International Sushi Day 2023: Chef’s Tips To Make Them At Home
Image Credit: The Orchid Hotel Pune

Did you know that sushi originated in Japan as a method of preserving fish? While the exact origins of sushi in Japan’s rich culinary history is debated, the rice, vinegar and fish-based dish has now become a globally popular favourite among people of all ages and backgrounds. It was in the 20th century that sushi first gained global recognition beyond Japan, and today, not only are sushi chefs revered as artists, but days like International Sushi Day are observed to celebrate the dish all over the world. 

Observed on June 18 every year, International Sushi Day gives sushi lovers another excuse to indulge in their favourite Japanese treat. In countries like India, sushi only arrived as a commercially sold food option in the 2010s, and in the 2020s, sushi bars and restaurants across the country are giving Indian foodies a taste of the popular dish. What is even more interesting about sushi in India is that though originally made with a variety of fish and seafood, the dish has turned vegetarian here. From avocado and asparagus to cucumbers and carrots, vegetarian sushi options are just as easily available as your Makis and Nigiris made with fish and seafood. 

And while this Indian adaptation is welcome, Indian foodies—like those in the US and other parts of the world—are now also getting interested in making their own sushi at home. But while sushi looks very simple, making it without any formal training is another matter completely. The right ingredients and techniques have to be mastered before you can roll out sushi like a pro at home. If you are interested in making sushi at home and are wondering where to start, worry not, because we have you sorted. 

Slurrp talked to Dinesh Mhatre, Executive Chef at The Orchid Hotel Pune, about all the sushi making tips you need to start out. With these easy-to-follow tips, making sushi at home will be the easiest thing, ever. 

Video Credit: YouTube/Sanjeev Kapoor Khazana

Sushi Basics: Ingredients And Equipment

“Making sushi at home is quite easy,” says Chef Mhatre. He explains that with just a few basic ingredients, you can actually start making your own sushi very easily at home. “All you need are sushi rice, nori sheets, rice vinegar, and sugar,” he says. And when it comes to equipment, there are two that you will absolutely need: a rice cooker for cooking the sushi rice, and a sushi mat. If you don’t have the latter, you can also use butter paper to construct the sushi. A sharp professional knife is just as important if you want to get perfectly shaped sushi, so get one of those and take care of it. 

Pressure Points: “Getting the right Japanese rice and vinegar is crucial for making sushi,” he says. “Additionally, you'll need ingredients like rice vinegar, brown sugar, and nori sheets, which are readily available in gourmet stores or online.” 

Sushi Flavours: Fish, Vegetable And More 

Rice, seaweed or nori, vinegar and sugar may be the basics, but ask anybody who has ever eaten sushi and they will tell you that the central fish, seafood, poultry or vegetables matter just as much. Most Indians are not used to eating rare or raw fish and seafood, which is why the flavour profile of sushi often changes in Indian kitchens. Keeping this in mind, Chef Mhatre suggests the basic flavours you can start with. 

“Indian home cooks can easily use vegetables such as carrot, beans, cucumber, and asparagus to make sushi,” he says. “When making sushi at home, you can use prawns, which are easily available in the market. Salmon is another option that can be pre-ordered or bought through online speciality stores.” You can also try making a tempura batter and cook chicken, fish or prawns in them before using them in the sushi. 

Sushi Cooking: Rice, Rolling And Cutting 

Sushi making is an art form because though simple, every aspect of an individual sushi has to be perfect.  “Pay attention to a few key points while preparing sushi,” Chef Mhatre says. “Soak the sushi rice for 30 minutes, ensuring that the ratio of rice to water is the same. Cut the vegetables into finger-sized pieces for easy rolling. Make sure to tightly roll the sushi to prevent rice from spreading when cutting. It is all about practising regularly to get the best results.” 

Believe it or not, if you mess up the sushi rice cooking, it will ruin the end result no matter how delicious the fillings you use are. Chef Mhatre has a pro tip here. “Always use properly washed and soaked sushi rice, so that the rice will cook properly and release the starch which will help roll the sushi in proper a shape. Also, don't ever use hot rice for rolling.” 

Sushi Eating: Accompaniments And Etiquettes 

If you have ever eaten at a sushi bar or restaurant, then you already know that the accompaniments that are served with sushi are just as simple as the dish itself—but when combined, some transformational magic happens. “Sushi pairs well with light soy sauce, wasabi paste, and pickled ginger or Gari,” Chef Mhatre says. So, getting these is very important. Making Gari as an accompaniment is quite easy, but you need the freshest ginger for this simple pickle. The other two will have to be shop-bought. 

In its birthplace of Japan, eating sushi the right way is just as much as a revered ritual as making it, so sushi eating etiquettes matter a lot, traditionally speaking. But, Chef Mhatre says that while you should ideally follow these rituals while eating out, you can relax a little while at home. “While serving sushi at home, there's no need to strictly adhere to Japanese rituals and etiquettes,” he says. “Sushi is meant to be enjoyed as finger food and can be eaten with your hands.”