Monday, December 05, 2011

Making Sushi at Home: Yes, at Home!

Karavala Jell/Lumiris, Nori, Sushi Rice Roll - Home made (i)
Karavala Terrine Maki Rolls; Home Made
Sushi isn’t about raw fish; it is really about vinegar infused rice, which is then combined with fish, vegetables and a number of other ingredients. This can be done by placing the raw fish over a small cake of sushi rice, or wrapping the rice with a sheet of nori, seaweed beaten into a sheet, with the fish or vegetables or other goodies in the center. This is called maki sushi, and the California roll, invented by a Japanese cook in that sunny state, early in the 20th century, when he was faced with a clientele who didn’t like raw fish, is one of its famous and distinctive variations.
So what kinds of sushi rolls can you make at home? Tuna is tempting, but I wouldn’t recommend it, since you just cannot get the flavorful, fatty belly tuna you need for that burst-in-your-mouth taste. Of raw fish, inexpensive shark works well, but then that’s not everyone’s favorite. So my recommendations are crab sticks (a processed, flavored fish product) you buy off the shelf at Food City, smoked salmon, expensive but buttery and amazing, like cold, semi cooked fish bacon, and my own little innovation home made karavala terrine sushi rolls.
California Rolls (crab stick)-1 home made
Crab Stick Maki Rolls; Home Made
But before we get to the good stuff, you’ll need to do some ground work to get your sushi roll preparation kit together. The only special things you need are a bamboo sushi rolling mat, and pressed seaweed (nori) sheets, both available from Brana’s (3rd floor, Kollupitiya Super Market, Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 3, 011-242-1675). The mat is Rs. 375/= and 10 sheets of nori are Rs. 800 or so. Japanese sushi vinegar, and Mirin, a sweetish wine is also available and inexpensive, but not essential; I’ve managed to produce great tasting sushi with substitutes.
 Next, you need to cook your rice and flavor it. There is a special kind of ‘sushi rice,’ but I’ve not found it yet in Colombo; no doubt its available, but I think any long grained rice will do. I’ve made all my sushi rolls with regular Basmathi, so that would be fine for a beginner. 

Sushi Rice: Ingredients
2 cups (that’s a 250 ml measure) | uncooked rice | 4.5 cups water | 4 tablespoons (60 ml rice vinegar) | 3 tablespoons sugar | 2 tablespoons Mirin | (or any other sweet wine, optional) | 2 teaspoons salt
Sushi Rice: Method
 Cook the rice the usual way, until it’s soft. The little extra water will make it a little mushy, which is good. Mix the other ingredients and add it to the rice. Let it cool, mixing well, with a fork.

You are ready to roll your sushi. For the simplest first attempt, lay out your bamboo mat, place a sheet of plastic wrap on it, or encase it in a large ziploc bag, then place a sheet of Nori on it and smoothen a layer of rice over the nori sheet, leaving half an inch free at the far end. Two pre-made crabsticks will work great for the filling or smoked salmon, with finger cucumbers sliced length ways. Rolling your sushi is a bit of an art, but it’s not hard: I managed fine at my second attempt and I’ve got paws! You’ve got to press in the first edge carefully, make sure it sits well, and roll the whole thing, and flip it. Check out this clip on youtube ( first; there are many uploads there which are very helpful. Now, all this is very regular, and it’s great – but while I was doing this, I had an idea that took me further, helping me to adapt sushi rolls to Sri Lankan food habits. It seems to me that a sushi roll is rice sandwich, or put another way, it is a bath gulliya. A kneaded mouthful of rice, which for a rice eating Sri Lankan, is as old as solid food, that first meal a baby eats after s/he is weaned. Karavala, I thought, is an inexpensive, yet intensely flavored substitute for the artificially flavored, expensive crabstick; with a little home processing it works amazingly well with lunu miris (chillie onion sambol) added as an optional extra. TasteFusion!
To process the Karavala for your sushi rolls, you need to make it into a terrine. No, again, this is not hard, but does require a little bit of work – and an overnight wait.

Karavala Terrine: Ingredients | 100 g Karavala (your favorite kind) | 100 g Coconut milk powder | 100 g unsalted butter | 1 table spoon chillie pieces (optional)

 Karavala Terrine: Method

Nori sheet, spread with rice, jelled karavala and lunu-mirisPressure cook the Karavala in three times the water for 30 mins. Drain, reverse the liquid, and de-bone. The bones will be soft now, and this will be easy. Discard the bones, and add the coconut milk powder and butter, and grind down to a fine mush with a barmix blender or table top food processor. Taste, and adjust the ingredients. It should be quite strong, too strong to simply eat, but not killer salty. Add a tiny bit of sugar, chillie pieces, and more butter or coconut if it is too salty, or some of the reserved Karavala essence if it does not have enough kick. All this depends on taste, so you’ll get what you like with practice. And you should have now roughly, 250 ml or one cup of puree, after whatever is stuck to the mixer is factored out.
Jelled Karavala - for rolls
Karavala Terrine (Cut Strips)

Add two teaspoons of dissolved gelatin into this and pour it into a small, square plastic storage box and refrigerate for four hours, in a cold fridge. Yes, you should be done. 

Cut long strips out with a small, sharp knife, and lay it on your sushi rice, which you should remake without salt, with a little line of lunu miris. Roll. Cut, and plate it with little clumps of lunu miris.

Karavala Lunu-Miris Rolls (vii)


Rathai said...

Hi Pradeep!

You have a beautiful blog here, bedecked with very tempting pictures. This is my first time in here. Really, I never thought many of the ingredients used in these dishes were available in Sri Lanka (no offence intended here). You are doing a terrific job. I enjoyed your writings and will certainly come back for more. Greetings from Sweden!

Dinushika said...

do you know where I could buy sashimi grade fish in Colombo? I love sashimi, and the tiny portion sizes at Japanese restaurants just don't do it for me. I have made sushi with salmon before but in another world where you could actually walk into a supermarket and buy sushi grade salmon (blast frozen of course). Would be great if you could point me in the right direction.


lady grouch-a-lot said...

Recently (actually just now) discovered your blog and absolutely loving it! I'm a big foodie myself and I am definitely trying out the karavala terrine tomorrow(now being past 1AM) Keep posting brilliant stuff!

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