Rice: The Foundation of the Roll


by Chef Jae Bae, JFE Executive Chef, R & D

Rice is fundamental. It’s the traditional basis of our cuisine, and you should make it a source of pride.
The problem with many new sushi chefs can actually be an Asian home cooking background. All due respect to our mothers, this is not their rice. This is the canvas of our culinary art form. Not understanding the chemistry of it also can be the first place sushi chefs go wrong in their preparation.

Two of the biggest mistakes chefs make with sushi rice occur on the front end of the process and the back end. First let me explain how you’re probably washing rice, then the reason we wash it (maybe even Mom didn’t really know why), and, finally, how you should be washing it.

When washing your rice, you may already know to rinse it a few times. But you’re probably quitting this process before the water is completely clear. I like to wash it five times until the water is crystal clear. What you’re seeing in the water is starch, and it’s essential to rid each grain of rice of all of it, or it will cause your rice to be too sticky.

On the first rinse, agitate the rice/water mix vigorously with your hand. In essence the most common error with rice prep is chefs are too gentle on the first rinse and then, later, too rough on the final stirring of the cooked rice.
One important note here is to do the vigorous washing right in the first wash and then ease off, letting the water do the work but not stopping with a third or fourth wash like many home cooks do. We’re trying to get good clean grains but also not break them.
Failing to do the first step here, and not being gentle enough on the last step, stirring, both hurt the grain differentiation, which makes your rice visually a mess and too sticky.
On our menu rice is one of the stars because ours is a visual culinary medium. We want to see the grains! I look forward to sharing more culinary tips with you in coming editions.

Refreshingly, what was expected of her was the same thing that was expected of Lara Stone: to take a beautiful picture.

“We’re trying to get good clean grains but also not break them.”