Daring Cooks November: 寿司

...or sushi, as it's usually transcribed. Contrary to what many people believe, sushi is not about raw fish. No, the essence of sushi is the rice, dressed with rice vinegar.

Our hosts this month was Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The bite me kitchen. I must give a special thanks to them: they have spent a lot of time in the forums answering questions, giving advice and encouragement.

The challenge came in four parts:
  1. Making perfect sushi rice, and then using it to make:
  2. Dragon sushi roll – an avocado covered inside-out rice roll with a tasty surprise filling
  3. A decorative spiral roll
  4. Nigiri - the litte "pillows" of rice with various toppings

Spiral roll spread out, Jenny adding the final touch: roe.

As I said above, sushi does not have to be about fish. The private Daring Cooks forum, where members can showcase their creations, was filled with people taking the most creative and mouth-watering approaches to sushi. As we love fish and seafood, we decided to go down that more traditional route, but with a regional twist to it.

Since we intended to share the outcome between more than just our four eyes (apparently legend has it that the Japanese eat with their eyes, the Koreans with their stomachs and Chinese with their noses), we made way more than what the challenge called for, and enlisted a cousin of Markus and her boyfriend to help with the eating part. We ended up making:
  1. Two dragon rolls (one dragon and one caterpillar) filled with smoked eel and “pressgurka” (a Swedish “fresh pickle” cucumber, recipe below).
  2. Two spiral rolls with salmon, shrimp, roe, cucumber, avocado and mango.
  3. One California roll (salmon, avocado and cucumber).
  4. One Japanese coin roll with salmon and pressgurka (we used the pictures on this page to guide us).
  5. Plenty of Nigiri with avocado, salmon and smoked shrimp.

Trilobite, the ancestor of dragon roll.

Making sushi is something we have wanted to try for several years now, but never found the time to (alright, we had time, but there's something to be said for a good kick in the right direction as well, so thanks again to Audax and Rose for that kick!). We really had a good time making the sushi (apart from all the rice washing and straining, which might be necessary, but no fun waiting for), and will definitely be making it again (otherwise we end up spending a fortune to let someone else have all the fun!). 'Nuf writing, picture time!

Dragon roll, took Markus an hour to carve, an hour I tell you! (An hour of good fun that is.)

Not as scary as the dragon, but equally delicious: the caterpillar roll.

Japanese coin rolls, apparently these look like ancient Japanese currency. Spiral rolls in the background.

Day-after-lunch. We were defeated by the sheer amount of deliciousness the day before, so two rolls made it to our lunch table: one spiral roll and one California roll, along with pressgurka (which works surprisingly well with sushi), gari and wasabi.

Close up on the spiral roll.

Pressgurka is normally made in thin slices, but thin sticks works better when filling sushi so that's what we used. This is usually served with fish, but also works with steaks and such. We were served something very similar to this, minus the parsley, at a Korean restaurant in Hong Kong. Maybe that's why so many Swedes seem to like East Asian food – the sour, tangy and sweet flavors are very similar in these two kitchens.
Press- is a prefix from the word pressa which means “to press”. It's because the cucumber is pressed down using something heavy before the liquid is poured over the cucumber. Gurka is cucumber. That concludes today's Swedish lesson!

1 cucumber, cut in thin slices for traditional pressgurka, or in thin sticks for use in sushi. If making sticks, remove the seeds from the cucumber before using.
3/4 tsp table salt
1 dl water
2 tbsp vinegar (acetum)
2-3 tbsp sugar
2-3 tbsp finely chopped parsley

Place the cucumber slices or sticks in a suitable bowl. Sprinkle the salt on top and mix around a little bit. Place a plate or something similar on top, the plate should touch the cucumber. Put something heavy on top of the plate, I usually take my mortar and pestle. The weight will press down on the cucumber (hence the name) and make it release liquid. Let it stand with the weight on for about half an hour. In the meantime, mix water, vinegar (acetum) and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Add the parsley. Pour the mixture on top of the cucumber and mix around a bit. Let it rest for at least half an hour before eating. Best eaten fresh, but it will keep in the fridge for 2–3 days.

The other recipes can be found at the Daring Kitchen – Command HQ of this Blogosphere quadrant.

Fine print a.k.a. blog checking line
The November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge.


  1. I have to admit your dragon and caterpillar rolls are marvellous and that carrot head is superb what an effort (one hour I'm so impressed). And I'm Finnish so I know exactly what you mean about East Asian flavours. And I just love pressgurka. Your sushi banquet (it's much more than a meal!) looks so elegant and luscious. I'm stunned how well you did on this challenge. And I'm sure it is so much cheaper at home than in a sushi bar (I know the prices of food in Finland I'm sure they about the same in Sweden). Cheers from Audax in Australia.

  2. Incredible! What gorgeous food artistry. The coin rolls and carrot head are extra impressive. Great work on this challenge.

  3. Ciao ! What a lovely dinner it must have been !! You really dis a great job on the dragon and the coin too !! Bellissimo !

  4. So gorgeous! I love the coin rolls - everything looks fantastic! You did an awe-inspiring job on this challenge!

  5. Oh yes head with the carrot is very well done! I also loved this photo is superb!

  6. Your dragon is fantastic!!
    Love your sushi, such talent you have!
    I would love to learn how to do the coin rolls.

  7. What a fabulous job! So much effort, but it looks fantastic! Your dragon is the BEST!!!

  8. I love all your sushis! especially your dragon roll. good job on the challenge!

  9. Very cute dragon roll! A hand carved dragon to go with the sushi body. Very cool. Terrific looking coin rolls too. Great job on the DC challenge!

  10. haha it's well worth the hour! That dragon head looks great!

  11. Thanks for all your kind comments! We loved this challenge, and already made sushi again! Dinner tonight was rolls with fresh salmon, shrimp, avocado and cucumber. Very tasty!

  12. Your sushi is wonderful! So colorful and fun!

  13. Your versions look and sound fabulous.

  14. Your dragon head is great! And I admire your coin rolls! I wish I could ever do it!