oval lopsided and the tuna slice crooked? Don't worry about it; you'll get better with practice. Just go for it!

If you've had sushi before, you'll notice there is a slight heat that follows the cool tuna and sweet rice. That comes from a small smear of wasabi hidden underneath the tuna slice. Wasabi is a spicy root that is shaved and turned into a green paste. It is very similar to grated horseradish. Oriental and specialty markets carry it frozen. But I've substituted horseradish, and if you don't tell anyone, they will not notice the difference. Of course, you can leave it out completely and go for a mild sushi eating experience.

The final accompaniment to eating sushi is soy sauce. I like to use low sodium, as soy sauce is too salty and overpowers the mild flavor of some fish. For Nigiri sushi you normally dip the fish side into soy sauce, not the rice side. You don't need to soak the fish either, just a thin coat of soy sauce is all that's needed. Since you have wasabi in the assembled sushi pieces you don't need to mix wasabe into the soy sauce (as may sushi bar patrons mistakenly do.) Click here to see a video about how to eat sushi.

Well that's a quick rundown on making and eating Tuna Nigiri Sushi. Just check out my fun stop motion video below to see how simple and quick it is to do.

So, make sure to wash your hands before handling raw fish. And check back for more tasty and cheap$kate sushi recipes.

Tuna Nigiri Sushi  - VIDEO 

Play it here, video runs 2 minutes, 14 seconds.

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.

 Ingredients (about 6-8 pieces)
  • 4-6 ounces of raw fish - I used tuna. Okay to use any fresh seafood like: salmon, red snapper, yellowtail, halibut, seabass, flounder, sea urchin, fish eggs, and scallop. Cooked seafood includes: octopus, squid, mackerel, shrimp, eel and crab or fake krab. For a typical sushi restaurant seafood list, click here.
  • 1 cup of sushi rice - depending how large you make the rice ovals for the sushi slices, you may need a little more. Click here to see my Sushi Rice recipe with text and photos, or scroll down to the end of this post to see the video only.
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce - I like to use low sodium for dipping the prepared sushi. Mix in a little wasabi or horseradish for heat, optional.
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated wasabi - okay to substitute grated horseradish. Usually a pinch is applied between fish and rice oval.
  • Small bowl of water - to moisten hands during making of rice ovals. Sushi rice is very sticky, so you need to keep your hands wet to make forming rice easier.

You want to break down your raw fish into slabs that are cut about 2 1/2 inches long and 1 1/2 inches across. It can be as long as you want it. Then you can slice the fish thick or thin for your sushi. It's up to you how generous each piece of sushi  you are serving will be. Each slice doesn't have to be exact - with practice you will get better at measuring. You just want the rice oval and sushi slice about the same size.

And make sure your knife is sharp. An easier way to slice soft tuna steak is to firm it up in the freezer. Just put the plastic wrapped steak in the freezer about an hour until semi-firm. It doesn't need to be rock hard, just firm so slicing is easier. Remove, unwrap, and slice the tuna.

The main thing is that each fish slice matches your formed rice ovals. If some fish slices are too big, that's okay, I'm sure your guest or partner will not complain. And any small scraps of tuna can be set aside or frozen, and used for a Spicy Tuna Roll (recipe coming soon.) Or, since you are not at a sushi restaurant, were perfection is emphasized, you can combine irregular tuna pieces on formed rice ovals.

When slicing raw fish you want to cut across the grain, so each slice will hold its shape and not split apart when handling. Again, with practice you will get the hang of it. It's similar to slicing a slab of steak.

On a small plate half add a teaspoon of grated wasabi or horseradish. Set out a cup of sushi rice at room temperature. Also set out a small bowl of water.

Now time to bring it all together. Dampen hands and grab a ping pong ball-size of rice in your hand. Gently roll it around in your palm to form a ball. Lightly squeeze in your fist and roll the rice to form an oval. Press harder toward the end, when the shape is about right. You can use the moistened fingers of your other hand to help press and shape the rice oval.

The end result is an oval of rice that is about 2 1/2 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. It doesn't have to be perfect -- a little larger is okay. The main thing is to squeeze the rice together hard enough so it holds together when eating sushi.

Finally take a pinch of wasabi, or horseradish, and smear it on one side of fish. Then place the fish wasabi-side against the rice. Now it's ready to eat. (It's okay to leave out spicy wasabi or horseradish.)

You can make a couple of sushi pieces at a time, or all at once.

Set out a small plate or bowl of soy sauce for dipping sushi. You can stir a pinch of wasabi into the soy sauce instead of under the tuna. It's optional -- taste the mixture for desired heat. (Sushi chefs will spice the pieces of sushi with wasabi, so normally you will just use soy sauce straight from the bottle.) Of course you can leave out wasabi or horseradish for a mild sushi eating experience.

It's best to dip the sushi fish-side into soy sauce. If you dip sushi rice oval into soy sauce it may fall apart before it reaches your mouth. And your bowl of soy sauce will fill up with grains of rice.

Normally you eat sushi in one bite, that's why each piece is small. My video has sushi eaten away in small bites, that's just for fun -- don't eat it as my video shows.

Sushi Rice Video 

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