homemade sushi

Here in the West (USA) we’re in the grip of a heat wave, thanks to global warming, and last night I felt like something cool and refreshing for dinner. The perfect thing to make was sushi.

This is a pretty straightforward sushi recipe.  The trick to sushi is not so much what goes into it, but how you make it.  It’s more of a performance art than actually cooking, and what it looks like is very important. But fortunately, once you get the hang of it, it’s fun to make and the results are almost always amazing–even better, in some ways, than the sushi you get in restaurants, and a lot cheaper!

This recipe is for tuna rolls, salmon rolls and two types vegetarian type rolls that I often make.  You can substitute almost anything you want for the filling.  I have used carrots, cucumbers, smoked salmon, green onions, and various other items.


  • 1 cup short grain white rice [note, this will serve about two people–increase amounts of rice, vinegar, sugar and salt proportionately if you’re serving more]
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 5 sheets nori (pressed seaweed)
  • Magori block (available at Asian markets) [for tuna rolls]
  • Salmon block (available at Asian markets) [for salmon rolls]
  • 1 avocado [for veggie rolls]
  • Baby spinach leaves, washed (bagged store varieties work well) [for veggie rolls]
  • “Red Rooster” Sriacha chile sauce (optional)
  • Wasabi (optional)
  • Sesame seeds (optional)
  • Soy sauce


  • Wooden paddle or spatula (no metal)
  • Bamboo sushi mat
  • Saran or other plastic wrap
  • Rubber paddle (such as used for cake frosting)


Rinse the rice thoroughly in cold water until the water runs clear.  Then cook the rice with 2 cups water.  DO NOT add salt, butter or anything else to the rice, and do not stir the rice as it cooks.  When finished, let the rice cool.  Do not fluff or tamper with the rice in any way.

Mix vinegar, sugar and salt until the sugar and salt dissolve and the mixture is clear.  With a wooden paddle or spatula, make several “trenches” in the surface of the rice.  Pour the vinegar mixture into the rice and use the wooden paddle to fold it in so the vinegar is thoroughly and evenly absorbed throughout the rice.

Slice and/or chop the items for the filling.  Everything should be sliced lengthwise, not horizontally.  If you are using fish, cut the magori and/or salmon blocks into long strips.

Place a sheet of plastic wrap on the working surface.  Lay the sushi mat down on top of it with the bamboo fibers running horizontally.  For each sushi roll, place one sheet of nori, shiny side down, on the sushi mat.  Make sure the bottom edge of the nori sheet is flush with the bottom of the sushi mat.  I often cut off the top 2” or so of each nori sheet; you should ideally have a surface about 8” wide and 6” or so deep.  With the rubber paddle, spread the rice onto the nori sheet.  Leave about ¾” of space between the rice and the end of the nori sheet on both top and bottom (though the rice should be spread all the way to the left and right hand edges).  The thicker the layer of rice you spread onto the nori sheet, the bigger around the sushi roll will be.

Place your sushi fillings in the center of the rice on the nori sheet, horizontally.  For items such as green onions which tend to bend naturally, straighten them out as much as possible.  To make spicy fish rolls, after you lay the strips of magori or salmon, apply a line of Sriacha (“Red Rooster”) sauce along the fish.

With your finger or a small brush, moisten the “blank spots” on the top and bottom of the nori sheet, between the rice and the end of the nori sheet, with water.

Take the bottom of the sushi mat and use it to roll the nori sheet in on itself, the way you would roll up a large rectangular rug.  Roll the nori all the way up.  The water on the “blank spots” should hold the roll together.  Squeeze the roll inside the sushi mat to make the contents compact.  You may need to stuff some rice and fillings back into either end.

sushi pd

Do not cut the sushi rolls right away.  As you make each one, set it aside.  A proper sushi roll should be at least two inches in diameter.  Again, the fillings are largely up to you.  I find veggie rolls made with baby spinach are extremely refreshing; usually I sprinkle sesame seeds on the rice before laying down the spinach leaves. Avocado rolls are also amazing.

Let each sushi roll sit for about 20 minutes.  The nori will be very “papery” at first, but as it soaks up the moisture of the rice it will become pliable.  Use a very sharp knife to slice the rolls into bite-sized cross-sectional chunks, about 1½” thick.  Arrange them on a plate.  Serve cold.

Sushi is usually served with soy sauce and wasabi used as a dipping sauce.  The amount of wasabi mixed with the soy sauce controls how spicy the dipping sauce is.

This really works for a cool dinner on a hot summer night. Enjoy!