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Sushi Rice

['2 cups short-grain white rice (sometimes labeled "sushi rice")', '3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar', '4 1/2 teaspoons sugar', '1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt', '1 (6-by 3-inch) piece kombu* (dried kelp), wiped lightly with damp cloth', '*Available at Asian markets and some health food stores']

In large bowl, wash rice in several changes of cold water until water is clear. Transfer to strainer and drain well.
In medium saucepan over moderately high heat, combine rice and 2 cups water. Cover and bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. (Alternatively, steam in rice cooker according to manufacturer's instructions.) Let rice stand, covered, 10 minutes.
While rice is cooking, in small saucepan over moderate heat, combine vinegar, sugar, salt, and kombu. Bring to simmer, stirring until sugar and salt are dissolved (do not let mixture boil). Remove from heat, discard kombu, and cool liquid to room temperature.
Turn cooked rice out into large nonreactive bowl. Cool by fanning with small plate and turning over with chopsticks or spoon until steam stops rising from surface. Gradually drizzle vinegar mixture over rice, continuing to fan and turn, until liquid is absorbed and rice is cooled to room temperature and shiny. (Rice may be made up to 6 hours ahead and stored at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap. Do not refrigerate.)

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