Home-made Sushi

Today calls for a special post, since I am very proud that the 100th follower has just joined this blog! As it happens we made sushi last night, and blogging about that will certainly be special as this will be the longest post yet with over 40 pictures!

Making sushi together is a lot of fun, and although the sushi will probably not be as good as sushi at a specialized sushi restaurant, home-made sushi will taste much better than ready-made refrigerated sushi. It is not a coincidence that I like Japanese food besides Italian, as both rely to a great extent on the quality of the ingredients. This also applies to sushi: the quality of the rice, nori seaweed, wasabi, soy sauce, pickled ginger, and last but certainly not least the fish all make a difference. Your skill will define how the sushi will look, but the taste will to a great extent depend on getting the right stuff. And thus it pays off to go to a specialized store to obtain the ingredients, rather than picking them up from the local supermarket. Always tell your fishmonger that you will eat the fish raw, so that he can advise which fish is the fresh enough to eat raw.

The two most common types of sushi are nigiri sushi and nori-maki sushi. Nigiri sushi, “hand-shaped sushi”, is rice with fish on top, while maki sushi, “rolled sushi”, is fish or other ingredients with rice rolled in nori seaweed. Nigiri is easier to make although the fish on top needs to be visually perfect, whereas nori-maki is more difficult to make but the ingredients rolled into the center do not have to look as nice.

We made tuna, scampi and cucumber sushi. You could substitute for many other kinds of fish or vegetables, whatever you like and is available fresh. Locally caught fish like mackerel, sole or sea bass can also be really good on sushi.


For 16 nigiri and 32 maki (4 rolls)

For the rice

500 grams (1.1 lbs or 2 cups) sushi rice (short-grain)

625 ml (2 5/8 cups) water

5 cm (2″) square piece of konbu seaweed (optional)

50 ml (3 Tbsp plus 1 tsp) rice vinegar

40 grams (3 Tbsp) sugar

13 grams (2.5 tsp) salt

For the sushi

a bamboo mat for rolling sushi

4 sheets toasted nori seaweed

300 grams (2/3 pound) sushi-grade tuna

8 very fresh scampi

1/2 cucumber

wasabi paste

4 Tbsp mayonnaise, preferably Japanese (optional)

For serving

Japanese soy sauce

pickled ginger

wasabi paste


For the rice I follow the instructions from the book “Japanese cooking: a simple art” (Shizuo Tsuji, 1980).

Wash the rice 30-60 minutes before cooking and let it drain in a colander.

Put the rice in a heavy-bottomed medium-sized pot and add the water. Put the konbu on top. Heat over medium heat and remove and discard the konbu just before the rice starts to boil. The konbu adds a subtle flavor to the rice and can be omitted.

Cover and bring to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes over high heat, 5 minutes over medium heat and finally 15 minutes over very low heat. Turn off the heat and let it stand for another 10 minutes. Do not remove the lid during any of these steps.

The rice is now ready. Up until this point, the method is the same as for Japanese rice in general.

Make the sushi dressing while the rice is cooking. Mix the ingredients (rice vinegar, sugar and salt) in a saucepan.

Stir over low heat until dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.

Spread out the rice in a large shallow container such as a lasagna dish (or use a proper Japanese hangiri tub if you own one…). Pour the dressing on the rice.

Toss the rice with a flat wooden spoon or rice paddle using horizontal strokes, while someone else is fanning. You can use a nice Japanese fan for this, or a tray like we did, or a folded newspaper. (Or an iPad, since we don’t have any newspapers anymore since I started reading the newspaper on my iPad…) Continue to do this until the rice is at room temperature, about 10 minutes.

Cover the rice with a damp cloth to prevent it from drying out.

We start by making cucumber maki. Nori seaweed has two sides and a perforation. This is the shiny side.

First make sure that the bamboo mat has the flat side up and the round side down. Put the nori on the bamboo mat with the shiny side down and the perforation in the same direction as the threads that hold the bamboo mat together.

Align the nori with the edge of the bamboo mat.

Put some water and rice vinegar in a bowl, and wet your fingers with this “hand vinegar”. Keep wetting your fingers in this bowl when needed, otherwise the rice sticking to your fingers will drive you crazy. Don’t make your fingers too wet, because the nori should not become wet (you will find out why when that does happen: it will wrinkle and become mushy).

With your hands, press a layer of rice onto the nori. The layer of rice should be even and all the way to the edge of the nori on 3 sides and a bit less than 1 cm (3/8 inch) thick.

Cover 3/4 of the nori this way.

You can use pure wasabi on the sushi, but the stuff is quite strong so if you don’t distribute it evenly you may end up with some sushi pieces with too much wasabi and some with too little. To work around this, mix mayonnaise with wasabi in a small bowl.

Taste and mix in more wasabi or more mayonnaise as needed to get a mixture to your liking. It should be spicy but not too spicy.

Put a line of the wasabi-mayonnaise on the middle of the rice.

Wash and dry the outside of the cucumber. Halve lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.

Cut off the ends and cut each half into 4 strips.

Trim the cucumber strips to the same size as the nori.

Put two cucumber strips on the wasabi-mayonnaise (one of them upside down).

Here comes the tricky bit when making maki, since  you want the filling to end up nicely in the middle of the roll. Roll up using the bamboo mat until you have just closed the roll.

Now extract the end of the bamboo mat so you can keep rolling the sushi without rolling in the bamboo mat.

When you have rolled up the nori completely, press lightly on the roll to close it. Roll it another quarter and repeat.

Cut the bad-looking ends off the maki. Use a sharp knife and wet it with the vinegar water to prevent the sushi from sticking too much to the knife. Cut the roll into halves, the halves into quarters and the quarters into eights to obtain 8 pieces of sushi with an even thickness.

Arrange the pieces of sushi on a nice plate and continue with a second roll of cucumber maki.

The second type is tuna nigiri. Cut the tuna crosswise in slices about 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) thick. Trim to make nice rectangular slices and keep the trimmings for making tuna maki later. Use the nices part of the tuna steak for the nigiri, making 8 slices.

Making sure your hand and fingers are properly wet with vinegar water, take some rice about the size of a thick finger.

Press the rice into shape, making sure that it will stick together but do not mash it.

Use the fingers of your other hand as well to get a nice shape.

Take a very small bit of wasabi (or a bit more of the wasabi-mayonnaise) on your finger.

And make a  nice line of wasabi on the rice.

Now press on the slice of tuna, making sure that it covers the rice. You have just made your first nigiri sushi. Repeat to make 7 more and arrange them on the plate.

Trim the remaining tuna of any sinew and other nasty parts.

For the third type of sushi, you can now make two maki with the remaining tuna in the same way as the cucumber maki.

We end with scampi nigiri. Peel the scampi. Wash under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

Make a deep incision on the back of the scampi with a sharp knife, making sure not to cut the scampi in two.

Fold open the scampi and remove the vein. Make nigiri sushi with them in the same manner as the tuna nigiri.

Serve the sushi as soon as possible with pickled ginger, soy sauce and wasabi. Do not refrigerate, because that will dry out the rice and sushi will not taste as good when served too cold.

Sushi can be eaten with your hands, or with chop sticks.

Wine pairing

Sushi is outstanding with Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé, minerally dry sauvignon blanc from the Loire valley in France. A good Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé even stands up to the pickled ginger.

7 thoughts on “Home-made Sushi

  1. Champagne is a perfect accompaniment to sushi. It’s clean, crisp, light and well … bubbly. If you haven’t tried sushi with Champagne, you should. Typically, we do a Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label or an affordable growers champagne.


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