17 November 2009

Sushi 寿司 - Daring Cooks Challenge

The November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen . They chose sushi as the challenge.

There is only one Asian grocery store within a 5km radius of where I live at the moment. Actually the Asian grocery store is the only thing I have. No fishmonger, butcher or supermarkets. And me being car-less at the moment, meant all my ingredients had to come from the Asian grocery store.

I'm actually allergic to Eel, I get rashes everytime I have eel. So gave the dragonroll a miss.

These are the ingredients I used in my sushi:

  • Sweet Egg Omelet
  • Avocado
  • Cucumber
  • Faux crab meat mixed with Japanese Mayo
  • Canned Tuna mixed with Japanese Mayo
  • Seaweed
  • Japanese Mayo

I have made sushi many times before, but learning to make it the 'proper way' was definitely a challenge and a lot of fun. Thanks to Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen for picking a great challenge!

The challenge is in four parts:-

Part 1: Making proper sushi rice – you will wash, rinse, drain, soak, cook, dress, and cool short grain rice until each grain is sticky enough to hold toppings or bind ingredients. Then you will use the cooked rice to form three types of sushi:
Part 2: Dragon sushi roll – an avocado covered inside-out rice roll with a tasty surprise filling
Part 3: Decorative sushi – a nori-coated rice roll which reveals a decorative pattern when cut
Part 4: Nigiri sushi – hand-shaped rice rolls with toppings

This challenge is all about learning how to make restaurant-grade sushi rice plus the techniques for making creative sushi !

PART 1 : SUSHI RICE (makes about 7 cups of cooked sushi rice)

Preparation time: 1¾ hours consisting of :-

Rinsing and draining rice: 35 minutes
Soaking rice: 30 minutes (includes 5 minutes making the vinegar dressing)
Cooking and steaming time: 25 minutes
Finishing the rice: 15 minutes


  • 2½ cups uncooked short grain rice
  • 2½ cups water
  • For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water
Optional Ingredients

  • 3 inch (75mm or 15 grams) square dashi konbu (or kombu) (dried kelp seaweed) wipe with a damp cloth to remove white powder & cut a few slits in the sides of the kelp to help release its flavours
  • 2½ teaspoons (12.5 mls) of sake (Japanese rice wine)

Sushi vinegar dressing

  • 5 Tablespoons (75 mls) rice vinegar
  • 5 Teaspoons (25 mls or 21 grams) sugar
  • 1¼ Teaspoons (6.25 mls or 4.5 grams) salt

Rinsing and draining the rice

  1. Swirl rice gently in a bowl of water, drain, repeat 3-4 times until water is nearly clear. Don't crush the rice in your hands or against the side of the bowl since dry rice is very brittle.
  2. Gently place rice into a strainer and drain well for 30 minutes.
Soaking the rice

  1. Gently place the rice into a heavy medium pot with a tight fitting lid (if you have a loose fitting lid use a piece of aluminium foil to make the seal tight).
  2. Add 2½ cups of water and the dashi konbu
  3. Set the rice aside to soak for 30 minutes, during this time prepare the sushi rice dressing.
Preparing the Rice Vinegar Dressing

  1. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl.
  2. Heat on low setting.
  3. Stir until the mixture goes clear and the sugar and salt have dissolved.
  4. Set aside at room temperature until the rice is cooked.

Cooking the rice

  1. After 30 minutes of soaking add sake (if using) to the rice.
  2. Bring rinsed and soaked rice to the boil.
  3. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed, 12-15 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this process. Turn off heat.
  4. Let stand with the lid on, 10-15 minutes. Do not peek inside the pot or remove the lid. During this time the rice is steaming which completes the cooking process.
Finishing the rice

  • Turning out the rice
  1. Moisten lightly a flat thin wooden spatula or spoon and a large shallow flat-bottomed non-metallic (plastic, glass or wood) bowl. Do not use metallic objects since the vinegar will react with it and produce sour and bitter sushi rice.
  2. Remove the dashi konbu (kelp) from the cooked rice.
  3. Use the spatula to loosen gently the rice and invert the rice pot over the bowl, gently causing the cooked rice to fall into the bowl in one central heap. Do this gently so as not to cause the rice grains to become damaged.
  • Dressing the rice with vinegar
  1. Slowly pour the cooled sushi vinegar over the spatula onto the hot rice.
  2. Using the spatula gently spread the rice into a thin, even layer using a 45° cutting action to break up any lumps and to separate the rice. Don't stir or mash rice.
  3. After the rice is spread out, start turning it over gently, in small portions, using a cutting action, allowing steam to escape, for about a minute.
  • Fanning & Tossing the rice
  1. Continue turning over the rice, but now start fanning (using a piece of stiff cardboard) the rice vigorously as you do so. Don't flip the rice into the air but continue to gently slice, lift and turn the rice occasionally, for 10 minutes. Cooling the rice using a fan gives good flavour, texture and a high-gloss sheen to the rice. The vinegar dressing will be absorbed by the hot rice. Using a small electric fan on the lowest speed setting is highly recommended.
  2. Stop fanning when there's no more visible steam, and all the vinegar dressing has been adsorbed and the rice is shiny. Your sushi rice is ready to be used.
  • Keeping the rice moist
  1. Cover with a damp, lint free cloth to prevent the rice from drying out while preparing your sushi meal. Do not store sushi rice in the refrigerator leave on the counter covered at room temperature. Sushi rice is best used when it is at room temperature.

* Tip: To make sushi rice: for each cup of rice use 1 cup of water, 2 Tbs rice vinegar, 2 tsp sugar, ½ tsp salt and 1 tsp sake. For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water when cooking the sushi rice since the weight of rice can vary. Weight of 2½ cups of uncooked rice is about 525 grams or 18½ ounces.

PART 2 : Dragon Rolls (also called Caterpillar Rolls)

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice
Cooking time: about 5 minutes (grilling the eel)

Yield: 2 inside-out (uramaki) sushi rolls


  • 1 sheet 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm) of toasted nori (dried seaweed sheets), cut into halves
  • 1/2 Japanese cucumber
  • 2 cups of prepared sushi rice
  • Glazed Barbecued Eel (ungai) (about 3½ ounces or 100 grams)
  • 1 Avocado
  • Vinegared Water – ½ cup of water combined with a dash of rice vinegar
  • Various small amounts of sauces to use as the flames of the dragon (or legs of a caterpillar)

  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams or 1 oz) Fish Roe (Fish eggs)


  1. Cut cucumber into strips ¼ inch (6mm) x 7” (175mm) long, then salt, rinse & dry the strips.
  2. Grill (broil) the eel for about 2-5 minutes until bubbling. Cut into two lengthwise strips.
  3. Halve, pit and peel the avocado. Cut the avocado halves into thin even 1/8 inch (3 mm) slices. Fan out the cut avocado into a 7 inch (175 mm) overlapping pattern.
  4. Cover bamboo mat with plastic wrap. Place a sheet of nori shiny side down, lengthwise, on the edge the mat.
  5. Moisten lightly your hands in the bowl of vinegared water.
  6. Place one cup of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
  7. Flip the rice-covered nori over (so the bare nori is now on top) and place on the edge of the mat closest to you.
  8. Arrange one of the eel strips across the length of the nori, not quite centred on it but a little closer to you. Place half the cucumber sticks next to the eel.
  9. Lift the edge of the mat closest to you with both hands, keeping your fingertips over the fillings, and roll the mat and its contents until the edge of the mat touches straight down on the nori, enclosing the fillings completely. Lift up the edge of the mat you're holding, and continue rolling the inside-out roll away from you until it's sealed. Tug at the mat to tighten the seal. If the rice doesn't quite close the roll add more rice in the gap and re-roll using the mat to completely cover the inside-out roll. Place the roll on a damp, clean smooth surface.
  10. Spread about 1 tablespoon of the optional fish roe along the entire top of the rice-covered roll. Using the plastic covered mat gently press the fish roe so it adheres to the rice.
  11. Slide a knife under one fan of avocado and transfer it onto the top of an inside-out roll. Gently spread out the avocado layer to cover the entire roll. Lay the plastic wrapped mat over the avocado-covered roll. Squeeze very gently to shape the roll.
  12. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the roll. Slice the roll into 6-8 equal, bite-sized pieces, wiping your knife with a damp towel before each slice. Discard the plastic wrap. Repeat the above to make one more roll.
  13. Arrange the cut pieces on a serving plate with the sauces so the finished dish appears as a dragon breathing fire and flames (or a caterpillar with many legs).

* Tip: The most common mistake is having too much filling the golden rule is less is more when it comes to making sushi it is easier to roll an under-filled roll than an over-filled roll.

* Tip: Dampen your knife with a moist lint-free towel before every cut – this prevents the sushi rice from sticking to your knife.

* Tip: Excellent videos on making Dragon Rolls

PART 3 : Spiral Sushi Roll

california rolls (Large)

This is easiest 'decorative' sushi roll.

Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice

Yield: One Roll, cut into 8 pieces


  • 2½ cups prepared sushi rice
  • 2 sheets of toasted nori, each sized 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm)
  • Six assorted fillings, each filling should be the size of a pencil (see note below)


  1. Join 2 sheets of nori by moistening the adjacent edges and overlapping them about ½ inch (12mm)
  2. Place this double sheet shiny side down on a rolling mat, part of the nori will extend beyond the mat.
  3. Using moist fingers place 2½ cups of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly, leaving ¼ inch (6mm) nori showing on the both ends of the sheet. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
  4. Using your fingers form six grooves (in the same direction that you will be rolling the mat) at even intervals across the bed of rice. Make the first groove about 2 inches (50 mm) from the edge of the nori sheet. Form the grooves by pushing the rice away, do not mash or squash the rice, leave a loose one grain layer of rice in the bottom of the grooves. Level the areas between the grooves where you have pushed the rice.
  5. Place your fillings in the grooves. Fill the grooves a little higher than the surrounding rice bed.
  6. Then roll the sushi up from the edge closest to you, this will form a spiral pattern of nori, rice and fillings inside the roll.
  7. Slice into 8 pieces with a very sharp wet knife, wiping the blade with a damp cloth after each cut.
  8. Place the pieces on a platter and garnish.

Make each groove about a finger-width wide they will hold about 1-2 tablespoons of filling. Use fillings that compliment each other and are highly coloured. Use parboiled vegetables cut into strips, seafood, left over eel, smoked fish or chicken, whole cooked beans, edible flowers etc....

PART 4 : Nigiri Sushi

egg_seaweed_sushi (Large)

Nigiri sushi is the type of sushi most often made in sushi bars. In Japanese, nigiri means “squeeze”.

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice

Yield: 14-16 pieces of sushi


  • 2 cups prepared sushi rice
  • 8 pairs of assorted toppings, 200 gms/7 ozs total of fish, meat or vegetables (see note below)
  • 1 tablespoon Wasabi (paste, reconstituted powder) or any other paste to adhere topping to rice


  • Garnishes such as Ginger (pickled), chilli strips, vegetables flowers etc
  • Thin strips of nori or vegetables (for tying topping on)


  1. When handling sushi rice, make certain your hands are very clean. To keep the rice from sticking to our hands moisten your hands with vinegared water.
  2. Form nigiri sushi by scooping up a small amount (about 2 tablespoons) of rice with your forefinger and second finger of your right hand and placing it in your cupped left palm.
  3. Use the fingers and thumb of your right hand to form it into a long, narrow mound (about 2 inches x 1 inch wide or 50mm x 25mm) in your cupped palm.
  4. Press enough to make the rice hold firmly together. Place the nigiri on a damp cutting board flat side down. Don't let sushi touch or they'll stick to each other. At this point, you can cover the sushi with plastic wrap, and they'll keep at room temperature (not the refrigerator) for several hours.
  5. Smear a thin line of wasabi on top of the rice and place the topping piece on it. You may need to press the topping down lightly with your fingers and adjust the shape of the rice accordingly to form an attractive piece of nigiri sushi. If your topping is very loose like fish roe you can place a strip of nori (higher than the rice) around the nigiri and form 'battleship' sushi. The cavity that the nori forms holds the topping so it does not fall off.
  6. Garnish as desired and use strips of nori (or vegetable) to tie the topping to the nigiri if needed.
  7. It is customary to make nigiri sushi in pairs, so make two of each variety.

* Tips: A great video on making nigiri sushi
A great web page on slicing fish for nigiri

13 November 2009

Azuki Red Bean Ice Cream

Ok.. I have to admit. I've fallen into a bit of a Japanese flavor ice cream phase. I'm trying so hard to not just go and make a green tea ice cream. I've been saving that can of macha (green tea powder) for last, making everything else I can think of before I go and open that can. For now, I've ticked off Black Sesame and Azuki (red bean)... I'm thinking one more before I go for the green tea. I'm not too keen on Wasabi ice cream. Lychee ice cream maybe ? Toro ice cream is another common flavor - but I'm not sure where to get Toro in Australia. I wonder what sweet potato ice cream would taste like ? :)


Azuki Red Bean Ice Cream

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 100g sweetened red bean paste
  • 300ml heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons Vodka

  1. Heat the milk in a heavy saucepan with the sugar and salt. Turn off the heat once the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Beat the egg yokes together. Add a bit of the warmed milk into the egg yoke mixture.
  3. While stirring the contents of the saucepan, slowly pour the milk egg mixture into saucepan. Put the saucepan back on a very low heat and stir constantly until it starts to thicken. You want to turn this mixture into a custard
  4. Take the mixture off the heat and whisk in the red bean paste really well. You can strain the whole mixture at this point to remove the lumps. But I prefer to keep the red beans in the ice cream for more texture.
  5. Let it cool for a few minutes and then stir in the cream. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  6. Churn the ice cream according to your ice cream maker's instructions.


08 November 2009

Baked Tomato Pork Chop Rice

This first time I tried this was at a "Cha Chaan Teng", which in english can roughly translate to "Hong Kong Cafe" or "Chinese Tea Restaurant". Its basically a small cafe \ restaurant which serves westernised-chinese crossed with street-hawker type cuisine. Therefore, in one of these places, you will be able to order claypot chicken rice \ congee \ instant noodles \ french toast all washed down with a cup of iced Yin-Yong - A combination of Coffee and Milk Tea.

Yin Yong...And don't mock it till you try it. Its addictive stuff I tell you. Its also in one of these cafe restaurants that you can also find the Baked Tomato Pork Chop Rice.

The baked tomato pork chop rice is basically a layer of egg fried rice, topped with some deep fried crumbed pieces of marinated pork chop, then smothered with tomato based sauce, topped with some cheese and then baked in the oven.

Baked Tomato Pork Chop Rice
Based on recipe at galaxylink - Serves 4

For the Fried Rice

  • 4 bowls of rice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp oil
For the Pork Chop

  • 8 slices of pork chop
  • 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chinese 5 spice mixture
  • 1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoon chinese wine
  • 1 garlic (mashed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornflour

Crumbling the Pork Chops

  • 1/2 cup flour (seasoned with some salt & pepper)
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • oil for deep frying
For the Tomato Sauce:
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1 clove garlic (chopped finely)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 onion (finely diced)
  • 1 cup of clear chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch (made into a paste with some water)

For the Topping:

  • Shredded Chedder cheese
  1. Beat the pork chop the back of a chopper to loosen up the meat.
  2. Marinade the pork chops in with oil, salt, sugar, pepper, 5 spice, wine and garlic for half an hour.
  3. Dredge the pork chops a piece at a time, first in flour, then in the beaten egg and finally in the bread crumbs. Set aside in the fridge until ready for deep frying.
  4. Preheat oven to 200C.
  5. Heat oil in wok till hot. Add the eggs and scramble the eggs until its just cooked, remove and set aside. Add cooked rice and stir fry over high heat. Add salt and soy sauce, then add the scrambled eggs back in and mix in with the rice. Put the fried rice on a large oven proof dish and set aside.
  6. In a saucepan saute the garlic and the onions in oil until it turns transparent.
  7. Add in the chicken broth, then the canned tomatoes. Bring the sauce to a boil
  8. Add tomato ketchup, salt, pepper and worcestershire sauce.
  9. Reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. While the sauce is reducing, heat the oil for deep frying.
  10. Deep fry the pork chops in medium high heat till slightly golden brown and set aside on some paper towels to absorb any excess oil.
  11. Place the fried pork chop on top of the rice in a single layer. Thicken the tomato sauce with the cornstarch mixture. Pour the sauce evenly over the pork chop and sprinkle a handful of cheese over the top.
  12. Bake in the over for 5 minutes or till the sauce is slightly brown on top.
  13. Serve immedately - preferably with a cup of iced Yin Yong :)

pork chop rice

Tips on Crumbing:
  • Before you start crumbing, arrange the ingredients in a production line, in the order you'll be using them. ie. A large plate of flour seasoned with salt and pepper -> lightly beaten eggs into a bowl -> breadcrumbs on a separate large plate.
  • Try to keep one hand as the 'dry hand' handling the flour and breadcrumb plates and the other 'wet hand' for handling the marinated pork chops and the egg dredging part. This avoids your fingers to be crumbed as well :)
  • Once the pork chop pieces have been crumbed, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to rest before frying. This will help the crumb coating stick to the meat during cooking.

03 November 2009

Coq Au Vin - Cooked Under Pressure

Coq Au Vin is something I usually end up making for dinner over the weekend. The guys in my household are absolutely infatuated with chicken in red wine with onions, mushrooms and bacon. However, with the recent addition of my pressure cooker, I tried making this dish on a work day, and it was finished within 30 mins. Woot !

When I cook this dish in my dutch oven, I usually end up using a whole bottle of red wine. With the pressure cooker, because all the juices are trapped in, you actually need to reduce the amount of liquid, otherwise you will end up with a very watery sauce. Also with using the pressure cooker, I found it easier to just skip the braised onions part that Julia Child's recipe calls for. After all, I am using the pressure cooker to help me save time. :)

Coq Au Vin - Cooked Under Pressure
Based on Julia Child's Book ~ Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Feeds 4 to 6 people

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 250g of Speck (cut into 1.5cm width slices) - can substitute with bacon
  • 3 pieces of maryland chicken (Drumstick and thigh separated)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup cognac
  • 1 onion (halved then cut into quarters)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3/4 cup of beef stock
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • 2 bay leaf


  1. In the pressure cooker, sauté the speck\bacon slowly in hot butter until it is very lightly browned.
  2. Dry and season the chicken thoroughly with the salt and pepper. Brown the chicken in the pressure cooker, which would now have the bacon fat rendered out already.
  3. Pour in the cognac. Either ignite the cognac with a lighted match and shake the cooker back and forth for several seconds until the flames subside, or just let the cognac cook off.
  4. Add in the onions.
  5. Pour the red wine into the cooker. Add in the beef stock. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic and herbs. Lock on the pressure cooker lid and bring the cooker to pressure on high setting (15 psi), then continue to cook for 15 mins.
  6. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the mushrooms in a separate pan (recipe follows).
  7. Sauteed Mushrooms:

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • handful of Button Mushrooms (halved or quartered if large)
    • 50g butter
    • 1 stalk green onion (finely sliced.. this is optional)
    • salt & pepper

  8. After 15 mins, turn the heat off and release the pressure from the cooker using the automatic release method. Remove the lid from the pressure cooker and taste the sauce and correct the seasoning if required.
  9. Keep the cooker over a low heat and prepare the finish for the dish (recipe follows)

    Finish (buerre manie):

    • 3 tablespoons flour
    • 2 tablespoons softened butter
    • Sprigs of fresh parsley (optional)

  10. Remove the chicken and arrange it in a casserole dish. Discard the bay leaves. The chicken should be tender enough to be able to fall off the bone easily.
  11. Blend the butter and flour together into a smooth paste. Mix the paste into the sauce in the pressure cooker with a wire whip. Bring to the simmer, stirring, and simmer for a minute or two. The sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.
  12. Place the sauteed mushrooms around the chicken and ladle the sauce and onions over the chicken and the mushrooms.
  13. If you like, decorate with spring for parsley. (this part is optional).

coq au vin - pressure cooked

Serve with some mash potatoes, rice or some bread to soak up the yummy sauce. :)

Related Posts with Thumbnails