Can you really make sushi at home that is just as good as in the restaurants? Perhaps you’ve tried before and it fell apart in your hands (or chopsticks).
We are here to help.
Proper sushi chefs spend years perfecting their chopping and rolling techniques to make picture-perfect sushi, but the good news is that even if you mess up slightly on the aesthetics, it can still taste amazing. Taking a little extra care to use high-quality ingredients and prepare things carefully can make all the difference. You’ll save money and it’s great fun too!
It helps to start simple, which is why I’m going to give you a complete walkthrough for how to make sushi at home. You’ll start with an easy win by making nigiri – a simple recipe which will let you get used to working with the ingredients.
Afterward, you’ll graduate to testing your rolling technique by making a delicious chicken tempura roll, and finally, you’ll get your sushi Ph.D. by making futomaki, a Japanese festive favorite which will give your sushi construction abilities a real challenge!
How To Make Sushi At Home: Before You Begin
Understand What Makes Restaurant Sushi Different
What often sets authentic restaurant sushi apart from homemade sushi is the raw fish like yellowtail, albacore, raw salmon and raw tuna fish (read more here about the ingredients used in authentic Japanese sushi).
The best sushi chefs source only the highest quality ingredients, but these are not easy to find on the high street and unfortunately what counts as “sushi grade” is not always regulated. Unless you can be absolutely sure of the origins and how it was handled, you might be best to avoid raw fish for safety reasons and leave it to the professionals.
But don’t despair. You still have plenty of options to make great tasting sushi! For fillings, you can use:
- Smoked salmon (this is cured, which makes it safe to eat)
- Cooked shrimp, prawns, chicken or tuna
- Crab sticks
- Cucumber, avocado, bell peppers or other veggies
Choose Quality Ingredients:
If you ever wondered how to make sushi that tastes great and doesn’t fall apart, here’s where the quality of your ingredients really matters. Try to get sushi rice if you can. If you can’t, long grain rice is a good second choice.
The shiny black outer casing you might have seen on some sushi rolls is a thick sheet of seaweed known as nori.
You might have seen seaweed sheets meant for snacking in the shops, but don’t use these as they’ll fall apart if used for sushi. Your nori should be:
- Thick and of an even density (hold it up to the light to see this properly)
- Very dark greenish black – not brownish or lighter green
- Smooth (lower grade nori is wrinkled)
Choose Your Condiments
Accessorize your sushi with:
- Eel sauce – a mixture of 3 parts soy sauce and 4 parts sugar (no eels here!)
- Pickled ginger
- Soy sauce
- Sesame oil
It helps to make your rice ahead of time as it needs to be cooled to room temperature before you can use it. Cook according to packet instructions and then add 1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar for each cup of (uncooked) rice that you prepared, a dash of sugar and a dash of salt.
Prepare your eel sauce by heating the ingredients in a saucepan for 4 minutes on medium heat and then letting it cool.
Prepare Your Tools
- A bamboo rolling mat (these are very affordable and can be found at your local Asian market or online)
- A very sharp knife
- Plastic wrap to cover the rolling mat (this prevents sticking and cross-contamination)
Now we’re ready to begin!
Sushi Elementary School: Making Nigiri
When most people think of sushi, they’ll probably think of nigiri: those neat little rectangles of pressed rice topped with a thick layer of melt-in-the-mouth sashimi. The simple combination of two main ingredients lets you enjoy the subtle flavors of each one.
You can use any type of ingredient you like to top the nigiri. To make it look really classic, try smoked salmon, crab or shrimp, but you could also use vegetables – it’s up to you!
- Get your hands wet and take a ball of sushi rice about a third the size of your palm
- Roll it in your hands and press it into a small rectangle shape (nigiri means “squeezing” in Japanese – you’ll see why after this step)
- Make as many of these as you like and set aside
- Now cut your fish (or whatever you’re using) into a slice around 2-3 cm larger than your rectangles of rice
- A common mistake here is to slice too thin – so be bold! The slice should be about ⅓ the thickness of the rice to be properly balanced
- If you like some heat, spread a thin layer of wasabi on the underside of the fish/topping before draping it over the rice
- Press the two ingredients gently together to shape them.
- Cut a thin strip of nori and wrap it around the nigiri to bind it together
And you’re done!
Middle School: Chicken Tempura Rolls
These delicious little rolls are simple to make and the coating of almond flakes or sesame seeds means you can cover any rough edges.
To make a dozen you’ll need:
- 75g cooked chicken (you can use breaded chicken to make things extra easy)
- 1 cup of sushi rice
- 1 green onion
- ⅓ red bell pepper, cut into small strips
- Almond flakes or sesame seeds
- A pinch of mashed or pickled ginger
- A few drops of sesame oil
- A pinch of red pepper flakes
- A squeeze of orange juice
Here’s how to make them:
- Cut the chicken into strips
- In a bowl, mix chicken, soy sauce, ginger, orange juice, red pepper flakes and sesame oil
- Lay the bamboo mat horizontally, cover with plastic wrap and then a nori sheet
- Spread the rice evenly over the nori and sprinkle with almond flakes or sesame seeds
- Press down gently on top to coat the rice with the flakes
- Turn the nori sheet over, so the rice is facing the plastic wrap and the nori faces you
- Add your filings and then roll the nori sheet away from you lengthways, keeping it tight
- Cut into one-inch slices with a sharp knife
Futomaki are large, thick sushi rolls with lots of filings (usually cooked). Because they’re sliced thinner than regular sushi rolls, they’ll take extra skill to keep their shape!
Fillings can be anything you like, but often include:
- Boiled shrimp
- Kanpyo (ribbons of dried gourd, a root vegetable often used in Edo-style Japanese cuisine – but you could substitute with zucchini or squash if you like)
- Shittake mushrooms
- Carrot strips
Here’s how to make them:
- Start as you did with the chicken tempura roll, by laying your mat down and covering with plastic wrap
- Add a sheet of nori and a layer of sushi rice around 1 cm thick
- Add your fillings (don’t worry if you can’t cut these to all the same length, just lay them end to end) and then roll as you did before
- Slice into 1 cm slices and serve by stacking or laying flat against each other (picture dominoes fallen over)
If this is too difficult for you, a traditional way of eating futomaki is without cutting, so try this if you can’t master this one just yet.
Now that you’ve learned how to make sushi at home, keep experimenting with ingredients and flavors and have fun with different combinations.
If you love getting creative, check out my DIY pages for more things you can make at home, or check out my other recipes for more fun in the kitchen.
Lighter Salads Anytime and My Chinese Chicken Crunchy Salad
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