- Sea salt
- 4 fresh herrings , filleted
- 4 pieces shiraita konbu (white konbu)
- 16 caper berries
- 4 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
- Bamboo or banana leaves, to serve
- Pickled ginger (gari), for garnish
- Soy sauce , for dipping
- 2/3 cup rice vinegar
- 5 Tbsp. water
- 1 Tbsp. superfine sugar
- 1 Tbsp. light soy sauce
- 6 Tbsp. water
- 6 Tbsp. rice vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. light soy sauce
- Sushi vinegar
- 1 cup red Japanese vinegar (regular Japanese rice vinegar will do)
- 2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. sea salt
- 1 Tbsp. mirin (Japanese rice wine)
- 3/4 cup superfine sugar
- 1 1/2 inch square piece of konbu
- 3 2/3 cups Japanese short-grain rice
- 1 quart cold water
Wash off the salt and pat the fillets dry. Mix all the ingredients for the herring marinade together and immerse the fillets in the marinade. Let stand for 10 minutes, then drain and pat dry.
Place the konbu marinade ingredients in a flat, wide pan and add the sheets of konbu. Simmer very slowly over low heat for 20 minutes, or until they become soft and translucent. Let cool in the liquid, then trim each sheet to the same size as the herring fillets.
Remove the stems from 8 caper berries and roughly chop them, then fold into the sushi rice, along with the sesame seeds.
To assemble, place a large sheet of plastic wrap on a chopping board and lay a sheet of konbu horizontally in the middle. Place a herring fillet on top of the konbu, skin side down, and then arrange 1 cup of sushi rice along the length of the fillet. Wrap the end of the plastic wrap nearest you over the top of the rice and roll the loaf up. Grabbing the ends of the plastic wrap, keep rolling the loaf on the surface of the chopping board so the contents inside the plastic wrap become tight and firm, resembling a sausage shape. Repeat the whole process for the remaining konbu and herring fillets.
When ready to serve, remove the plastic wrap from the loaves and place them on a clean chopping board. With a sharp knife, cut each loaf across into slices about 3⁄4 inch thick and arrange on a suitable serving dish atop bamboo or banana leaves. Garnish with the remaining caper berries and pickled ginger, and serve soy sauce separately for dipping.
Note: This dish can also be made using mackerel, but you need to salt the mackerel for 1 hour and peel off the skin after marinating.
To make Sushi Rice: First, make the vinegar, which can be made well in advance and will keep in the refrigerator for up to a month. In a nonreactive saucepan, gently heat 2⁄3 cup of the vinegar with the salt, mirin and sugar until the sugar completely dissolves—but do not let the liquid boil! Wipe the konbu with a clean, damp cloth to remove any residue and add to the liquid. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. When cold, add the remaining 1⁄3 cup vinegar. This quantity will be enough to make 2 batches of sushi rice.
In a large bowl of cold water, wash the rice, rubbing it and rinsing it frequently with fresh water until all the excess starch has gone and the water becomes (or “turns clear”) clear. Soak in fresh cold water for about 30 minutes, then drain in a strainer.
To a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the rice and the quart of water. Bring to a boil over high heat for 1 minute, then reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for 5 minutes longer. Lastly, return the heat to high for 10 seconds, then remove the pan from the heat. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then drain off any excess water.
Transfer the hot rice to a wooden Japanese rice tub or wide, shallow container and spread out thinly with a rice paddle or wide wooden spoon. Sprinkle half the sushi vinegar (about 2⁄3 cup) over the rice and, working quickly with the rice paddle in a slicing motion across the rice, cut through the rice from the bottom of the tub so it gets turned over and blends in the vinegar. Be careful not to squash or overstir the rice, or it will become too sticky. Cover with a clean, wet cloth and use while at room temperature within 1 hour. Do not let it become too cold or hard.
Note: During the summer the rice will need less soaking, about 15 minutes.
Gari: Thinly sliced ginger marinated in sweetened rice vinegar is served as a condiment in sushi restaurants so diners can refresh their taste buds between different types of sushi.
Konbu: Konbu (Laminaria japonica) is a variety of kelp that grows in the cold seas off the coast of northern Japan, mostly around the northern part of Hokkaido. Rich in monosodium glutamate, konbu is sold in supermarkets as dashi konbu in fairly large pieces for use in making stock. This konbu should never be washed because the flavor lies on the surface. At most, wipe it clean with a cloth and never leave it in boiling water. Konbu is also a well-known dietary source of iodine and rich in iron. Shira ita, or white konbu, is actually pale green kelp, which becomes almost translucent when marinated.
This recipe is taken from Nobu West by Nobu Matsuhisa and Mark Edwards (Andrews McMeel Publishing). © 2007