Mmm one of my favorite foods! 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. I was so excited when sushi was picked for this month’s Daring Cook’s challenge, even though I waited until last week to make it. I have made sushi before, but desperately needed some practice working on my sushi rolling skills!
Contrary to popular opinion, sushi does not mean raw fish. Sushi actually refers to the vinegared rice that is used. Raw fish on its own is called sashimi, and raw fish on rice is one way to make sushi. I chose to use a short grain brown rice for all of my sushi. I had a sushi party with my sister and some friends last weekend and made the daring cook’s sushi challenge for it. It’s great when you can share food and fun times with others – everyone had a blast!
Let’s start with my favorite part of any meal, the dessert lol. The sushi roll you see above is my “dessert spiral roll”, consisting of lychee, mango and pomegranate. I love lychees. My first experience with them was in Chinatown in Washington D.C. a few years ago. I just love their fresh cool flavor, kind of like a flowery grape sort of taste is the best I can come up with to articulate their flavor. I loved the combination of fruits, and any excuse to use pomegranate now that it’s in season is totally valid, but unfortunately they were so wet that the roll did not hold together well (the photo above is actually of half the roll, before attempting to cut the rest of the slices). So instead, we ended up eating the rice and fruit anyways, which Audax (the Daring Cook’s co-host this month) informed me is called chirashi, or scattered, sushi. My sister had never eaten a lychee before and was a bit tentative due to their odd squishy texture (which makes them great for making creepy eyeballs for Halloween), but once she did get up the nerve to try it agreed that she liked the flavor. So if you have never had a lychee before, be brave! It’s delicious and you will wonder how you’ve ever managed to live without enjoying this succulent fruit!
The other two rolls were for the actual dinner, and I had a bit more success with them because they were more traditional as far as sushi goes. Nigiri is a type of sushi where little balls of rice are hand-shaped and then a topping is placed on top of the rice. Given that I don’t really live in a location where I have access to same day catch sushi grade fish from locations outside of the N. Atlantic (where many fisheries are seriously depleted), I opted not to use any raw fish in my sushi selections. I think this went over better with the crowd anyways. So for the nigiri sushi, I chose to use smoked salmon (wild-caught alaskan). I shaped the rice, and then placed on top cream cheese, salmon, and a cucumber slice, all tied together with a strip of nori (seaweed). This was by far the star of the night! Everyone loved the lox nigiri rolls.
My third roll was the dragon roll. For this, one needs to roll an inside out roll and then cover the top with avocado (or seafood) and present it snaking across like a dragon. For this, I marinated some chicken tenderloins using a Korean BBQ marinade recipe (Epicurious) and then just cooked it in a frying pan. Also in my roll went some cucumber, carrot, and pickled daikon. Rolling this wasn’t that hard, it just took some forethought – like remember to cover your sushi mat with some seran wrap so that the rice doesn’t stick and of course don’t overstuff the sushi (a chronic issue I have when making sushi). Once rolled, the outside was sprinkled with sesame seeds and avocado slices went on top.
For dipping, I made a mixture of tamari and sesame oil, and I also brought some sirachia with me. In the end, we all put a dollop of srirachia (hot chili sauce) on our plate like one would ketchup, and just dipped the sushi in the sirachia, haha. Not really traditional, but then neither was my sushi
One tip that I found very useful is this – when cutting the rolls, clean and wipe down your very sharp knife after every slice. If you have a particularly fat sushi roll, it may take 2-3 slicings with the knife before you can cut all the way though. Just be patient and you will have nice clean cuts on each sushi slice.
Wow what a lot of fun “challenge sushi” was! Can’t wait to see what next month’s challenge will be!