"I've been making sushi for 38 years, and I'm still learning," says Masaharu Morimoto, Iron Chef star and owner of Morimoto restaurants around the world. "You have to consider the size and color of the ingredients, how much salt and vinegar to use and how the seasons affect the fattiness of the fish."
Even if mastering sushi can take a lifetime, Morimoto says anyone can make a well-balanced maki (roll) at home. The most important step is buying the best ingredientsnot just the fish, but also the sheets of nori and short-grain Japanese rice. "You should trust the pricethe more expensive, the better," he says. Another critical step is making great sushi rice: seasoning it as Morimoto does, with a mixture of rice vinegars, sugar and salt, then carefully separating and fluffing the grains with a slicing motion. The last and most imposing stepforming the makirequires nothing more than a bamboo sushi mat and practice. "Don't be afraid," Morimoto says. "It's like a taco of seaweed and rice."
How to Make Sushi: Filling Prep Tips
Fresh Fish To be eaten safely, sushi-grade fish must be handled correctly: It should be frozen for at least one day to kill any parasites. For the best flavor and texture in oily, strong-smelling fresh fish, such as salmon and mackerel, rub the fillets with fine sea salt and let stand for 30 minutes; rinse the fish well, pat dry and sprinkle all over with rice vinegar.
Crab Meat from Dungeness, blue or king crabs is best. Pick over the meat for bits of shell.
Tuna If a piece of tuna is sinewy, simply scrape the meat off the sinews with a sharp knife.
Salmon Slice salmon across the grain into strips about 4 inches long and 1/4 inch thick.
Cucumber Seed a cucumber, then slice itincluding some of the skininto a thin julienne.
Avocado Cut a ripe Hass avocado in half. Carefully strike the pit with the blade of a heavy chef's knife, then twist the knife to remove the pit. Peel the halves, then cut them into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
How to Make Sushi: The Master's Sushi Artistry
Is sushi an art? Morimoto doesn't think so: "I'm not making art, I'm making sushi," he says. Either way, the rolls below are striking.
Morimoto says he was the first chef to make this decorative roll in the US: "It's traditional at sushi competitions in Japan, where chefs want to show off their skills."
Maki Flower Garden
Chef Ken Kawazumi, a teacher at Japan's Tokyo Sushi Academy, is a maki virtuoso. By arranging layers of colored rice, nori and other ingredients, he creates precise images of animals, plants and even people, including an impressive likeness of President Obama.