Have you ever wondered how to make sushi? It’s not as intimidating as you think! Although master sushi chefs are better at making all of their rolls the same size (and can work a lot faster), anyone can make sushi!
Sushi is one of Japan’s most revered dishes, and is rich with more than 1,000 years of history and tradition. The food first began as a way of preserving fish — the Japanese would press salt and rice in layers on to the fish until it fermented. That method is still used today in Osaka, the western part of Japan, and is called hako-zushi.
Westerners are most familiar with Tokyo’s style of sushi, which is a hand-rolled food called nigiri. The dish consists of a vinegar-enhanced rice topped with a dab of wasabi (green horseradish paste) and a thin slice of fresh raw fish or shellfish. It is always served in pairs.
In order to become a shokunin, or traditional master sushi chef, hopefuls must undergo many years of apprenticeship before going out on their own. These chefs are masters at their craft, able to work quickly with knives and put on a dazzling show for their guests.
Maki-zushi, one of the most popular styles of sushi, consists of wrapping a piece of raw fish in a sandwich of nori (seaweed) and sushi rice. The food originated in the 18th century when gamblers at Tekkaba asked for a quick and easy hors d’oeuvre to eat while they played. The result was a tuna roll, dubbed tekka maki.
Today there are several styles of maki-zushi. They include kappa maki (cucumber roll), futomaki (roll of dried gourd strips, spinach, egg, sea eel), kanpyo maki (dried gourd strips) and the Western phenomenon, California maki (crab, avocado and mayonnaise). Tempura shrimp is one of the most popular fillings, and the crumbs can also be used as a tasty topping for your rolls.
Temaki is a popular hand-rolled sushi, shaped like an ice cream cone and often topped with a spicy mayonnaise.
Prepared pickled ginger is available in the produce section of most markets, or you can make it from scratch. Bamboo mats, radish sprouts and flying fish roe are available on Amazon or at Asian markets. It is important to use sushi-grade fish for any recipes using raw seafood.
Sushi Making Pointers:
1. Work with warm rice.
2. Using plastic wrap along with a bamboo mat is helpful, especially for inside-out rolls.
3. When making California rolls, mix the crab with a little bit of mayonnaise, sugar and white vinegar. It gives it moisture and brings out the flavor of the crab.
4. Finally, after finishing the rolls, cut through the plastic with a wet knife. Then, take the plastic off and serve.
5. To eat, pick up sushi and dip, fish-side down, in soy sauce, accented with wasabi if desired. In between rolls, eat a small amount of gari (pickled ginger) to freshen the palate.
For the home cook, here is a step-by-step tutorial on preparing some of the most common rolls found in sushi restaurants.
How to Make Sushi
- Plastic wrap for rolling
- Bamboo mats for rolling
Sushi Meshi (Sushi Rice)
- Short-grained white rice glucose coated, preferably
- Rice vinegar
Homemade California Rolls
- 4 cups cooked sushi rice
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 cups crab meat or imitation
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 4 sheets extra fancy sushi nori (toasted seaweed)
- 1 Haas avocado
- 2 small Japanese or pickling cucumbers
- 1 cup radish sprouts
- 1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds for topping
- Wasabi (Japanese horseradish paste) to taste
- Soy sauce to taste
- 1 pound fresh raw tuna
- 1 tablespoon wasabi powder
- 2 cups prepared Sushi Meshi rice recipe above
- Pickled ginger recipe below
- 1 lemon halved
Homemade Gari (Pickled Ginger)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 2 ounces peeled ginger sliced paper thin
- Asian chili paste or Sriracha hot sauce
Unagi Eel Sauce
- 2 cups soy sauce
- 2 cloves garlic smashed
- 2 slices ginger
- 1 green onion chopped slightly
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
How to Make Sushi Meshi (Sushi Rice):
- Prepare the rice according to the instructions, usually a two-parts water vs. one-part rice with a simmer time of 20 minutes. After your rice is cooked, put it into the bowl and lightly flatten it.
- Pour one tablespoon of vinegar, one tablespoon sugar, and a dash of salt into a small bowl and mix until salt and sugar dissolves. Drizzle mixture onto the rice and mix it by cutting into rice with wooden spoon, slowly flipping the rice. Add more liquid as desired until the rice becomes very sticky. Cover bowl with a damp towel.
How to Make California Rolls
- Cook rice as directed. Stir in rice wine vinegar and set aside.
- Combine crab meat, mayonnaise, white wine vinegar and sugar together and set aside.
- Peel and pit the avocado, rubbing it with lemon juice, and cut it into 8 strips. Shred the cucumber and throw away core. Set aside.
- Lay down bamboo mat so slats run horizontally. Place 1 sheet of Nori on top, making sure lines run vertical.
- Spread rice evenly on the nori. Place 1/2 cup crab mixture, 2 slices of avocado, a bit of shredded cucumber and a few radish sprouts along the center of the rice.
- Fold up mat from both ends to the center, and with two hands, roll while pressing firmly. Remove the wrap and seal both ends of plastic wrap until ready to serve. When serving, dip a sharp knife in warm water and slice through plastic into several bite-size pieces. Remove plastic before serving.
- Serve the rolls with soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger.
How to Make Maguro Nigiri:
- After cleaning fish, slice about 1/8-inch thick and rub with lemon on one side.
- Blend enough water into wasabi powder to make a soft paste.
- Moisten hands with rice vinegar mixed with 3 tablespoons water.
- Place a dab of wasabi in the center of each slice of fish on the same side you rubbed the lemon. The wasabi-lemon side of the fish will be placed on top of rice, leaving the clean side for presentation.
- Shape about 2 tablespoons of sushi meshi into an oval about 1 1/2 inches long. Center fish over the top of the oval. Press fish and rice firmly together so that the fish follows the contours of the rice. Serve in pairs with pickled ginger and soy sauce mixed with wasabi to taste.
How to Make Homemade Gari (Pickled Ginger for Sushi):
- Mix sugar, salt and rice vinegar. Soak sliced ginger in boiling water for few seconds. Drain.
- Place ginger in sugar, salt and vinegar mixture and let stand 30 minutes. Drain before using.
How to Make Spicy Mayo:
- Mix chili paste or Sriracha into mayonnaise until it reaches desired heat level.
How to Make Unagi Eel Sauce:
- Place all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar and honey are melted. Let sauce boil slightly and cook 15-20 minutes. The sauce should reduce to a slightly thicker consistency. Sauce will also thicken as it cools.
- Remove garlic, ginger and spring onions.
- Add more honey or sugar to taste, if needed.