Sushi Made Simple… Sort of

When I woke up today, I had an urge to take on a complicated Sunday food project. Earlier this week, I had lunch with my friend Lisa and she was my inspiration for today’s undertaking. She is also a food blogger,, and recently tried her hand at sushi making. “That’s it,” I thought and started on my quest to gather all of the ingredients and tools.

After Jon and I drove to 7 stores, we finally had everything we needed. Here’s a hint to save you some time: Woo’s Oriental Grocery, 504 Noble Drive, has sushi rolling mats for $1.99. It also has Masago (orange, less salty caviar) one of my favorite ingredients for sushi, which is well worth the price at $5.99 for a small container.

I was ready. I did some research beforehand about the rice-making process because Lisa told me it was the most difficult step. I found this video extremely helpful: How to Make Sushi Rice. I also used tips from this website: Make My Sushi.

Here’s what you will need:

  • 1 cup sushi rice (found at any Asian Grocery Store and even Scott’s or Kroger in the Asian food isle)
  • Nori (roasted seawood paper, usually sold in packages of 10 or 50)
  • Bamboo sushi rolling mat
  • Soy Sauce
  • Wasabi
  • 1/2 cup Rice Vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt

The Fixings

You can use whatever “insides” you’d like for your sushi roll. I used:

  • Cucumber
  • Avocado
  • Carrot
  • Masago
  • Imitation Crab

Preparing the Rice

First, you must rinse the rice to clear it of impurities. Wash the rice with running water, 1-2 minutes, until that water runs clean. I found it easiest to measure your rice into a plastic bowl, run water over it, while turning it with my hands. When the water ran clear, I was done. After you are done washing, take the rice and place it gently in a pot, add a little bit more water than rice ( the ratio is about 1.15/1 in favor of the water).

Cook rice on on high heat, stirring every minute or two, until the water boils. Then, turn the heat to low and cover. After 8 minutes, check the water level. (It took my rice 11 minutes). When all of the water has been absorbed, that means  the rice is ready. If not, check back every minute, making sure not to burn the rice at the bottom. The rice will be sticky.

While the rice is cooking, prepare the rice seasoning. Combine 1/2 cup rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 2 teaspoons salt in a sauce pan over high heat, stirring occasionally until the solids are dissolved. Remove from heat, transfer to bowl, and place bowl in larger bowl filled with cold water. This will help cool the seasoning in order to pour it over the rice.

To remove the rice from the pot, use a wooden spoon, and scoop it into a plastic bowl or Hangiri Wooden Sushi rice bowl, if you have one. Don’t scrape the rice out from the bottom of the pot- that rice will be too dry and won’t taste good. Just leave it in there. Fluff the rice with the wooden spoon and pour small amounts of the rice seasoning over it until slightly moistened. If you are coordinated enough, fan the rice while stirring to draw out excess moisture. (This is where Jon came in: he fanned, while I stirred). The stirring process takes about 10 minutes. Once the rice is fluffy and sticky, and not too wet, spread it out on a dry plate and let it sit while you prepare the fixings.

*I totally botched my first batch of rice by first, not cooking it long enough, and second, pouring all of the rice seasoning in, creating an ooey gooey clump of over seasoned rice.

Preparing the Fixings

Peel and de-seed one cucumber, slice into long thin strips. Peel one carrot and slice into long thin strips. Halve the avocado and remove the pit. Use a large metal spoon to scoop out 1/2 of the avocado and slice into thin pieces. Slice the crab meat into long thin pieces.

You are almost there!

Assembling your Sushi Roll

Place one sheet of Sushi Nori over your Bamboo Sushi Rolling Mat with the shiny side down. Spread about 1 cup of sushi rice evenly over the nori, leaving a 1 inch space at one end.

*Because the rice is sticky, I found it helpful to keep a bowl of water next to me to dip my hands in before handling the rice. Instead of using my wooden spoon to spread the rice around, I used my hands. The rice sticks to the spoon, making it difficult to spread smooth.

Place your favorite fixings across the center of the sushi rice. Place your thumbs on the back of the mat and begin rolling away from you. Be sure to support your fixings with the rest of your fingers. Roll sushi until edge of the nori is placed under the sushi. Shape the roll by pressing lightly with both hands. Remove the bamboo and slice sushi, using a very sharp knife. It is difficult to cut through the nori. Move your knife back and forth and press down as lightly as possible to avoid squishing your roll.

*Using a whole sheet of Nori makes a very large roll. I didn’t use enough fixings the first time, so be liberal. Also, consider cutting your nori in half to make smaller rolls.

My Wrap-Up Notes

I have to admit, this project was more ambitious that I thought. Making the rice was extremely difficult and time consuming. I am not a patient person, nor do I enjoy messing up. I felt like a complete failure after my first batch and Jon had to convince me to try it again. Once I was ready to roll, I found the process of spreading the rice on the nori frustrating because the rice is so sticky, but after Jon suggested I use my hands and dampen them with water, it worked much better. Please note, for us, less rice is better, so the layer of rice on the nori should be less than 1 cm thick. As I mentioned above, be very liberal with your fixings. The first roll I made was very rice heavy, with little in the middle- not bad, but not delish either. For the second roll, I used 3 times as many fixings and it turned out very well.

When you are ready to cut your roll, don’t get discouraged if the first end piece falls a part. I was almost reduced to tears when this happened to me- I had come so far and thought the whole project was ruined. It wasn’t. Once you get farther away from the end, the easier it is to cut and the more compact the pieces will be.


4 thoughts on “Sushi Made Simple… Sort of

  1. How ambitious and, I think fun. As I mentioned the Rice is what kicks my…is the most challenging part of the process for me. The ends I either eat or set aside and add ingridients, sometimes havin fun creating unique pieces.

  2. Whoops – wasn’t quite finished.

    Add a bit of vinegar to the water you dip your hands in while adding the ingredients – you’ll find it much easier. I dip my hands after every application.

  3. Yay for you Amber and Jon! (And thanks for the shout-out too.) Looks like you had success, yippee! Don’t get discouraged and yes, many batches of rice found themselves in my trash as well. Here’s a hint…many sushi restaurants will sell you the pre-prepared sushi rice! All you have to do is go home and assemble. Awesome!

    You should only use enough rice that you can you can still see the green nori (seaweed wrapper) through the rice. This will help with the “too much rice/too little insides” problem. Wet hands are a MUST, as well as wiping your VERY sharp knife with a wet towel after each cut of the sushi roll. CRUCIAL to getting clean, even cuts without squishing the roll.

    The end pieces are typically scrap (eats for the chef!), but I also found a technique that makes the ends come out just as perfect as the middle now. Once you are done rolling, move the roll to the very edge of your mat, wrap the mat around it and while holding the roll tight, press the end in to make it firm and flat…works every time!

    Here’s a challenge – now try the “inside out” version (rice on the outside, nori on the inside)! I actually prefer the taste better this way, just my preference.

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