Why Cook Sushi Rice with an Immersion Circulator
There are many ways to cook sushi rice. I honesty did this to see if it would work and found that I really liked the simplicity. It is another case where the convenience of set it and forget it is worth a somewhat strange methodology. And the reaction when I made some ahi tuna nigiri for my husband was worth every single weird look I got from my friends when I said I was going to do this. And since I made this for Valentine’s day – that look meant the world to me.
What Makes Rice “Sushi Rice”?
In Japanese food, there are only two types of rice that make a difference. One is called mochigome, which is a short, very sticky rice used for producting a gummy dough that is used to make mochi. The rice we’re focusing on here is called koshihikari rice. For the Japanese, this is what rice is. After centuries of cultivation, this is the staple of the Japanese diet and an important element in all of Japanese cuisine. But, Japan doesn’t export any of its rice, so it isn’t easy to get REAL koshihikari rice outside of Japan.
So, what we Americans must deal with is a rice that was cultivated out of California known as “Calrose” rice. Since it was created, Calrose has become increasingly easy to find many places and is the most commonly used rice when western cooks need to make asian-style rice. Unless you can find some genuine Japanese koshihikari rice, Calrose is without a doubt the rice you should be using for sushi rice. If you can’t find these kinds of rice? Well, here’s a few guidelines to keep in mind when looking for an alternative:
- Only use white rice. Brown rice might be very tasty in many dishes, but for sushi rice it just doesn’t work. Taste and nutrition issues aside, some of the physical properties critical to making good sushi simply require white rice to work properly.
- Avoid parboiled rice. The initial boiling process of parboiled rice tends to make it less sticky than it would be otherwise, which is a drawback in sushi making.
- You’re looking for a middle-of-the-road medium-grain rice. It should be slightly sticky when cooked, but not so much that it’s really gummy or hard to get apart.
- Never, ever use “instant” rice. Aside from the fact that it just tastes horrible, its pre-cooking process also renders it not sticky enough to make good sushi rice (and it’s generally made from long-grain rice anyway).
- Avoid rice which claims to stay separate when cooked. This is almost always a sign that you’re dealing with a long-grain rice, often parboiled. For sushi, despite the fact that the vinegar will make the rice stickier, it is important that the rice have some stickiness to be able to hold together to some degree on its own when cooked, so western-style rices will not yield the sort of texture we’re really looking for.
- Avoid “glutinous” or “sweet” rice. For sushi rice, a bit of stickiness is desired, but you do not want really sticky rice. This will just make the resulting sushi taste gummy, which is not what you’re looking for. Avoid rice which is labelled as “glutinous”, “sticky”, or “sweet”, as it will generally be too sticky to make good sushi.
- Try to find “asian style” rice. Japanese or Chinese characters on the bag are usually a plus too, just be careful you’re not getting really glutinous rice, which a lot of the asian rice which makes its way to western markets will be (remember, a little sticky, but not really sticky, is what you want).