Sushi Master: An Expert Guide to Sourcing, Making, and Enjoying Sushi at Home, written by Nick Sakagami, features an incredibly detailed and illustrated guide on how to make sushi and its accompaniments in the comfort of your own home! Highlights include Unagi Nigiri (Grilled Eel Nigiri), Ahi Poke Bowl, Yellowtail with Beet Green Relish, Tekka Maki (Traditional Tuna Roll), Awesome California Roll, and more. I will also be sharing his recipe for Sake Onigiri (Salmon Rice Balls) following the review.
Disclosure: I received this book from Quarry Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions and statements are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Nick Sakagami was born in Tokyo and is now a longtime resident of Los Angeles, California. He is the only person outside of Japan to be certified as an Osakana Meister (Fish Master) and is also a certified sake advisor. He worked briefly in advertising before becoming a sashimi-grade seafood wholesaler and now “speaks with wholesalers about sustainable fishing and good import practices and influences high-end restaurants on buying practices.” This is his first book.
Chapters are divided into two sections:
- Fundamentals- Tools, Buying Seafood, Ingredients, and Fish Preparation
- Recipes- Rice, Appetizers, Maki, Nigiri, Sashimi, Soups, and Garnishes
Before getting to the recipes, you will learn all about how to successfully make sushi at home. Nick begins with an intimate look into sushi, its beginnings, and how it has involved over the years from simple nigiri to the abundance of types and variations available today.
There is detailed advice on not just picking up fish from the grocery store, but every step along the way from ocean to table and the lives of those who handle the fish. How to source the seafood is a big focus with notes on buying fresh or frozen and learning the differences between sashimi-grade and other qualities of fish. Nothing goes to waste. I especially love the included recipe on how to use the scraps and trimmings of salmon to make Salmon Candy by coating the salmon in a brown sugar, salt, and whiskey brine, then smoking or slowly baking in the oven. Food safety, hygiene, and helpful tools are completely covered along with the proper etiquette surrounding eating the sushi.
The photography is provided by Kristin Teig and Laia Albaladejo. Many of the recipes are accompanied by a quarter to full-page photo of the finished dish. There are also plenty of step-by-step illustrations on how to handle and cut different types of fish, form nigiri, and roll maki. Titles are written in English and Japanese (romanji). Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric. Each recipe includes a headnote with background information, notes, tips, serving ideas, and the chef behind the recipe when applicable. Following the recipes, there are profiles on chef contributors from California, Oregon, and Japan.
Sake Onigiri (Salmon Rice Balls)
Onigiri are Japanese rice balls that can be formed with a variety of fillings (especially leftover fish, chicken, and vegetables) and are perfect for traveling due to their compact size. This Sake Onigiri (鮭おにぎり) comes together easily with a mixture of steamed or sushi rice, salt, a little butter, and flaked salmon. Nick includes guidance on how to fold the rice in a sheet of nori to make a triangle handroll. We enjoyed playing around with a few different shapes.
Be sure to use freshly cooked, still warm Japanese rice to form the Sake Onigiri. Cold rice won’t have enough moisture to stay together. Before handling the rice, remember to wet your hands with water to keep the rice from sticking.
We recently came across some dinosaur cut-out nori at Tokyo Central in Gardena, California. Evan was so excited to add a few to his Sake Onigiri (photo above).
I also made Sushi Rice, Kappa Maki (Traditional Cucumber Roll), Tuna Nigiri, and Clear Broth with Tofu and Wakame.
This well-balanced Sushi Rice is the base for many recipes throughout the book. Freshly steamed Japanese rice is seasoned and folded with a mixture of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. I especially love the added notes on how chefs change up their seasonings and use different vinegars for different fish.
Kappa Maki (Traditional Cucumber Roll) is a basic roll perfect for beginners and children. Cucumbers are cut into sticks, then rolled with sesame seeds and rice inside a sheet of nori before slicing. There are also options to make this roll inside-out or substitute cucumber with takuan (sweet pickled relish).
Nigiri is formed by placing a piece of seafood over a small ball of rice with a dab of wasabi between the two. You will find a handful of varieties in Sushi Master. I went with the Tuna Nigiri using sashimi-grade tuna. I especially love all the tips on how to cut the tuna into sashimi portions and even going the extra step of using kakushi bocho (hidden knife work) to make the fish more palatable and create grooves to hold any desired sauce.
In addition to sushi, there are also a few recipes for soups and appetizers. I made the Clear Broth with Tofu and Wakame. Instead of the usual miso, dashi is used as the base to create a light and refreshing soup with cubes of silk tofu, wakame, and a little soy sauce.
This book is a great pick for those wanting to learn more about sushi and seafood. Recipes range from easy appetizers and soups to rolls with more intricate techniques and knife skills. Having a market nearby with Japanese ingredients and sashimi-grade fish will be helpful for locating items such as katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), sake, Japanese short-grain white rice, wasabi powder, nori, Japanese cucumbers, kaiware (daikon radish sprouts), yuzu pepper paste, gobo (burdock root), miso paste, kombu, miring, and shichimi togarashi (seven-spice blend).
Sake Onigiri (Salmon Rice Balls) Recipe
Excerpt from Sushi Master
Sake Onigiri (Salmon Rice Balls)
- 20 grams (Scant 3/4 ounce) broiled salmon flaked
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (27 grams) sea salt
- 2 teaspoons (10 grams) butter
- 2-3 cups (400-600 grams) Steamed Japanese-Style Rice or Sushi Rice freshly cooked
- 2 sheets nori halved
- In a large bowl, stir together the salmon flakes, salt, butter, and rice.
- Wet your hands with water (to avoid having the rice stick to your hands) and form half the mixture into a ball, or any shape you like.
- Use the nori sheet like a tortilla, to hold the onigiri without your fingers touching the sticky rice.
- Repeat to make the second onigiri. Serve immediately so the nori stays nice and crisp.