Tips and tricks for preparing restaurant-style sushi in your kitchen

While sushi may seem like a complicated dish, the truth is that it’s relatively easy to make and enjoy your own sushi at home. The most popular form of sushi, the California roll, doesn’t require much in the way of specialized equipment or ingredients.

What equipment do I need?

Though technically you won’t require anything that isn’t already found in your kitchen, there are two things that make sushi preparation easier and more successful: a rice cooker and sushi mats.

A rice cooker helps for two reasons. One, you don’t have to tend to the rice while it’s cooking—just add rice and water, set the timer, and wait. Secondly, you don’t have to worry about overcooking, which can result in mushy rice that won’t adhere properly to the sushi roll.

Sushi mats are small mats made from bamboo, used specifically to roll sushi. You can also buy bamboo place mats, which work just as well and can be found at nearly any dollar store.

Which ingredients should I use?

Since most sushi rolls are made with rice and vegetables, and don’t necessarily contain fish, the most important specialized ingredient you’ll need is nori—the sheets of seaweed that form the actual roll. Nori is available at many specialty and health food stores, some grocery stores, and several online retailers.

The best type of rice to use is Japanese rice, also known as “sushi rice.” However, any sticky, short-grain rice, such as risotto, can be used to prepare sushi. Long-grain rice doesn’t work because it’s not sticky enough to adhere to the nori.

If you plan to use fish in your sushi, be sure to pick up sushi-grade fish. If it’s not prepared correctly, raw fish can cause illness, sometimes severe.

You can use any vegetables you’d like in your sushi. Popular favorites include green and red pepper, avocado, carrots, green onions, and cucumbers.

Methods for making sushi

It’s a good idea to prep everything prior to assembling your sushi. Before cooking the rice, rinse and drain it under cold water until it’s no longer milky. You can also prepare a seasoning for the rice while it cooks—heat 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar together with 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of salt until boiling, and then remove from heat. Sprinkle this seasoning over your cooked rice, and let the rice cool to room temperature.

Vegetables and fish (if used) should be cut into long, thin strips. You should also have a small bowl of water (optionally with a few tablespoons of rice vinegar added) on hand to use in preparation. Finally, cover your sushi mat or bamboo place mat with plastic wrap, and you’re ready to begin.

  • Lay a sheet of nori on the plastic-covered sushi mat.
  • Dip your fingers in the water, scoop a small amount of rice, and press gently into the nori. Repeat until the nori sheet is covered edge to edge, but leave about a centimeter uncovered at the bottom edge so you can seal the roll.
  • Place vegetables and/or fish slices on the rice, near the top of the roll.
  • Starting at the top, pick up the mat and start rolling. Once you’ve made the first complete circle, tuck the edge of the roll under and press tight with the mat before continuing. Roll slowly and press constantly with the mat—your goal is to make the entire roll as tight and even as possible.
  • Once the whole thing is wrapped, roll it back and forth a few times, and then seal the uncovered edge of the nori with a little water.
  • It’s a good idea to refrigerate your sushi rolls for at least ten minutes to let the ingredients set before cutting them into slices, as they’ll hold together better.

That’s all there is to it! You can find a number of different sushi recipes, add seasonings like soy or wasabi to taste, and make any variations you enjoy. For a demonstration of the basic sushi-rolling technique, check out this video.