What’s just as good as eating sushi? Watching it being made. That’s because true sushi chefs train for years before they can do it properly, starting with the surgeon-precise craft of cutting fish to cooking rice to perfection to shaping rice and rolling it. At Caretta on the Gulf, Sandpearl Resort’s AAA Four Diamond restaurant, you don’t just get sushi, but the show that comes with it, when you sit at their sushi bar, which seats up to six guests who order straight from the chef. And while Caretta’s chefs had to undergo special training to perfect the craft, anyone can attempt to make sushi at home (in fact, it makes for a perfect dinner party activity for a group of friends). Here are a few tips from Lahma Lafon, the chef de cuisine at Caretta on the Gulf, for recreating the Japanese delicacy in your home.
The Rice is Everything
“The most important thing with sushi is the rice – by far!” Lafon says. “After cooking, you’ll want to rinse the rice under cold water until the water runs clear. Initially, the water that comes out will be super milky white, almost like skim milk, so you’ll want to rinse it and move it around with your hands – if you don’t have a steamer – until it’s clear.” Is there a specific type of rice that readers should look out for? “I recommend the Kokuho Rose Rice brand,” says Lafon. “You can pick it up in any market.”
Buy Good Products
If you buy good products (and, needless to say, remember your cooking fundamentals), you’ll get a good meal, says Lafon. In other words, don’t go for the cheap fish. The nori (seaweed) is another story: “Nori is all pretty much made the same way – it probably won’t make or break your sushi,” says Lafon. Soy crepes are a perfect substitute for nori, as are hollowed-out cucumbers.
Don’t Worry About the Roll
As we’ve already emphasized, the rice is the single most important component in sushi. As far as what actually goes into the roll – that’s all you. “People overthink it. They’re too worried about what goes into the roll. I always tell people to be creative – it’s like making your own burrito. You find what you like, find what tastes you like, what textures you like, and have fun with it,” says Lafon.
Become a Sushi Connoisseur
Before you spend too much time with your own creations at home, you may want to develop your palate. “It sounds obvious, but go out and try all sorts of sushi,” says Lafon. “It’s easier to experiment when you’ve tried a wide range of ingredients and textures and developed your taste a little bit.”
Experiment to Your Heart’s Content
There are very few rules when it comes to sushi – so don’t be afraid to push the limits. “I’ll include some fruit in sushi rolls – I personally like cutting grilled mango into the mix. I’ll play with flavors and textures. It’s a big part of the Japanese culinary tradition, to please all the senses,” says Lafon. Experimenting doesn’t take much more than a trip to an Asian market. Walk around and try something you haven’t seen before. “I’ve even tried cooking the rice in champagne and rosé for a different flavor,” says Lafon.
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