Every household has its own way of seasoning dishes, and as 90-year-old cooking expert Ai Kidosaki says, “How sushi rice is flavored also depends on the family.”
At the homes where Kidosaki and her husband each grew up in, a relatively generous amount of sugar was used in the vinegar mixture and the sushi rice was on the sweet side.
“I was relieved when he was comfortable with mine and said it tasted good,” says Kidosaki.
“Chirashi-zushi” (scattered sushi) is a bowl of sushi rice topped with various ingredients. Its appearance depends on how the ingredients are cut. Among the various types, “sainome-zushi” is a colorful dish where ingredients such as raw fish, rolled egg and cooked shiitake mushroom are cut in cubes.
Kidosaki was inspired by the style of dish she once ate at a sushi restaurant. She also incorporated salmon roe, which she tried and loved when she went on a business trip to Hokkaido. The dish looks prettier when the ingredients other than the salmon roe are diced in the same size.
Rice for sushi should be cooked slightly firm to prevent it from becoming wet and sticky when mixed with the vinegar mixture. For this recipe, she used less sugar than her usual blend for a refreshing effect.
Kidosaki, who has been active as a cooking expert for more than half a century, says she began to feel changes in her state of mind as well as physical condition when she reached 70. She felt that preparing meals three times a day and cutting vegetables into fine strips had become tiring.
“Sushi rice is a reliable friend when you don’t feel like cooking or eating. The aroma of sushi rice will enhance your appetite,” says the cooking expert. Serving some sushi rice on a dish, arranging store-bought sashimi on another dish, and placing rolled egg and cooked shiitake on a third gives you “misara-zushi,” or three-dish sushi.
Serving the ingredients on dishes instead of dicing them will still liven up the dinner table. Sushi rice and cooked shiitake may be prepared in large amounts and kept in the freezer. Serves four to six.
3 cups rice (use 200 cc cup)
3 and 1/3 cups water
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
Sashimi of white-meat fish, tuna, squid
80 grams thick rolled egg (atsuyaki-tamago; homemade or store-bought)
4 store-bought vinegared dotted gizzard shad (kohada)
1 boiled octopus leg
1 full-size dried laver sheet (yakinori)
50 grams salmon roe (ikura)
2 Tbsp white sesame seeds
Cook rice. Pour 1/2 cup vinegar, 3 Tbsp sugar and 2 tsp salt in pot and place over heat to melt sugar.
When rice is cooked, transfer to flat wooden tub for preparing sushi rice (handai) that has been moistened with water.
Pour vinegar mixture in circular motion. Using wooden paddle (shamoji) in cutting motion, mix while cooling with paper fan. Cover tub with wet but tightly squeezed cloth.
Reconstitute shiitake mushroom. Place shiitake with reconstituted water in pot, add water if necessary to cover shiitake entirely and cook.
Once water is reduced and top of mushroom appears, add 1.5 Tbsp sugar and cook further for a while, then add 1 Tbsp soy sauce.
Simmer until no liquid is left. Cool and cut into 7- to 8-mm dices.
Cut sashimi, egg, kohada, octopus and cucumber into 7- to 8-mm dices.
Cut dried laver into fine strips and add to rice with sesame seeds and mix. Serve on dish. Scatter ingredients evenly other than salmon roe. Position salmon roe and serve with wasabi.