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Hawaii-style Sushi Rice Su Recipe

If you have ever tasted sushi made in Hawaii, you no doubt noticed that it has a stronger and sweeter flavor than Japan sushi. Some people like this quite a lot and find Japan sushi too lightly seasoned. Others think that the vinegary flavor is overpowering.

We speculate over the reasons for the changes. My mother said that the weather in their new island home was so humid that rice spoiled quickly. Adding extra vinegar kept rice edible longer. Extra sugar helped counter the added vinegar. Besides, sugar was abundant.

Hawaii Japanese tend to love this highly seasoned sushi. Once I made some makizushi for one of my kids’ Japanese teachers. She raved about the sushi and said, “That was the best sushi I ever tasted!” I was flattered, but I knew that Japan master sushi chefs would vehemently disagree. In any case, this type of sushi rice works best with fillings that are strong in flavor, too, otherwise, it will compete or overwhelm more delicate flavors such as maguro or tako. If you’re making an all-vegetable chirashi bowl or bara zushi, this rice works well. And, of course, it is the best sushi rice for making Hawaii-style maki-zushi rolls!

Hawaii-style Sushi Rice Su Recipe

1 cup rice vinegar (regular type. Do NOT get lite or seasoned)
1 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp. sake or mirin

In a small pot, dissolve the sugar into the rice vinegar and sake over low heat. Stir until sugar is full dissolved but do not bring mixture to a boil. Cool to room temperature before using. Measure out four cups of Japanese white rice into a rice pot. Wash with clean water by swishing grains around with hands. Rinse and repeat until water runs clear. Drain. Pour four cups of water into the rice. Take out one tablespoon of water for each cup of rice. Soak for 30 minutes. If using an electric rice pot, turn it on. If using a stovetop, bring the rice to a boil. Then, cover with a lid, put flame on low setting and let it cook for 15 minutes. Do not lift the lid! Turn off heat and let it steam for 15 minutes.

Wet a handai wooden sushi bowl. Pour in cooked rice. Fan the rice with a hand fan to aid evaporation. Salt lightly with 2 tsp. of fine sea salt (not the coarse grind). Continue to turn carefully with a wet shamoji or wooden spoon, trying not to break any rice grains. When the steam stops, pour on cooled su ¼ cup at a time, using a total of 1 cup of su for four cups of rice. Be sure to let the su absorb fully before adding more. Turn rice.

The tricky part is that if you pour on su while rice is too hot, the su will evaporate. If the rice is too cool, the su will not absorb. I tend to go by the steam. The rice should not be steaming hot but it should still be very warm.

When the temperature has cooled to body temperature, sushi meshi is ready for stuffing into cooked, seasoned abura-age or rolled into make-zushi.

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