How to make sushi with catfish

Making sushi may sound intimidating, but it’s not as difficult as you might think. You can even make raw sushi with freshwater species, but you must deep freeze the fish for a minimum of 7 days (-4 degrees F for 7 days according to the FDA) to kill any possible parasites. For this sushi recipe, we are using fish cooked in the form of catfish tempura, which is basically fried catfish breaded in panko.

While you may think that sushi ingredients are difficult to find, you can find what you need for this recipe at most large grocery stores. I found everything I needed at Walmart. They also had a bamboo sushi mat for $4. And if you don’t have catfish, you can use any freshwater (or even saltwater) species here.

Hand rolling sushi next to a sushi roll on a cutting board.
A hand roll (left) is easier to make than a sushi roll. Jack Hennessy

In the end, if you follow these steps, you’ll end up with delicious, sticky rice, perfectly fried tempura, and some vegetables—all wrapped in nori seaweed sheets. The presentation and consistency of your sushi rolls may vary, but you will improve with practice. And if you want to take sushi in baby steps, consider just making the tempura and toppings and serving over sushi rice. Or, try making a hand roll, which still uses all the ingredients but allows you to roll them into a hand cone.


serves 4

  • 1 pound catfish, fillets cut lengthwise into strips
  • 2 cups of buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup pickle juice
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup of your favorite spice blend
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s RedHot
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • Peanut oil
  • Spray with cooking oil
  • 2 cups of sushi rice
  • 2 glasses of cold water
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 spoon of sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • A cucumber
  • Two avocados
  • 10 seaweed nori sushi sheets
  • Black and white sesame seeds
  • Sliced ​​onions
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 large cloves of fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup sushi ginger
  • 2 tbsp Sambal chili paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


Cut the catfish fillets lengthwise (against the grain) into 1/4-inch-thick, 8-inch-long strips (or however long your nori sheets are). The goal here is to have a uniform width so you don’t have gaps in the sushi roll after you cut it. Marinate the catfish strips overnight in 1 cup of buttermilk and 1/2 cup of the pickle juice.

While your fillets are marinating, make the flavor by adding the garlic, sushi ginger and Sambal chili paste to a food processor. Mix thoroughly and add to a bowl with mayonnaise and kosher salt. Mix well by hand, then add to a squeeze bottle and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Make the rice

Using a strainer, rinse 2 cups of sushi rice under cold water for a few minutes. Add the sushi rice to a medium pot with 2 cups of cold water and cover. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to low. Keep covered for 20 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. In a separate pan, boil rice vinegar with sugar and salt until the sugar and salt dissolve. Turn off the fire. Once the sushi rice has absorbed all the water, add the sushi rice and the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt mixture to a large mixing bowl. Mix well and leave until you are ready to roll the sushi.

Fry the fish

Set up three stations to fry tempura catfish: A plate containing 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup cornstarch, and 1/3 cup your favorite spice mix; a bowl with 1 cup buttermilk, 1 egg, beaten, and 1/4 cup Frank’s RedHot; and another plate with 2 cups of panko breadcrumbs. Heat a pot, dutch oven, or deep skillet filled with peanut oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the peanut oil is hot enough, pull the strips from the marinade and dig into the first plate at your station. Shake off any excess, then pour into the bowl of buttermilk and eggs. Take out and toss the fillets in the panko breadcrumbs. Shake off any excess and add to the hot oil. Do not overcrowd the pot or pan. Pull out the strips once they are golden brown and add to a rack to dry.

Sushi ingredients waiting to be rolled into sushi.
Start by spreading sushi rice on the nori. It’s up to you which way you want to roll. Jack Hennessy

Roll Sushi

Clean and peel the cucumbers and cut into thin strips. Cut and slice the avocado and also cut into thin strips. Next, lay out a sheet of nori and add a 1/4 inch of sushi rice across the sheet. (It helps to have a bowl of cold water nearby to rinse your fingertips as they stick while adding the rice.)

You can flip the rice and nori sheet over and add vegetables and fish to the side of the nori—so the rice will appear on the outside of the roll—or add the ingredients directly to the rice so that the outside of the roll is nori Whichever way you choose, add tempura, cucumber and avocado to the nori and rice.

Read more: The Beginner’s Guide to Smoking Fish

Roll tightly by hand, then place on a bamboo mat and squeeze firmly a few times to shape the sushi roll. (If you want to see this in action, check out this video with Iron Chef Morimoto.) Cut your finished roll in half with a very sharp knife that has been lightly moistened with water or cooking oil spray to prevent sticking. Then cut each half into quarters and each quarter in half until you have 8 to 10 pieces. Garnish with sprinkles, sliced ​​scallions or black and white sesame seeds.

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