I’ve always been a lover of sushi, this is in part due to the abundance of fresh salmon in the Pacific northwest and the large number of Japanese immigrants, which resulted in an abundance of really good and really affordable sushi places around the town I grew up in. It wasn’t until a couple years ago when my friend Heather mentioned that she made her own sushi that the thought occurred to me that I could actually make it myself. I was still pretty timid about working with raw seafood, however, and the idea of making the perfect sushi rice, both malleable yet sticky, made me a little nervous, so I ended up putting it off.

But then something magical happened. I got a Zojirushi, which is like the Mercedes-Benz of rice makers, and has a special sushi rice setting on it, so it would be near-impossible for me to mess up the process of making the sushi rice. So, I decided it was time to give it a go and bought and used this awesome book as a guide, which I highly recommend reading if you’re interested in sushi-making. It went over how to make sushi rice without a rice-cooker (which I’ve included below), how to recognize a quality cut of fish, how to filet the fish, and a bunch of other helpful information. If you’re looking to actually invest in a rice cooker rather than bother with the pot method, any of the Zojirushi models are the way to go. They last for years and years (my parents have had theirs since I was 8 years old) and the technology behind them makes the softest, fluffiest rice I’ve ever eaten in my own home. (Seriously, I made some jasmine rice to eat with a Thai curry and it was AMAZING. Hands down better than any restaurant’s rice.)

 
 

So, once you’ve figured out the rice situation, the other incredibly important aspect of sushi-making is finding a quality supplier of sashimi-grade seafood. Sashimi-grade basically means that it is of such high quality and cut in such a sanitary setting that it is safe to eat raw. Heather told me about a place here in Los Angeles to get some, so I stopped by McCall’s Meat & Fish and was able to pick up some tasty sashimi-grade tuna varieties, salmon, and scallops. (They also sold little packets of squid ink, which I’m definitely going to go back for to make pasta with). Please, do not try to make sushi with anything but sashimi-grade seafood.

Sushi rolls are one of my favorite sushi dishes, but I decided to stick with making nigiri and gunkanmaki for my first attempt at making sushi since they’re simpler to prepare (also, you need to have a very sharp knife in order to cut the roll into slices without crushing it, and my knives were due for a sharpening.) Nigiri is one of the easiest types of sushi to prepare, at its core it involves a rectangle of rice with a slice of seafood on top of it. I added some other subtle ingredients to mine, but it tastes delicious with just the rice and seafood, too.

Gunkanmaki takes nigiri one step further, and encases the rice rectangle and seafood in a fence of nori, also known as seaweed paper. This is fun because the seaweed fences gives you some structural support when it comes to incorporating other non-seafood ingredients into the mix, like avocado or cucumber slices. I used avocado with my albacore tuna, and it not only made for a colorful addition but a delicious one, too! But please note, You will need to cut a normal sheet of nori into 1″ x 7″ strips to make
gunkanmaki
, which is tricky because nori is dry and thin, and like filo dough, it and tears easily. The
best way to cut nori is to use a very sharp knife, that way you do not
have to apply as much pressure to cut it which will result in less
accidental tears of the nori. Since my knives were not super sharp, I ended up only making a successful strip half the time I attempted to cut one. So don’t be like me, make sure your knives are very sharp before you start making sushi.

When cutting the filets of seafood, make sure to hold the filet down with your fingers curled in style of the photo above to avoid cutting yourself. Also, when working with the rice, you will want to coat your hands in a special solution beforehand each time. The “special solution” is super simple though, just one part rice vinegar to two parts water. I made a cup of it and that lasted me through the entire sushi-making process, even with me re-wetting my hands in between making each piece. My favorite one was the good ol’ salmon nigiri, which I lightly brushed with watered down wasabi for an extra kick. The most fun thing about sushi is that there’s so many ways to be creative and incorporate different favors, so don’t feel afraid to try incorporating other ingredients than the ones I used below. I think pickled carrots or radishes would be a fun addition for some, or you even could go cross-cultural with a little kimchee. The possibilities are pretty much endless!

 
 

Homemade Sushi: Nigiri and Gunkanmaki Style

Author Eva Kosmas Flores

Ingredients

Sushi Rice

  • makes roughly 1 cup
  • 1 cup Japanese short-grain sushi rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • piece of paper folded into a fan or an electric fan

Instructions

  1. If you're making the sushi rice with your Zojirushi, follow their simple instructions on making sushi rice here.
  2. To make sushi rice with a pot, rinse and drain the rice once. Then place the rice in a thick-bottom pot and add the cup of water. Let it soak for 30 minutes. Then, cover the pot with well-fitting lid and bring it to a boil. Cook over medium-high heat with the lid on for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to the lowest heat setting and cook, still covered, for 10 minutes. Then remove it from the heat, take off the lid, and let it sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Next, scoop the rice into a large bowl and pour the vinegar evenly over the rice. Then you want to cool down the temperature of the rice quickly so it doesn't get too sticky, so beginning fanning the rice with your hand or with an electric fan set to medium. While the rice is cooling, use a wide wooden spoon to gently and continually fold the rice mixture as if you were folding still egg whites into a batter. Continue this process until the rice has cooled to room temperature, then leave it alone until you need it.

Non-Stick Hand Solution

Author Eva Kosmas Flores

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 2/3 cup water

Instructions

  1. Mix together and continually coat your hands in the mixture while making sushi to keep the rice from sticking to you while you're molding it.

Recipe Notes

Note: Each of the nigiri or gunkanmaki sushi recipes below is for 1 assembled piece of sushi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ahi Tuna & Red Onion Nigiri

Author Eva Kosmas Flores

Ingredients

  • 1 oval tablespoon sushi rice
  • 1/2 ounce ahi tuna fillet 2"-3" long and 1/4" thick
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely diced red onion
  • 2 drops lemon juice

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the red onion and lemon juice. Set aside. Moisten your hands with the non-stick hand solution. Take a tablespoon-sized oval of sushi rice and form it into a rectangle shape between the palms of your hands. If you squeeze it too much it will begin to loose its texture and shape, so be as simple and quick as possible when working with the rice.
  2. Hold the filet of ahi in the palm of your left hand, and sprinkle the red onion mixture evenly over the ahi, then rest the rectangle of rice on top of the onions and filet. Use your right hand's thumb and index finger to gently squeeze the rice and tuna into the rectangle shape while pressing down on the top of the rice with the thumb of your left hand to secure the onions sandwiched in between. Flip the nigiri over so that the filet is on top and repeat the gentle squeezing process once more. Your nigiri is complete!

 

Salmon & Wasabi Nigiri

Author Eva Kosmas Flores

Ingredients

  • 1 oval tablespoon sushi rice
  • 1/2 ounce salmon fillet 2"-3" long and 1/4" thick
  • 1/4 teaspoon wasabi
  • 1 teaspoon water

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the wasabi and water. This will make more of tyhe mixture than you will need for one roll, so make sure to reseve leftovers for making several rolls. Set
  2. the mixture aside. Moisten your hands with the non-stick hand solution. Take a
  3. tablespoon-sized oval of sushi rice and form it into a rectangle shape
  4. between the palms of your hands. If you squeeze it too much it will
  5. begin to loose its texture and shape, so be as simple and quick as
  6. possible when working with the rice.
  7. Once shaped, use a pastry brush to brush the top of the rectangle with a bit of the wasabi mixture.
  8. Hold the filet of salmon in the palm of your left hand, and rest the rectangle of rice on top of the
  9. filet with the wasabi-side facing down so it is touching the filet. Use your right hand's thumb and index finger to gently
  10. squeeze the rice and tuna into the rectangle shape while pressing down
  11. on the top of the rice with the thumb of your left hand. Flip the nigiri over so that the filet is
  12. on top and repeat the gentle squeezing process once more. Your nigiri is complete!

Albacore & Avocado Gunkanmaki

Ingredients

  • 1 oval tablespoon sushi rice
  • 1 teaspoon chopped albacore tuna sashimi-grade
  • 1 teaspoon chopped avocado
  • 1 7" x 1" slice of nori (seaweed paper)
  • Moisten your hands with the non-stick hand solution. Take a
  • tablespoon-sized oval of sushi rice and form it into a rectangle shape
  • between the palms of your hands. If you squeeze it too much it will
  • begin to loose its texture and shape so be as simple and quick as
  • possible when working with the rice.

Instructions

  1. Place the rice on a clean working surface. Dip your finger in the non-stick hand solution and trace it onto the strip of nori to moisten it just a teensy little bit so it sticks better to the rice. Attach one end of the nori to the middle of the side of the rice rectangle and keep wrapping it around until you've reached the end of the strip, keeping the bottom of the nori lined up the whole way. Dip your finger in the non-stick solution again and poke the end of the nori, then gently press it into the side of the gunkanmaki with your dry hand to seal it.
  2. On your work surface, gently mix together the tuna and avocado with your fingertips, then place on the gunkanmaki. Your gunkanmaki is ready to eat!

Scallop & Scallion Gunkanmaki

Author Eva Kosmas Flores

Ingredients

  • 1 oval tablespoon sushi rice
  • 1/2 ounce scallop fillet 2"-3" long and 1/4" thick
  • 1/8 teaspoon scallions thinly sliced
  • 2 drops lemon juice
  • 1 drop olive oil
  • 1 7" x 1" slice of nori (seaweed paper)
  • In a small bowl mix together the scallions, olive oil, and lemon juice. Set aside.

Instructions

  1. Moisten your hands with the non-stick hand solution. Take a
  2. tablespoon-sized oval of sushi rice and form it into a rectangle shape
  3. between the palms of your hands. If you squeeze it too much it will
  4. begin to loose its texture and shape, so be as simple and quick as
  5. possible when working with the rice.
  6. Place the rice on a
  7. clean working surface. Dip your finger in the non-stick hand solution
  8. and trace it onto the strip of nori to moisten it just a teensy little
  9. bit so it sticks better to the rice. Attach one end of the nori to the
  10. middle of the side of the rice rectangle and keep wrapping it around
  11. until you've reached the end of the strip, keeping the bottom of the
  12. nori lined up the whole way. Dip your finger in the non-stick solution again and poke the end of the nori, then gently press it into the side of the gunkanmaki with your dry hand to seal it.
  13. Place the scallop filet on top of the rice, and place the scallions on top of the filet in the center. Your gunkanmaki is ready to eat!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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