With just a little practice, you can make sushi rolls at home that are as dazzling to look at as they are delicious to eat.
Today, we're making a variation on the California roll. Along with sushi rice and sheets of seaweed (nori), California rolls require only a few ingredients: crab meat (or imitation), avocado, and cucumber. If you like, mix the crab meat with a little mayo to create a creamy consistency.
To this basic list of ingredients, we've added sliced carrots and cooked shrimp...because that's how we roll.
You'll need a few essential tools for making sushi:
- Bamboo rolling mat (makisu)
- Plastic wrap
- Sharp knife
How to Roll Sushi
This is the traditional way to roll any type of rolled sushi, which is called maki sushi. There are actually two options for this method: rolling with the sushi rice on top of the sheet of nori, as we do here; or with the nori flipped over so the rice ends up on the outside of the finished roll (uramaki sushi).
1) Place the bamboo rolling mat on a cutting board so the bamboo strips are running horizontally to you. Spread a strip of plastic wrap over the bamboo mat. Then place a sheet (or a half sheet) of nori on the plastic wrap.
2) Spread a thin layer of sushi rice over the nori. (See below for more about making perfect sushi rice.)
Don't use too much rice. With a little practice, you'll get a feel for how much rice to use. We're spreading about 1 cup of rice per whole sheet of nori, leaving a small space at the top edge of the nori so you can seal up the roll.
PRO TIP: wet your fingers as you spread the sticky sushi rice over the nori.
3) Add your ingredients toward the center of the rice-covered nori. Don't overpack it. If you're making a roll with the rice on the outside, simply turn the nori over, placing it rice-side down on the rolling mat. Then add your ingredients to the top of the nori.
4) Gently lift the bottom of the mat up and over the sushi. Press and shape the ingredients into a tube. Roll with pressure so you get a firm roll.
5) Roll until just an inch of nori shows at the top. Seal the edge of the nori with a little cold water. Firm it up by squeezing the mat around the roll until it feels uniformly snug. Be careful not to squeeze so hard that the ingredients are smashed or come oozing out the sides. It's a fine line; with practice you'll get the feel of it.
6) Slice the sushi roll in half with a sharp knife on a cutting board. Then cut each half into thirds -- so you have 6 pieces of sushi. To get a nice clean cut, wet the knife with water each time you make a slice.
7) Line the slices of sushi up on platters or sushi plates. Enjoy with soy sauce, wasabi paste, and pickled ginger, and a little chopped daikon if you like.
How To Make Sushi Rice on the Stovetop
You can't use just any rice for sushi. Sushi rice is a special preparation of rice flavored with rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. It's made from short-grain rice (Japonica), typically made in Japan and parts of California and Italy. With homemade sushi rice, you're aiming for rice that's fluffy and a little sticky but not too sticky. Give it a try -- you'll get the hang of it.
VIDEO: How To Make Sushi Rice
Get the recipe for Perfect Sushi Rice.
VIDEO: How To Make A California Roll
OK, now let's watch sushi chef Hitoshi make a California roll. You'll notice he rolled his in the inside-out style, with the rice on the outside of the nori -- and he garnished the rice with a sprinkling of roe. Because he's a pro.
Your Sushi Cheat Sheet
Once you can make a California roll, you're ready to roll spicy tuna, tiger, Philadelphia, or Seattle rolls, too. Here are some of the most popular sushi rolls with their common ingredients -- plus dipping sauce and condiment suggestions.
Roll on with Some Choice Sushi Recipes
Make It a Sushi Party!
"This recipe includes everything you need for a sushi dinner party for about 10 people," says the recipe submitter, Marcia. "It includes California rolls, Boston rolls, lobster rolls, tempura eggplant and avocado rolls, pesto and egg rolls, and shrimp and asparagus rolls. We did not include any raw ingredients, since our people are a bit squeamish. Mix and match the fillings, as desired. Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi paste, and soy sauce."
See more Sushi Recipes.
Know your maki from your nigiri? Explore the different types of sushi. And if you're the type who enjoys air drumming with the chopsticks, please also consult the rules of eating sushi.