On International Sake Day, Miku executive chef Kazuhiro Hayashi shows how to make nigiri sushi to pair with sake.
Sushi rice is the foundation to good sushi. And for home cooks, it can be difficult to replicate the fluffy sticky perfection of Japanese restaurants. Here are some tips for making sushi rice at home, from Miku’s Executive Chef, Kazuhiro Hayashi.
Shari (Sushi Rice) Directions
- Use good-quality Japanese short-grain rice such as Koshihikari. These can be found at select grocery stores and Japanese specialty stores such as Fujiya.
- Wash the rice, then soak for 10 minutes before cooking.
- Cook the rice in a pot or rice cooker according to the directions on the bag for each method. Chef’s note: Rice to water ratio should be 1:1.1, e.g., 250 ml of rice to 275 ml of water.
- Pour the hot cooked rice into a flat, big bowl that will allow you enough room to mix in Japanese rice vinegar (for 1 cup/250 ml rice use 1/4 cup/60 ml vinegar). Traditionally, this would be done in a Japanese wooden tub called hangiri.
Chef’s note: Use a shallow baking dish as a hangiri alternative.
- Pour vinegar onto the hot rice little by little (if you are cooking one cup rice, then it’s 0.25 cups vinegar). To mix in, gently use the rice paddle to create a grid on the rice, and then flip each section over to ensure that all the rice is being flipped and the vinegar is mixed in evenly. You can use your rice scooper for this process.
- Fan the rice while scoring and turning to slowly cool down the grains to create a wonderful airy texture in the rice. Scoring is using the rice paddle to gently divide the rice into sections. Important: Be careful not to stir or mash the rice as you want to keep the grains whole. Do this until the vinegar is completely incorporated, and the rice is slightly above body temperature.
Chef’s note: You will know that the shari is prepared perfectly when the individual rice grains are glistening. This is because they have been coated evenly with the vinegar and have remained a whole grain.
- Gently flatten, and rest rice for 5 minutes with a damp cloth on top (to prevent drying out), then come back and score and flip rice again. Repeat this process 3 times in total.
- Once the rice is body temperature, the shari is done! You can now make your sushi.
Assembling Nigiri Sushi
Nigiri is the most authentic and original style of sushi made of two components: sushi rice and a thin, rectangular cut of fresh fish. Sushi chefs in training spend years perfecting the art of cooking sushi rice and shaping it for nigiri. The perfectly shaped mound of rice acts as a bed for the fresh fish that lays on top, and is traditionally served as is, or with a light brush of soy sauce.
Here’s how Chef Kazuhiro Hayashi makes it at home:
- With your selection of fresh, sashimi-grade fish ready, cut the fish. It’s important to cut against the grain of the fish, which not only will help create more visually appealing pieces of fish, but makes the fish easier to eat and less chewy. Cut each piece roughly 3″ long, 1″ wide, and 1/4″ thick.
- Form mounds of rice. Fill a small bowl with water, wet your hands, and place a small mound of rice that comfortably fits in your left hand (about 3/4 the size of your palm) when cupped. Keeping the left hand cupped, press down on the top of the mound with your right hand’s pointer and middle fingers (together), gently forming the rice into a slightly more compact, structured mound. Practice makes perfect!
- Once you have formed your mounds of rice, you’ll combine them with the prepared fish. With your left palm facing up, lay one piece of fish horizontally across the base of your fingers, and place one prepared mound of rice directly on top. Repeat the same motion as you did when forming the rice mound– gently cupping your left hand and pressing inward with two fingers in the right hand to hold the rice and fish together. Congratulations! You have just assembled your first piece of Nigiri.
Chef’s Nigiri Topping Suggestions
Sockeye Salmon Topped with Zesty Daikon:
Grated daikon: 25g
Salmon roe: little bit
Yuzu zest or lime zest
Albacore Tuna Topped with Miso Sauce
Soy sauce or Tamari 3g
Japanese Mayo 20g
BC Spot Prawns
Finish with lime juice and sea salt to taste
Sake Pairings with Sushi
To elevate your sushi experience, pair your sushi and sashimi with the perfect sake! For a memorable sushi experience, Miku has a plethora of sake selections to pair with your favourite sushi or kaiseki tasting courses. When finding the perfect sake to go with your sushi, it is important to consider the content of the oil, fat, and protein in the fish. To find your favourite flavour profiles at home, here are a few tips.
Some fish, such as salmon, have a natural, slightly sweet flavour. It’s best to pair these types of fish with a similar tasting sake that has fruity and floral notes to open up the palate. Together, the wine and fish work together to create a harmony of flavours. Miku’s Aburi Ginjo sake boasts an aromatic, fruity, floral, taste.
Fatty, oily, rich, and creamy pieces of sushi such as fatty tuna and Miku’s Aburi Salmon Oshi, go best with sakes that are lighter, to emphasize the oils of the fish. If you chose a sake that was as full-bodied as your food, it would take away from your meal rather than enhance it.