Monday, 21 January 2008

Making sushi

I have had a couple of requests and questions regarding making sushi and I finally got round to putting something together. As with a too-long list of food that I love, sushi is one of those things that I have had trouble finding when I moved to the UK, and terribly expensive when I could locate them. In my more desparate days, I have even tried buying sushi from Boots and Sainsbury's (usually in the packed sandwiches and salads section). Suffice to say once was enough. The rice was dry, hard, tasteless and just generally terrible. So I have turned to making my own at home. It is not as fancy as the ones in restaurants and I have not mastered the more complicated rolls or techniques, but it certainly satisfy my cravings (and the husband too).


The ones that I make most often are maki (rolls), nigiri-zushi (rice pellet with a topping) and inari-zushi (fried tofu pouches stuffed with rice), such as these in an earlier post. The ingredients you need are:

- Nori sheets (often sold in packets of 10 sheets)
- Sushi rice
- Sushi vinegar/seasoning (or combine mirin, rice vinegar, salt and sugar)
- Filling or topping (whatever strikes your fancy e.g. crabsticks, prawns, salmon (smoked or raw), tuna (canned or raw), bacon, cooked chicken, carrots, asparagus, cucumber, avocado, sweetcorn, pickles...)

Making Sushi Rice

To make sushi, make sure you buy short grained rice (or labelled sushi rice). Basmati, jasmine rice and brown rice will not work as they do not get that stickiness that is required for the rice to mould and stick together. You might find a sushi recipe the bag of rice, a bottle of rice vinegar, or on the package of nori.

Rinse the rice 2-3 times and then cook either in a rice cooker (follow the manufacturer's instructions) or on a stove. A fairly consistent recipe is to use equal amounts of rice and water (one-to-one ratio) or slightly less. I usually cook 3 cups of rice (with just under 3 cups of boiling water) to make enough sushi for dinner and packed lunches for us both the next day. Bring the rice back to boil on the stove top, cover with a lid, turn the heat right down and simmer for 15 minutes. After that, remove from heat and DO NOT REMOVE the lid for another 10 minutes to allow the rice to finish steaming. Fluff up the rice a bit with a rice paddle (or flat wooden spatula, to avoid crushing the grains) and the rice is ready to serve as it is or made into sushi rice. Some people like to add a piece of kombu (seaweed) to the water and rice while it is brought to a boil, then removed, to add extra flavour.

Put the hot rice in a large bowl (a mixing bowl works) and pour sushi vinegar (1 tbsp of vinegar per cup of rice) evenly over the surface of the rice, mixing it into the rice with quick cutting and flipping strokes. Fan the rice at the same time to cool the rice quickly, which will give the grains a lovely sheen. This is traditionally done with a paper fan or an electric fan. I often just do this next to an opened kitchen window with a breeze coming in.

If you cannot find sushi vinegar (some comes in packet seasoning, which is less ideal as they contain MSG), combine 4 tbsp rice vinegar, 2 tbsp mirin, 4 tsp sugar and 2 tsp salt in a small bowl, and then pour over the rice (the heat from the rice will dissolve the sugar and salt). The rice is pretty delicious as it is, served as hot vinegared rice with some simple side dishes. Don't diss it till you've tried it!

Making Maki Rolls

Lay out all your ingredients so that everything is close at hand. You will also need a bamboo sushi rolling mat, a sharp knife, and a small bowl of water to dip your fingers into to prevent rice from sticking all over you. I forgot about this the first time and the rice drove me nuts.


Lay out the bamboo mat and put a sheet of nori on top (if there is a smooth shiny side and a rougher side, put it shiny side down. The rougher surface will hold the rice better). Spread some rice evenly on the sheet of nori, leaving about a centimeter of uncovered nori at the far end. Scoop some rice onto the nori with a spoon and spread using your fingers (remember to dip them into the bowl of water!). The rice should be less than 1 centimeter thick. You should be able to see some nori through the rice; the biggest mistake for beginners is using too much rice, which makes it difficult to roll.


Place your chosen filling across the rice. I used crabsticks (split lengthwise), cucumber sticks and smoked salmon. A point about cucumbers, unless you are using Japanese seedless cucumbers, make sure to slice off the seeded portion so that it does not make the roll soggy with excess water.


This is a photo taken off Google Images to show the rolling process. I was alone in the house when making these and there was no other person to take a photo with both my hands occupied.


Slowly fold the mat nearest to you over, tucking the end of the nori to start a roll. Continue rolling with medium pressure, keep lifting up the mat as you go along (so that you don't trap the mat inside the roll). You may dampen the far edge of the nori sheet with a little water to help it stick. Place the roll on a board and cut into even pieces. Important tip: Keep the knife moist to prevent sticking, remoistening before each cut. First cut the roll in half, then half again and so on until you get 6 or 8 even pieces. Turn the pieces on its side or end and arrange on a platter.


Serve with soy sauce, wasabi (Japanese hot mustard, if you fancy -- it is an acquired taste!) and/or pickled ginger (pink, paper-thin slices, sold in Oriental supermarkets).

Making Inari-zushi

I love inari pouches, which are fried tofu that has been marinated in a sweet sauce. Inari-zushi is also much easier to make compared to maki so they can be done in a pinch. Inari pouches can be found either in a packet in the chilled or frozen section, or in a can, in Oriental supermarkets/stores. The packet ones have to be prepared for use (pour boiling water over, drained etc.). I tend to use the ones in a can as they have already been prepared. This brand holds 16 pouches in each can.


Drain and rinse the pouches under some water. Squeeze a few pouches at a time between your palms (gently) to get rid of excess marinade. To fill the pouches, gently open up each pouch to reveal a pocket (rather like pita bread) and fill it with sushi rice. You can do this either with a small pellet of compressed sushi rice (moulded by hand or in a sushi making mould) or scoop some rice into the pouch with a teaspoon to about 3/4 full and shape the pouch gently. Fold the top flaps over to enclose the rice and place seam side down on a plate to serve. They can be eaten as is or with some soy sauce/wasabi/pickled ginger on the side.



Happy cook said...

The sushi looks so good.
Even though I have never had them :-)

Nilmandra said...

Happy cook: Thanks! You must try it some time perhaps when you're at a Japanese restaurant. Try the ones with cooked filling for a start, instead of raw fish.

Greg said...

Ah, terrific! I was just making my morning rounds when you commented on my maki. Your rolls look fantastic. I am not quite as neat about laying out the ingredients, so I don't get perfect rolls like yours. But they taste good. I should mention that the brown rice I used is not nearly as good as real sushi rice (I prefer a Korean rice actually). But it was sticky enough to hold together.

Pixie said...

Perfectly explained entry on how to make sushi, which means I must attempt them someday very soon.

Question about the raw pieces, as I prefer raw salmon or tuna, do you need to marinate them or do anything to prepare them?

Also, thanks for sharing inari recipe, they're delicious!

Little Old Liz said...

May I suggest a filling combo?
Smoked salmon, creamed cheese, spring onion and capers. If you eat your bagles fixed like this, you'll love it as sushi, too. Happy eating!

Sylvia said...

You really knows how to made a good sushi, they looks wonderful

Nilmandra said...

Greg: You should have seen my maki rolls when I first made them! I have never tasted brown rice sushi before, perhaps one day :) Anyway, my philosophy to cooking to always to use that is available and whatever suits your needs/taste so if the rice sticks well, all to the good!

Pixie: Raw fish would need to be extremely fresh and scrupulously clean. Apart from being cleaned thoroughly and kept cold, they are sometimes sprinkled with a little salt and/or marinated in some rice vinegar before being rinsed and pat dry. Personally I would only eat raw fish in a reputable restaurant because they are so difficult to obtain as well as prepare correctly and I don't want to take the chances of having the runs. That's why I tend to use only cooked ingredients in my home sushi. This article is a good read:

Little old liz: I have seen people use that filling, it is very popular and sounds good. I sometimes use smoked salmon with chives and Kewpie mayonnaise (a Japanese mayo that taste very different from American/Western mayo).

Sylvia: Thanks! It really improves with practice.

Nilmandra said...

Pixie: Sorry that link was truncated. Here it is.

alexx said...

Hi make these look so professional! I had my first go at maki rolls last weekend and they looked a state, but tasted good - I was amazed how easy it was to replicate the flavour I have eaten out, if not the beautiful appearance!
I will be keeping this as a guide for future use I think!

Ling's Passion said...

Wow...your sushi looks so professionally done. I tried a couple of time but it did not turn out as nice.

Little Corner of Mine said...

Nice, nice, nice...thanks for the instuction, I have yet to make any sushi.

Kevin said...

Great sushi post! I like the idea of using smoked salmon in sushi! So far I have only made cucumber rolls at home. I am going to have to try the inari-zushi as well.

missbliss said...

Cheapo rice labelled as 'pudding rice' works well for sushi (it's what I use) as it gets lovely and sticky.

Nilmandra said...

Thanks for the kind remarks!

alexx: That was my thought too, the first time I made sushi. I was so pleased to be able to get that same taste after missing it so much.

Miss Bliss: Now that's a useful thing to know! It probably tastes different from Japanese short grain rice but I bet it's a lot cheaper! The short grain rice that I get here are almost twice the price of jasmine rice, which is already twice the price of basmati... *sweatdrop*

Pixie said...

Thanks for your help nilmandra; I shall hopefully, one day make my own!

Nilmandra said...

Pixie: Ah heck, if you can make your own pasta, I'm convinced you can make your own sushi! ;)

clarahippy said...


I found your blog through LJ/Bentolunch, specifically when trying to learn how to make sushi. Have just made my first sushi rolls following these instructions and they were awesome, I am now able to make one of my fave foods at home which gives one a great sense of accomplishment :-). Thanks for the great tips!

Nilmandra said...

clarahippy: That's really good to know, thanks for the comment :) I really love being able to make sushi at home too.

Pixie said...

Nil- coming back to reread your sushi recipe, particularly the part about the rice was quite sticky as you could tell from the photo lol, i did have some water to rinse off my hand in between but is it meant to be that sticky? I followed a recipe from a book which is very much like your method; any more tips are appreciated. Thanks!

Kevin said...

Great sushi post/instructions!

kate said...

oh my god. i wanted to thank you SO much for this, i have been wanting to learn how to make sushi for a LONG time (because i LOVE it, but i love the more americanized kinds that include cream cheese, mayonaise & other ingredients that when coming from a restaurant can contain WAY too many calories) but i found all other guides to be a little confusing.

Nilmandra said...

Kate: Glad you found it useful. Have fun making your own!

Anonymous said...

Hi! I just made sushi tonight for dinner. I didn't have any mirin so I just omitted it, but it was still pretty good. There are so many great sushi restaurants at home in Portland, I tend to crave it very often and it's not very easy to find sushi in Israel/ Palestine, so it's great when I can make it at home. Thanks for the tips! Especially the one about water :)

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