Sushi: The Basics

February 12, 2010  •  Appetizers, Beans & Grains, Vegetables

I haven’t been inspired much lately in the kitchen. It happens – even to those of us who love to cook. I find myself gravitating to the old classics, grabbing a quick salad, munching on chips and carrots – anything to avoid really being creative. Well, that is, until today. I was literally driving down I25 when inspiration hit so I made a quick stop at Whole Foods on the way home to gather everything needed to make sushi.First on the list was sushi rice – and if you’re going to make sushi you definitely need this special rice. You also need to rinse it until the water runs clear or you’ll be left with a gloppy mess. I know that sounds counterintuitive, thinking you want something sticky, but trust me, you need to shed the rice of the excess starch before you begin.This is one of the few times I really love a rice cooker (the other is when I’m entertaining and I want the rice to hold warm until dinner). Put the rinsed rice into the cooker with slightly less than double the amount of water. I used 1 cup of rice and it yielded 3 large rolls and 4 small pieces of nigiri sushi. Once the rice is cooked, pour it into a bowl, let it cool slightly, then season it (see recipe), carefully cutting through the rice with a rice paddle until each grain seems to be coated in the seasoning.OK, time to start a roll. Spread a piece of sushi nori out and dump some seasoned sushi rice onto it.Dip your fingers in water frequently (to prevent sticking to the rice) and gently spread it out to the edges in an even layer. You want to leave the last 1/2 inch away from you clear of rice to seal up the roll (if you’re going to roll with the rice on the outside you need that edge towards you, just opposite).Then you’re ready to layer your filling. Today I’ll offer up a simple vegetable roll that uses thinly sliced carrots, avocado, and cucumber with a couple of long pieces of green onion. I don’t like to put wasabi inside my rolls, but you can if you prefer.Finally, you’ll need to use a sushi mat to roll it up, pressing tightly to get a nice firm roll. Use a really sharp and clean knife to cut through the roll……then lay it out for a proper sushi presentation. Serve with ginger and wasabi and soy sauce. And dig in. Like I need to go do right now! Up tomorrow – spicy tuna roll – you won’t want to miss it!

Sushi Rice and Basic Rolled Sushi (Sushi Maki)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Appetizer,Entree
Serves: 4
  • 2 cups sushi rice, rinsed several times and drained
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup rice wine vinegar
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 nori sheets
  • 1 cup sushi rice, cooked
  • wasabi, optional
  • ½ cucumber
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 avocado
  1. To make sushi rice, combine rinsed rice and water in a rice cooker and cook according to directions. While rice is cooking, combine vinegar, sugar and salt and heat just to dissolve; let cool. Fold seasoned rice vinegar into warm rice with a paddle, mixing and fanning until cooled.
  2. To roll the sushi, lay nori sheets shiny side down on sushi mat. Press about ⅓ cup sushi rice into the nori, wetting your hands with sushi water as needed. Leave a short gap at the top of the sheet. If using, spread a small line of wasabi across the rice, then layer with about ½ inch of fillings of your choice in the center next to the wasabi. Roll the nori from the edge closest to you, using the sushi mat to press it into shape. Place seam side down to cut into 8 pieces.


5 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Ryan K says:

    That’s not ‘sushi rice’.
    That’s a Korean dish called Kimbap.
    I’m guessing the ‘sushi rice’ you’re talking about are California rolls but those have the rice on the outside with sprinkled with eggs..
    And the ingredients are completely different. Normally you have: rice, cucumber, carrots, some sort of meat and other stuff.

    • Michele says:

      Hi Ryan – I am a bit confused by your comment and I want to clarify for readers.

      I was taught how to make “sushi rice” by a Japanese-American sushi chef and he referred to the short grain rice seasoned with vinegar, sugar and salt as sushi rice. All my online research yields the same result for a definition of sushi rice. The rolls, I was taught, are maki-zushi (sushi), meaning anything rolled with this seasoned sushi rice is maki-zushi, and the other pieces of sushi are called nigiri-zushi (sushi), meaning pressed sushi. In order to be called sushi, he explained, it must contain sushi rice in it, otherwise it’s sashimi – and the rice can be on the inside of a roll, the outside of a roll, or pressed into a piece of sushi.

      I did some research on kimbap (gimbap) and found that while it’s similar to rolled sushi, it uses rice that’s traditionally seasoned with sesame oil as opposed to seasoned vinegar. Beyond that, you are correct that while many think of these rolls as the same thing, the ingredients in Japanese maki sushi are different from the ingredients used in Korean kimbap, although there are often similarities.

      Hope that clears up the sushi-kimbap confusion!

  2. Tory Matheus says:

    Thanks. I’m supposed to cook for my new vegetarian girlfriend next week and have absolutely no idea what to make! I found tons of recipes at this vegetarian recipe site but with so mnay to choose from I just got confused. Do you have any recommendations, like .. the tastiest vegetarian recipe, ever, or something?! Thanks in advance! I’m so clueless about this vegetarian stuff

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