In Sushi Part I we walked through how to prepare sushi rice and how to select your fish. The next step to making sushi is taking our fish and cutting it into managable sections, followed by individual slices. The fish we use here are: Bigeye Tuna, Baja Hiramasa Yellowtail, Scottish Salmon, and wild caught Albacore.
First we will go over how to prepare the Tuna. This cut of fish comes in a triangular loin shape that must first be cut into smaller cuts before final slicing. We start by taking the top few inches of the soft inner loin and cut it straight off of the rest of the piece. This will make the most delicious and tender cuts of Sashimi later on. Next, cut another 2 inches off of the fish with a straight across cut. Finally, cut the last half inch from the bottom of the largest piece. This part is nearest the skin of the fish and has more sinews than the inner cuts. You don’t want to eat the sinews in rolls or nigiri, but you can simply take a spoon and scrape the meat out of the sinews. This meat is perfect for making spicy tuna rolls later on.
The Albacore is very similar to Tuna in shape and we cut it exactly the same way too. We also use the most outter part by the skin as spicy albacore after scraping the soft fish from the sinews. The one big difference with Albacore is that it’s extremely soft and lends itself to a quick sear to enhance the outter texture and flavor. To do this, you need to get a pan over high heat for a few minutes, add a little oil to the pan, and then place your cut fillet in the hot pan. Using tongs, flip the fish to each side after 10 seconds per side. We are only trying to get a quick, light sear, not cook the fish. After searing, place the Albacore back into the fridge to keep the rest of the fish cold.
Slicing the fish is one of the most delicate parts of sushi making. The fish is very soft, so an extremely sharp knife is crucial for success. Having a knife dedicated to cutting fish, such as my Shun Pro Yanagiba (Japanese sushi knife), makes this job easier. We make thin slices in the fish, about 1/8in thick, across the grain. Try to use as much of the knife as possible with a long stroke. This will help you get one neat slice and avoid tearing up the delicate fish. We’ve prepared the block of salmon in a 3in wide piece that we then cut individual slices from. If your salmon has the skin-on, be sure to slice down to the skin, then slice off the cut piece. Salmon skin can be crisped up under the broiler for a crunchy and delicious salmon-skin roll.
Yellowtail and tuna can be cut in the same way we did the salmon. Just make sure your blocks are a managable size and then thinly slice across the grain of the fish. When you get down to a part of the fish that you can’t slice into a large enough piece for nigiri, save the rest for Sashimi. Simply cut the rest of the fish into 1/4in slices and serve them without any rice at all. Sashimi is great for getting some fish to the table quickly without having to make and form the rice.
Making Nigiri Sushi puts together all of the items we’ve prepared. Start by wetting your hands in a bowl of water with a couple tablespoons of rice vinegar. The water makes sure the rice won’t stick to your hands when forming sushi. Then grab a golf ball sized batch of rice and gently form in into an oval. Don’t squeeze the rice too much, work it just enough to hold its shape. Then with your other hand, take a slice of fish and lay it over the block of rice. Using two fingers, gently form the fish to the rice. Once shaped, your Nigiri Sushi is done and ready to eat! You can also add a tiny dab of wasabi under the fish for flavor, just be careful not to add too much or you’ll overpower the flavor of the fish.
Stay tuned for Part III where we will talk about how to make all kinds of rolls such as inside-out rolls, hand-rolls and baked rolls.