Quick Beginners Tutorial on Making Sushi At Home

Meg’s comments on my post about Making Food Cheaper at Home inspired me to write about how to make sushi at home, because I’ve been doing it for a while and can offer some (amateur) tips on what worked and what didn’t..

Before I continue, there is a MUCH more expensive route I could go in terms of suggesting other items to buy but that’s only if you’re REALLY into sushi, and if you’re willing to spend the cash on the items.

But if you’re just eating Kappa Maki (Cucumber rolls), or something quite simple, then the basics are as follows:

Tools you need

A sushi rolling mat
I’ve never tried the silicone ones, but they seem easier to work with and clean.. I’ve only bought the traditional rolling mats made out of bamboo held together by string.

A sharp knife
I’m sure this one goes without saying, but it’s what you need to chop the veggies, meat and whatever else with. It’s not essential to buy a specific sushi knife, but if you are interested in WHAT to buy, email me at brokeinthecity at gmail dot com and I’ll explain all the different knives and what they do, and what to look for.

Rice Cooker/Steamer [optional]
But I find the rice cooks THE BEST in a cooker/steamer because it comes out perfect, white and fluffy every time. This way, you aren’t biting into hard chunks of uncooked rice. The best ricepots are made in Japan like the Zojirushi brand, but they can run you up to $100 per ricepot. So I suggest getting either A) a smaller version of it for cheaper (cooks less rice) or B) Another brand that works just as well..

The main thing to look out for is the pot that’s inside. If it has a sort of slick inside, it’ll be great for the rice because the rice won’t stick too badly to it. If not, (trust me) you’re gonna be scrubbing sticky rice off the damn pot all night…. and/or soaking it overnight in water and soap to get it clean. Every time.

I’d also look for the lid (glass really doesn’t work well, but some people like looking at the rice)… I prefer a thicker lid that really keeps in the steam to cook the rice correctly.

It should come with a plastic rice paddle (extremely important/useful).

Ingredients you need

Seaweed (Nori)
The tastiest stuff is covered in this kind of oil and salted (they’re called ‘roasted, seasoned’ seaweed), but they’re awful for rolling. The best kind for rolling/sushi is kind of dry, untoasted comes 50 in a pack instead of 20 in a pack, and don’t look like they have any ‘bald’ spots or holes in them. No particular favourite.

Sushi Rice
Short grain, polished white grains of rice. They’re SUPPOSED to be sticky (so they hold together), and you cannot use any other kind of rice that’s a long grain and not sticky. Short grains are the best. My favourite brand is Kokuho Rose.

Rice Vinegar
This is what you mix into the rice to get the proper sushi rice taste. My favourite is Marukan.

Soy Sauce
Kikkoman is my favourite and the most popular brand. No jokes here, I have an INDUSTRIAL sized metal tub of this stuff.. I use it to top up my other Kikkoman bottles when they get low.

Wasabi [Optional]
I hate the taste of this stuff, but I can tell you that the wasabi in tubes is MUCH better than the ones in powder form. A bit more expensive, but better tasting/smoother. You can find them at almost any Japanese/Korean store…Or even in grocery stores.

Pink Ginger [Optional]
Again, preference… I don’t like pink ginger, but some people like the taste with their food. You can buy this in most Japanese/Korean stores in tubs, or in grocery stores with a sushi section.

What you want to put inside

A couple of suggestions for beginners for items that are easy to practice on and roll:

– Chives or Green Onions/Scallions (Not much preparation, adds a nice kick)

– Lemon Rind (don’t knock it, it’s SO tasty)

– Cucumber (Julienned/cut into strips)

– Carrots (Julienned/cut into strips)

– Cooked hotdogs (Julienned/cut into strips) No kidding on this one! My mom did this when I refused to eat raw fish as a kid. It’s quite good.

Cooked items for the more advanced/adventurous crew:

– Masago/Tobiko -Fish Eggs- (You can buy this in most fish shops in tubs, or japanese/korean shops)

– Avocado

– Barbecued Eel (I buy it frozen in packets at my local Japanese grocery store)

– Teriyaki Chicken (I buy the chicken and teriyaki it with some teriyaki sauce on the grill)

– Smoked Salmon (This one has a nice flavour/texture, similar to raw fish, but it’s cooked)

– Teriyaki Salmon

I don’t recommend:

– Beef, lamb or turkey. Too dry and the texture is really grainy/awful.

– Trying anything you aren’t sure of. That includes raw items.

Preparing the rice

Assuming you know how to cook hotdogs, julienne some cucumbers and carrots, and are OK on the “food” front of what to put inside, this is how you prepare the rice.

1. Cook it. Steamer, Ricepot, whatever method works for you.

2. After it’s finished cooking, give it 5 minutes (to let it cool down and solidify a bit, especially if you use a steamer/rice pot)

3. Take it out of the ricepot/steamer and put it into a huge plastic bowl.

4. Let it cool until it’s warm, but not too cold or hot to the touch.

5. Add the Sushi Vinegar to the rice – make it to your taste. It shouldn’t be very strong tasting, it’s quite a light vinegar, and the rice should have a FAINT hint of the vinegar taste, not overpowering or nonexistent.

6. Mix the vinegar into the rice

7. Let it really cool to room temperature. Not warm or else you’ll rip the seaweed when you spread the rice on it.

How to do it

1. Place the sushi rolling mat on a flat surface.

2. Pick up a piece of seaweed. Look at it in the light. There should be a VERY shiny smooth surface and on the other side, a slightly rough-looking surface. The VERY shiny surface goes on top of the mat, and the rough-looking surface faces UP.

3. Spread the seasoned rice on the rough-looking surface on the LOWER half of the seaweed. Tip: Be careful when spreading. Seaweed is delicate, and I’d suggest taking little rice ‘blobs’ and putting them in a row (4 blobs in a row) on the lower half, then using the plastic rice paddle and pressing down on the blobs to make them spread out, then gently pressing down on the blobs and spreading them out in all directions.

You don’t want TOO much rice so that it’s a thick fat layer and looks like way too much, but you want to have a sufficient layer of rice that doesn’t have ‘bald’ spots, and is spread evenly and looks ‘white’ across the bottom.

4. Place your julienned/cooked items in the middle of the rice “rectangle” that you’ve created in a neat row.

5. Now, your seaweed (with the rice) should be in line with the edge of your sushi mat.

Make ONE pass at it, and roll it once using the mat, and the mat edge should now be touching the other side of where you placed the food.

Now hold the mat on the sushi, and tug at the other end of the mat to ‘tighten’ the roll, while holding the mat that’s holding the ingredients inside.

Keep doing this action until you’ve finished rolling the sushi

Here’s a video that might help a bit, but he missed one step – the part where he did the first roll? He was supposed to hold the mat after he rolled it once, and hold on to the mat at the other end, and tug, while holding tight to the sushi roll.

And he also cut the seaweed pieces into half, so he didn’t have to roll it all the way, which is pretty smart, but I generally just take the original size of the seaweed sheet and make a bigger sushi roll with more ingredients/rice πŸ˜› πŸ˜› πŸ˜› πŸ˜›

6. Use water to “seal” the excess seaweed at the end to the sushi roll (a light smear will do it), and use the mat to tighten the roll one more time.

7. To cut the maki sushi that you’ve just created, take your knife, and WET it with warm water. This will make the knife slide better through the sushi and cut it cleanly instead of turning it into a hot mess and ruining your roll.. (Try doing it with a dry knife once, it’ll turn out quite difficult and messy because the rice is so sticky). Keep wetting the knife after every 2 cuts.. I find that’s the general rule when I make sushi.

8. Et voila!! You’re finished πŸ™‚

Resources to help

This professional-looking video on Youtube shows you how to make nigiri sushi (just the rice with the ingredients on top). He’s really good at it, and in fact, I’m going to try it next time πŸ˜›

This video embedded here, teaches you how to make sushi rolls easily with the rice on the OUTSIDE of the roll. Quite a good video (not shaky like the others).

I’m so hungry… I’m going to go eat something now. LOL

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.