Sushi rolls, known as “makizushi” in Japanese, are becoming increasingly popular throughout the world. For chefs that are not experienced with makizushi but would like to try their hand at making it, this guide to how to roll sushi will walk you through the step-by-step process of making your sushi rolls, from making the sushi rice to cutting the rolls when they are finished.
Most of the sushi rolls found at a sushi bar will be either a futomaki roll, a hosomaki roll or a uramaki roll. In both futomaki and hosomaki, the sushi rice and fillings are wrapped in an outer layer of dried seaweed called “nori”. In an uramaki roll, sushi fillings and seaweed are wrapped in an outer layer of sushi rice.
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How to Make a Sushi Roll
You will need:
- Sushi mat
- Rice paddle
- Santoku knife, sharpened
- Nori sheets
- Sushi rice
- Sushi filling of your choice
- Leftover tezu from making sushi rice
- Wasabi (optional)
- Sesame seeds (optional)
Making Futomaki or Hosomaki
- Prepare sushi rice. Make at least one cup of cooked sushi rice. It must have the proper flavor and texture to be suitable for making sushi rolls. If you make it before hand, make sure you don’t leave your sushi rice in the fridge for too long.
- Position sushi mat. Bamboo rolling mats are the best, as the bamboo will absorb any excess moisture that might be released when the sushi is tightened into a roll.
Your sushi rolling mat should be placed so that the lines of bamboo run across horizontally. If you place them so they run vertically, you will not be able to roll it. You can lay a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the mat if you want to protect it.
- Lay nori across sushi mat. Take a rectangular sheet of nori – dried seaweed – and lay it across your sushi rolling mat with the rough side facing up. The nori should not be too big. Usually you will have to cut the pre-packaged nori in half to get the proper size, although some nori has perforations so you can break it with your hands.
- Moisten your fingers. Using the tezu* – the mixture of water, vinegar and salt you made for your sushi rice, wet your fingers. This will prevent them from sticking to the rice. However, keep a towel nearby and make sure that your hands are dry whenever you touch the nori, or it will stick.
- Transfer rice to mat. Take about a cup of rice into your hands and gently form it into a firm ball. The rice ball should fit nicely when cupped in your palm– it should be about the size of a tennis ball. Place the ball on the middle of the nori sheet. As an alternative, you can instead use a rice paddle to transfer the rice to the mat.
- Spread rice evenly. Use your fingers to spread the rice gently and evenly over the nori. The more even it is, the rounder and more perfect the shape of your final sushi roll. Leave about ½ to 1 inch of space at the top of the nori. You will use this extra nori for sealing the sushi roll. Once it is spread out, the rice should be about ¼ inch thick. If you have too much rice, remove some.
- Add a line of wasabi (optional). If desired, use your finger to spread a small amount of wasabi in a straight line horizontally across the bottom of the sheet of nori, on top of the rice. Use it sparingly if it all.
- Spread filling in a line. Spread the filling of your choice horizontally in a line across the sushi rice. The line of filling should run across the bottom of the nori. This will ensure that it is also centered in the middle of the final sushi roll. If you have more than one filling, it can be spread in a new line, side-by-side with the other fillings, or on top of them.
- Roll the mat. Take your mat, and roll upward toward the top of the mat. Push gently forward until a cylinder is formed. Use your fingertips to tuck the nori under to create
the roll, but do not roll the sushi mat under as you press. Instead, lift the mat to allow it to move forward as you roll. Once the cylinder is complete, roll it back and forth inside the mat
to tighten it and seal it.
- Cut the roll. Take the sushi roll out of the mat and place it on a cutting board. Using your leftover tezu, wet your santoku knife and use it to cut the roll into six to eight even pieces. Make sure the santoku knife has been sharpened recently. If it is too dull, it will smash the roll as you try to cut into it.
Uramaki is a type of sushi roll where the dried seaweed is wrapped around the filling and the outside of the roll is surrounded with rice and even sesame seeds, if desired. In the United States, the most popular example is the California roll, most of which are made uramaki-style.
- Repeat steps for futomaki. Go through steps one through six as if you were making futomaki, except you do not necessarily need the sushi mat until you roll it. You should end with a sheet of nori covered evenly with rice. If desired, sprinkle sesame seeds on top of the layer of rice.
- Flip it over. Flip over your sheet of nori and rice so that the layer of rice is on the bottom making contact with the mat. If it is the right texture for sushi, the rice should stick to the nori as you flip it.
- Add the fillings. Add your sushi roll fillings in a straight line on top of the nori, about one inch from the bottom of the sheet of nori. As with futomaki, the fillings should be added side by side, not on top of each other.
- Roll it up. Use your hands, moist with tezu, to gently lift up the nori and rice and roll the sushi into a cylinder. The two edges of the roll should touch in order to seal the sushi inside. Then use the bamboo mat to roll the sushi back and forth. This will tighten the sushi roll and seal the ingredients inside. It will also create a rounder cylinder and ensure that the rice is flat and even on the outside.
- Cut the roll. Take the roll out of the mat and put it on a cutting board. Use your leftover tezu to moisten your santoku knife. As long as the santoku knife is extra sharp and moist, you should be able to cut through your uramaki roll without crushing the cylinder and without rice sticking to the knife.
- Presentation. Use a clean plate, preferably white to show off the colors of your sushi. Add a bit of wasabi and pickled ginger to the place. Then if needed, ass a saucer of eel sauce or soy sauce and some sushi vinegar to finalize all of the condiments.
And check out our article on what to drink with sushi rolls here to add the perfect pairing.
And that’s all there is to making your own sushi rolls any time you get the craving. It isn’t all that hard, and the results will almost always be super yummy!