Sushi rice is cooked white Japanese short grain rice seasoned with a blend of sushi vinegar. The main ingredient which is commonly a sashimi (raw fish) is accompanied by the sushi rice in order for it to be called a sushi.
It is important to know what the purpose of the sushi rice, or sticky rice is for. Sure, it’s more filling than only eating a slice of sashimi, but its main job is to enhance the flavors of the sashimi. The condiments used in sushi are also meant to enhance the flavors of the sashimi and they must not be ignored, but sushi rice has its own way of enhancing flavor.
All sashimi have some amount of healthy unsaturated fat in the form of fish oil. Some are very lean, and some are more oilier. Fat acts as a coat on the tongue and inhibits many fragile aromas in food. The rice accompanying the sashimi must adjust the fat content of the fish in the mouth to neutralize the excess fat, so the flavors of the fish can be tasted.
Vinegar is the optimal ingredient to wash away fat. Rice wine vinegar is distilled from Japanese short grain rice, so it is a natural match. Another ingredient in sushi rice vinegar such as kelp (kombu) is a natural enhancer of seafood flavors for its mineral contents that it gets from the ocean. Rice wine (sake), salt, and sugar are only used to make the vinegar mild, therefore the taste should not be detected (especially sugar) in the sushi vinegar. White rice is a simple carbohydrate, and has sweetness to begin with. Excess sugar in the rice vinegar will ruin the whole sushi.
Let’stake salmon for an example of an oily fish. If the sushi rice is too strong, too much oil will be washed away and the sweet flavors of the salmon will be overtaken by the sushi rice. If it is too bland, the oils of the salmon will block the flavors of the sweetness of the salmon.
Fora leaner fish such as halibut, if the sushi rice is too strong, only the rice will be tasted. If it were too bland, there are not enough kelp extracts to enhance the flavors of the halibut, and it will be better off eating it alone as a sashimi.
Last but not least, sushi rice is easy to make, but it all depends on the quality of the ingredients. Always use the best ingredients that you can. The reason for this is that sushi rice is only a very simple combination of few ingredients, and not much is done to it. Therefore, the bare flavors of the ingredients are what determine a good sushi rice. Tweaking the strength of the rice vinegar is important as well.