This sushi rice recipe was passed on to me by my now 80 year old Japanese mother who had it passed to her by her mother back in the 1940’s.
My mother, who was always looking for ways to improve her own recipes, talked to many popular sushi chefs in Japan (mainly in the Osaka and Nagasaki areas) to try to gather the “secret” to their sushi rice in order to improve her own recipe.
Did those sushi chefs’ always share? Nope. Most were very protective of their recipes. But… some did… even if it was only a “hint”…
So what began as a family sushi rice recipe that was passed on to my mother by her mother and then on to me, was also one that got tweaked and perfected over the decades resulting in what I think is the best sushi rice recipe on the planet.
And now, here it is for you.
My 80 year old Japanese Mother’s Sushi Rice Recipe
Ingredients and supplies you will need:
2 cups Japanese Short Grain White Rice
2 Tablespoons of Sake (like Gekkeikan) plus enough water to fill a 2 cup measure
4 x 6 inch piece of Kombu (Dashi Kombu/Dried Seaweed)
4 Tablespoons plain Japanese Rice Vinegar (like Marukan or Mizkan)
5 Tablespoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of Salt
Small electric fan or hand fan, regular pot or rice cooker, rice paddle
We need to talk a little about each of these ingredients just a little and the importance of not skipping a single one of them.
Japanese Short Grain White Rice
The Japanese short grain is the most glutinous and is the best to use for this recipe. If you can’t find a short grain, then a medium grain can be used in a pinch but the result won’t be as good. Also, look for rice that is not over a year old if possible. Ask your Japanese grocer for “Shinmai”, which mean “current year’s crop”.
The reason you want “Shinmai” is because the older a rice gets the more water it takes to soften it. With a current year’s crop the measure of rice to water normally is 1 cup of rice to 1 cup of water.
When a rice gets over a year old, it is harder to maintain consistency in cooking it because you have to gauge how much more water you need to add in order to soften it to the right texture.
Shinmai takes care of that.
You will also need to get the type that you have to wash, not the pre-washed variety. Again this is for consistency. The pre-washed cooking requirements are different from the type you have to wash. We don’t want to have issues with that. Get the kind you have to wash.
Japanese Rice Vinegar
Get the plain rice vinegar here, not the pre-made sushi seasoning. To make the best sushi rice requires making your own sushi rice seasoning.
Normally used in making dashi, kombu is also excellent for making sushi rice. This is one of my mother’s secrets. Don’t skip this item.
Sake is another “secret” ingredient in this recipe. Gekkeikan is good enough sake for this and is readily available in most liquor stores. Don’t skip this item either.
Sugar and regular table salt are pretty self-explanatory.
Making the Sushi Rice Seasoning
Add the 4 tablespoons of rice vinegar, 5 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a bowl. Mix this vigorously until all of the sugar is dissolved. What you can do is periodically mix it while you are washing, soaking and cooking the rice in the following steps.
Washing the Rice
Put the rice in a regular heavy bottomed pot or a rice cooker pot and cover it with cool tap water. Swish the rice around with your hand to wash it. The water will turn white. Drain the water and repeat this washing process anywhere from 4 to 6 times or until the water comes out mostly clear.
Let the rice drain in a sieve for 30 minutes.
Soaking the Rice
I am going to assume that you are using a regular pot or simple rice cooker. With a “fancy” rice cooker (the ones with all of the bells and whistles) it is sometimes not necessary to soak the rice before and let it steam at the end. If you have one of those follow the instructions on that rice cooker.
1. After your rice has drained in the sieve, add it to your pot.
2. Now, add the 2 tablespoons of sake to a 2-cup measure and fill the rest with water. I recommend using bottled water, especially if you have tap water that has an odd taste. This again adds to the consistency of your sushi rice. Add the water to your pot.
3. Brush off the Kombu a little and put it into the pot with the rice and water. Push it down into the rice to keep it under the water and not floating on top.
4. Let this rice soak for 20 minutes.
5. At the end of the 20 minutes the rice should have turned “white”. This is what we want.
Cooking the Rice
1. If using a simple rice cooker, turn it on. If you are using a regular pot, turn the heat up to high until it begins to boil and then turn it back down to low and put the lid on top.
2. Cook this rice on low for 15 minutes and then turn the stove eye off. Your rice cooker at this point will turn off on its own.
3. Let the rice sit in the pot or the rice cooker now for 20 minutes. This is important. This allows the rice to “steam”. Do not take the top off of the pot or rice cooker anytime during this cooking and steaming process.
4. At the end of the 20 minute steaming period, take the lid off and use a wooden spoon or rice paddle to turn the rice over a few times to mix it up and fluff it.
5. Put the top back on for 5 more minutes.
Mixing the Sushi Rice
The following steps will need to be done quickly when you add all of the ingredients together in the hangiri or bowl so be prepared. You will also have to have a constant wind source blowing over the rice like from a small electric fan or hand fan while you are mixing the rice with the sushi rice seasoning.
1. Point a small electric fan over the mixing bowl and turn it on (or be ready to use a small hand fan).
2. Dump the hot rice in a hangiri or bowl (remove the kombu) and then pour the sushi rice seasoning all over the rice.
3. Start turning the rice over constantly with a wooden spoon or rice paddle being careful not to mash the grains of rice. At the same time fan the rice or have the electric fan blowing over the rice while you are mixing it.
4. Keep mixing the rice until all of the liquid is totally absorbed and the rice has a nice sheen to it. If in doubt, keep cooling and mixing the rice until you are sure.
When all of the liquid is absorbed, your sushi rice will be ready to use in any sushi recipe you desire.