Hello, this is Pocket Concierge editing team.
The sushi topping is often what we focus on when talking about sushi, but do you know how the sushi rice is the “key” for making superb sushi?
Sushi rice is such a difficult part of the art of sushi, that it is said that it take three years to be able to cook sushi rice, five years to combine it, and a life time to perfect to shape the sushi.
Just because you have a delicious topping, it does not mean you will have great sushi.
Today, we are going to dive in the world of “sushi rice,” the sturdy foundation for making good sushi. Read this and you will want to make sure the sushi rice used in the sushi you eat is good.
1. The Word Origin of Shari, Sushi Rice Came from Bones?
Deliciously cooked rice is called silver rice, and sushi rice is called “shari,” but did you know the word origin?
The word origin actually came from “bones!”
The Chinese character for shari, sushi rice signifies “bones left after cremation.” It’s kind a unbelievable that the gone was the origin of shari. Although this is my own speculation, I’m guessing that bones might have been the whitest thing people were familiar when sushi was first created. The fact that white rice was completely white and hard for commoners to eat could also be playing a part.
2. What Kind of Brand Rice Are There?
The self-sufficiency ratio for race in Japan is 100%. The calorie-based food self-sufficiency rate is 38%. Since the production price-based food sufficiency rate is 68%, we have more than enough rice here in Japan.
There are actually 560 kinds of rice registered as a brand in Japan! Among them, there are 274 kinds of rice made for eating. It would take about nine months if we tried eating a different brand everyday.
A new brand rice called “Fu Fu Fu,” that sounds really cute was also recently released.
Also, since the policy of restricting the production of rice called had been abolished, there should be more brand rice coming out with more farmers that have new ideas or products. We might even have a rice just for sushi rice in the near future.
Sushi Satake | Pocket Concierge
3. “Koshihikari” Ranks First
Which brand rice is produced the most in Japan? According to the Top 10 cropping of rice by the type (FY 2017 Suitou Uruchigome),
No. 1 Koshihikari 35.6% Niigata Prefecture, Ibaraki Prefecture, Tochigi Prefecture
No. 2 Hitomebore 9.4% Miyagi Prefecture, Iwate Prefecture, Fukushima Prefecture
No. 3 Hinohikari 8.9% Kumamoto Prefecture, Oita Prefecture, Kagoshima Prefecture
No.4 Akitakomachi 7.0% Akita Prefecture, Iwate Prefecture, Ibaraki Prefecture
No.5 Nanatsuboshi 3.5% Hokkaido
No.6 Haenuki 2.8% Yamagata Prefecture, Kagawa Prefecture
No. 7 Kinuhikari 2.4% Shiga Prefecture, Hyogo Prefecture, Wakayama Prefecture
No. 8 Mashigura 1.9% Aomori Prefecture
No. 9 Asahi no Yume 1.7% Tochigi Prefecture, Gunma Prefecture
No. 10 Yumepirika 1.6% Hokkaido
Koshihikari Dominates Production
Until the 1990s, Sasanishiki from Miyagi Prefecture was evaluated highly, because the flavor stays even when it cools down. However, Koshihikari from Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture is popular nowadays. However, you need to be careful and use some tricks when you cook it since Koshihikari might be too sticky to make sushi hikari.
Sushi Miyazono | Pocket Concierge
4. Rice Vinegar? Sushi Vinegar? Which One Should I Use?
“Vinegar” is an essential ingredient when making sushi rice. When you make sushi at home, it is traditionally made by mixing vinegar with rice as you fan it with a fan called uchiwa. But what kind of vinegar should you use? Let’s look at the different kind of vinegar available.
◎ Grain vinegar
This vinegar is what we see the most and use often. It is made by blending flour, sake lees, rice, corn and brewing it. Using this for sushi rice could result in a sushi rice that is too sour.
◎ Rice vinegar
This vinegar is THE vinegar that suits sushi rice. It is made from rice, but this alone will not be enough to make sushi rice. You need to make a consistency called “awase-su” by mixing about the same amount of sugar as the rice vinegar and add a little bit of salt.
◎ Sushi vinegar
This is really convent for those who feel making an “awase-su” on your own is too much trouble. All the ingredients have been combined with just the right ratio, so you can use it to create other refreshing dishes that are ideal for summer.
◎ Red vinegar
Red vinegar is made by fermenting sake lees. It is packed with amino acids, and is gaining attention for its high nutritional contents. Shari, sushi rice made using red vinegar is called “aka shari” (red sushi rice). Famous sushi restaurants like to use this.
When red vinegar is served at sushi restaurants, you know that it is a high-class restaurant. It is said that a man called Yozaemon Nakano who owned a alcohol store in the Edo Period thought that sushi would be popular. He tried to create a vinegar to replace rice vinegar that was expensive during that time by using leftover sake lees. Sushi chefs liked the red vinegar and it started to be widely used.
Sushi Takehan Wakatsuki | Pocket Concierge
5. The Ideal Shaping Creates Sushi That Gently Crumble in Your Mouth and Mixes with the Topping When You Eat It
In an episode called “Sushi no Kokoro” (The Heart of Sushi) in a famous anime about food called “Oishinbo,” a sushi chef from a popular sushi restaurant in Ginza and a sushi chef from downtown have a sushi battle using the same topping. The judges judged who could create a more delicious sushi. The main character, Mr. Yamaoka arranged the battle, and his colleagues ate the sushi blindfolded. In the beginning they all thought the sushi tasted the same, but as time passed, they realized that the way the sushi was shaped was different.
After the battle, Mr. Yamaoka used a CT scan at a university hospital and compared the two sushi (Let’s not ask the question why he had to go to such lengths just for sushi). The sushi rice was packed for the sushi that lost, but there were some spaces between each grain of rice for the sushi that won. According to Mr. Yamaoka, the sushi that tastes good “Gently crumbles in your mouth and mixes with the topping.”
It seems that delicious sushi has perfect balance between the topping, sushi rice, and the shaping.
Kuriyagawa | Pocket Concierge