Unlike common belief among those in North America, sushi cannot be made with the typical white rice found in most grocery stores. Due to the nature of sushi, sushi rice must be prepared a very specific way or it will not have the sticky quality required to keep its shape when molded into sushi. The typical sushi rice is created from a short grain Japanese rice that is blended with other ingredients to enhance its flavor and preserve its sticky quality.
As the sushi rice is very vital to the overall quality of the sushi dish, it is not uncommon for the sushi chef to spend a great deal of time mastering sushi rice. If you attempt to make sushi at home, the sushi rice is often the hardest part, as it requires patience, skill and time to properly make.
In addition to using high quality sushi rice, you must be intimately familiar with fish. As fish is typically the main star of good sushi, a sushi chef must know the signs of good fish and be able to identify when a piece of fish is not fit for consumption when raw. This skill can take many years to learn. As sushi restaurants have a strong reputation of being safe, the health of customers and reputation are both on the line for the sushi chef. Because those who cook at home are not typically knowledgeable on what makes fish good for consumption when raw, it is very easy to make a mistake when trying to make sushi at home.
Because of this, it is strongly suggested that those trying to make sushi at home focus on dishes such as futomaki. Unlike other types of sushi, futomaki is vegetarian, so it can be made safely at home. In futomaki, the focus is on the sushi rice and vegetable ingredients. However, futomaki is often topped with non vegetarian ingredients such as roe and fish.
In addition to the sushi rice, the nori must be properly selected for the dish. Nori that is flavored with teriyaki or other sauces is considered inferior and should not be used with sushi. Both high quality nori and sushi rice are required in order for a dish to be considered better than ume, the lowest quality sushi.
Unfortunately, the popular types of sushi in North America that are found in grocery stores or non specialty locations are considered to be ume quality. While the sushi rice may be of good quality, many of the individuals who make vegetarian sushi for stands and restaurants lack the training that sushi masters in Japan have.