Sushi Rice
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The first thing to know about Sushi Rice is that Sushi Rice is actually a preparation of Rice and Vinegar (along with Sugar and Salt and other flavors), almost like an aerated Rice and Vinegar Bound Salad, held together by the natural stickiness of the Rice.

The second thing to know about Sushi Rice is that there is no single variety of Rice called “Sushi Rice,” and no single variety of Rice that is “the one” that makes the best Sushi. There are over 40,000 rice types and various chefs use various ones in various ways to make their Sushi Rice.

A perfect outcome is critical because Sushi Rice is the stage upon which the Sushi Chef’s art is appreciated. In Japan, a Sushi chef is judged by their Sushi Rice, and an apprentice will spend two years learning to cook and season the Sushi Rice before even being allowed near the Fish.

Perfect Sushi Rice is plump and has a firm texture; it is moist and slightly sticky, and some types of Rice are better for making Sushi Rice than others. Chefs argue about whether to use Short Grained Rice that is a Sticky Rice or Medium Grain Rice that is only slightly sticky.

Rice used to make Sushi Rice should be at least slightly sticky so that the grains cling to each other. Long Grain Rice or Starchy Rice need not apply. On the other hand, the Rice should not be so sticky that all the grains form one big clump. Ideally, the grains of the Rice should be slightly glassy and translucent, separate when cooked but stick when formed into shape.

Season

Rice harvesting season in North America is typically early or mid-July in early planting regions such as California, where most of the Medium Grain Rice is sown and grown. Some Rice farmers are able to reflood their fields after their first harvest and achieve a partial second harvest or "ratoon" crop from the stubble of the first.

Cultivation

Most Domestic Sushi Rice is a Medium Grain Rice called Calrose Rice. Medium Grain Rice generally does best in temperate climates and mountainous regions. See the General Rice Resource for broad Rice cultivation information.

Production

In the U.S., high-yielding Medium Grain Rice is grown principally in the Sacramento River Delta of Northern California. In fact, 90% of the California Rice crop is Medium Grain Rice. It is also grown to a lesser extent in the South. Medium Grain Rice accounts for about 25% of U.S. production. All U.S. rice is produced in irrigated fields, achieving some of the highest yields in the world.

See Smart Kitchen’s General Rice Resource for more Rice production information.

Varieties

As mentioned above, there are a few Rice types used to make Sushi Rice: The predominant variety is Calrose Rice, which is used at most U.S. Sushi bars; Kokuho Rice, also grown in California, is becoming more popular. They both come in Brown Rice (with the Rice Bran) and White Rice (with the Rice Bran removed) forms.

Koshihikari Rice, a premium Medium Grain Rice, is one of the types preferred in Japan for making Sushi Rice.

Purchasing

Sushi Rice can be processed as both Brown Rice and White Rice but is seldom found at retail as Converted Rice or Minute Rice.

Both brown and white Sushi Rice is most commonly available in prepackaged containers. When purchasing Sushi Rice, always check the expiration date on the package. Brown Rice will go bad more quickly than White Rice which can still be good up to 2 years after harvest.

While selecting Sushi Rice, keep an eye out for any signs of moisture which can ruin Rice. Your final dish will likely be a mess of overdone and underdone Rice if you cook with broken grains and whole grains: broken grains are smaller than whole grains and the two sizes won’t cook together uniformly.

Storage

Because Brown Sushi Rice retains its Bran Layer (with the Rice Bran Oil which will go Rancid), it has a shorter shelf life than White Sushi Rice and requires a little different handling and philosophy to maximize your yield and value.

How you store Brown Sushi Rice revolves around how quickly you plan to use it. If you plan to use it all in a few weeks then store the Brown Sushi Rice in an airtight container in a cool dark place like your pantry. Sealed, it may last 3-6 months but will be best for only a few weeks. If you open your package from the pantry, store the unused portion in the refrigerator or freezer for a better shelf life.

In the refrigerator, sealed, your Brown Sushi Rice will last for 6-12 months in an airtight container. Frozen, you should get 12-18 months (for best quality).

For White Sushi Rice, which is a dried Grain, you won’t have to be as diligent about storage. An unopened container of White Sushi Rice will keep almost indefinitely in a pantry at room temperature, in the refrigerator, or frozen. Once opened, the only real risks to the shelf life are moisture and pests, including bugs and rats. Keeping the container sealed and airtight can protect against both of these.

Let cooked Sushi Rice (both brown and white) cool to room temperature before storing it in the refrigerator. Cooked Sushi Rice will last about 3-5 days in the refrigerator but it is best to use it within 2 days.

Culinary Uses

Again, Sushi Rice is a preparation that uses Rice and not actually a type of Rice. Smart Kitchen’s Sushi Rice Recipe can be found by following the link.

Generally, Sushi Rice is made by washing the Rice until the water rinses clear, then draining it before cooking in either a Rice Steamer or Rice Cooker, or, less commonly, by the Simmering/Steaming Method.

Cooking Sushi Rice is thought of as an art form in Japan. The Sushi Rice must be perfect (plump, firm, moist, and slightly sticky), and shouldn’t be bruised, broken, or crushed by sloppy workmanship.

Once the Sushi Rice is cooked it is usually carefully mixed with Sugar, Salt, and Rice Wine Vinegar. Other flavorings and seasonings may be added, including Kombu and Sake. This seasoned and vinegared Rice mixture is then used to form the individual pieces of Sushi, whether in a roll or as nigiri-sushi, where the Rice should have a low density and melt in your mouth.

Nutritional Value

The Nutritional Value of Sushi Rice can be found on the Resource page for the actual variety of Rice.

Nutrition

The Nutrition Information for Sushi Rice can be found on the Resource page for the actual variety of Rice.

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes