I previously covered everything you need to make homemade sushi. Now, it is time for you to learn how to put these tools to work. I should first qualify everything I’m about to say. I’m not a sushi master. I have not been professionally trained. I’m mostly self-taught. I haven’t even been to Japan. But, I have read books about sushi, watched countless tutorials, consulted with experienced chefs, and have made sushi dozens of times. Plus, my homemade sushi rolls always receive compliments.
What I’m trying to say here is that if you have access to Jiro, then, by all means, ignore this guide and go with the master. But, if you want to save a ton of cash by making sushi at home and you don’t have access to the pros, then this will be all you need to make sushi at home.
The Rice Is Key
The first step to making homemade sushi is to rinse the rice. I rinse it the night before. I measure out half a cup of rice per person, put it in a mixing bowl, and fill the bowl with water and drain it repeatedly until the water drains clear. Once the water is clear, I fill the bowl with water one more time, cover the bowl with a plate, and let it sit on the counter and soak until I’m ready to cook the next day.
(Approximately 20 hours later)
I start my sushi making process about two hours before I want to be done and serving everyone. I first drop my whetstone into a loaf pan full of water to get it ready for some knife sharpening action. While that’s going on, I get the rice cooking.
You can use a rice cooker for this and make your rice according to the manufacturer’s directions. I’ve never used a rice cooker in my life. I just throw my rice in a normal old pot. I add as many cups of water as cups of rice. It should completely submerge the rice. Next, crank the stove up to high until the water starts to boil. Then, reduce the heat to low and put an airtight cover on the pot. Let it simmer like this for 15 minutes. Lastly, remove it from the heat (still covered), and have it sit for ten more minutes.
Do Prep Work While the Rice Cooks
During this 25 minutes or so when the rice is cooking, I clean the area, sharpen my knife, and prepare everything. A good chef keeps his kitchen clean, which is tough for me because I’m a dirty man at heart. About the only time I clean my kitchen is right before I create homemade sushi. I thoroughly clean the counters.
Next, I sharpen my sword on the whetstone. You do this by running it across the coarse side of the stone at a 15-degree angle a few times. Make sure you sharpen both sides of the knife. Then, flip the stone over and do the same thing on the finer side. Lastly, wash the knife off with hot water and thoroughly dry the whetstone before putting it away.
How to Cut Stuff
Now, it’s time to do your slicing and dicing. Keep in mind that you want the filling for your homemade sushi to be long and slender. So, you won’t cut your cucumbers the way you might see them in a salad or sandwich. You want to cut them lengthwise. Also, once you cut the cucumber into quarters, remove the seeds by simply cutting the inner length of each quarter. Throw the guts away or reserve them for making fancy water.
If you want some cream cheese in there, I recommend putting it in the freezer for a couple hours to get slightly hard. Then, use a narrow knife (preferably a cheese knife) to cut the cream cheese into lengths. Be sure to keep washing the knife off and keep it in boiling hot water for a minute or two between every few cuts.
For avocado, cut the fruit in half lengthwise by going around the pit in a circle. Carefully chop at the pit so it sticks to your knife to remove it. (Be real careful with this. I’ve cut myself doing it, and it’s annoying and kind of gross to make sushi with a bandaged hand.) Peel the skin off the avocado, and cut the avocado into thin, long slices. (Pro-tip: If your avocado is ripe before you want to use it, throw it in the fridge.)
Cutting fish is a bit trickier. There are many tutorials on YouTube that can guide you. I basically just do my best, and if I have some bad pieces, then I’ll either not worry about it, or I’ll make a spicy roll out of it (using sriracha mayo and maybe some avocado.) I like working with lox because it usually comes pre-sliced.
Carefully Cool that Rice
Once the rice is ready, immediately transfer it to your bamboo bowl for the cooling process. Add about .2 cups of seasoned rice vinegar for every cup of rice you started with. Mix the vinegar into the rice using a rice paddle in a spreading and flipping motion. You don’t want to press the rice down. Also, your goal is to coat every grain of rice with vinegar. At this time, I also add black toasted sesame seeds to the rice.
I work the paddle for a bit, then I cool the rice with a fan for a couple minutes (while I do more prep work), work the paddle, run the fan, etc. Keep doing this until there is no noticeable steam coming off of the rice. Once the steam is gone, then you can begin to assemble your homemade sushi rolls.
They See Me Rollin’, They Lovin’
Okay. You are going to suck at this…for a while. So, start sucking as soon as possible so you can get good. First of all, you have your bamboo mat. Cover it with a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Don’t seal the bag or else you will have air pockets making it hard for you to roll. Put your nori on the mat shiny side down and in the hot dog orientation.
I keep a bowl of 2 parts water to 1 part rice vinegar nearby to dip my hands and a 2/3-cup measuring cup in. I’m terrible at judging sizes by eye. So, I use the measuring cup to scoop the rice out of the bowl and plop it down on the nori. I then spread the rice evenly over the nori using my hands (make sure you keep your paws clean!) Once it’s pretty even, I add ingredients. The filling should be centered and about half an inch short of going the entire width from side to side. You want to allow some room for the ingredients to press out a bit as you roll.
It will take some practice judging how much filling you’ll need. If you stuff it too full, your roll will fall apart. If it isn’t full enough, you’re just eating rice and seaweed. Once you have all of your ingredients on board, it’s time to roll.
Even if I didn’t do a horrible job of explaining the rolling process, you would still be terrible at it and in need of practice. Don’t worry. Grab the front of the mat and bring the front of your roll to just past the filling. Then, bring the font of the mat back and finish the roll so that it is nice and tight. Roll the roll forward about a half inch and really press that brother down. Get it nice and tight, but don’t squish it. If that’s clear as mud, check out this tutorial.
Cutting the Roll into Pieces
Unless you are attempting to make homemade sushi burritos, it’s time to cut your roll. First, dip the tip of your knife into the bowl of water/rice vinegar and allow a drop of the mixture to run the length of the blade. Then, Cut the roll in half (NOT LENGTHWISE! HAVE YOU NEVER EATEN SUSHI BEFORE?!?) Most rolls have six pieces, but since I make my rolls big, I like to cut the halves in half and then in half again for a total of eight pieces. I then haphazardly throw them on a normal dinner plate, but you might want to be classy.
At this point, I invite guests and family to dig in. You’re supposed to eat sushi immediately after it’s prepared. Everyone usually ignores me and waits for me to finish rolling. Oh well. I start eating my “mistakes” (generally end pieces) right away.
The meal is served with sriracha mayo, wasabi (from a tube), soy sauce, and homemade eel sauce (which is worth the minimal effort.)
I think that about covers it. Give it a few tries before giving up on ever making sushi again. After all, making sushi at home is a relaxing, healthy habit. I recommend making “Sushi Sundays” a thing in your home. Please let me know if you have any questions!