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Rolling your own sushi - making temaki-zushi is a simple and fun way to entertain at home

This article has been published with the permission of its author Yukari Pratt. Yukari writes for Tokyo`s Metropolis magazine and for the The Japan Times. She has contributed to the guidebook, Time Out Tokyo and to Time magazine. Yukari has been profiled in GQ Japan and The Daily Yomiuri. A Japanese food fanatic, whose mother is Japanese, she is on a mission to bring the food of Japan to as many people as possible.

Her hobbies include soaking in "onsen" hot springs, drinking shochu, fly-fishing and motorcycling.

Having friends over is always fun, but the thought of pulling together a party in a small Tokyo apartment can be stressful. With a temaki-zushi (hand-rolled sushi) party, the host just needs to turn on the rice cooker, shop for a few simple ingredients, and master the “roll.” Share your knowledge with your guests and let them do the rest.

The basic items are:

  • Japanese rice
  • sushi su (rice vinegar flavored with sugar and salt)
  • nori
  • wasabi
  • soy sauce
  • Gari, the thinly sliced pickled ginger, is optional

If you are ambitious and want to make the flavored vinegar from scratch, you will need:

5 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, five
5 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons salt

Cook the vinegar, sugar and salt over low heat until the sugar and salt dissolve. Then allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before mixing with the cooked rice.

However, there really is no need to make it yourself; if you buy good quality sushi su vinegar, you can keep it on hand to use whenever you have a temaki-zushi urge.

So, what to roll? Anything you like - there are no rules here. Popular combinations include the “unakyu,” with unagi (eel) and cucumber, or “umekyu,” with neriume (pickled plum paste) and cucumber. Feel free to experiment with combinations like Korean-style kimchi and grilled beef (see the box for ideas). Cut everything into long strips that can be easily rolled, and cut the nori sheets in half with scissors to make rectangles.

Things to put in your sushi roll
Salmon, tuna, scallops, shrimp, squid, unagi or anago (eel) and other types of sashimi; negitoro (mashed fatty tuna); ikura (salmon roe); crab; canned tuna and mayo; shrimp tempura; cucumber; avocado; shiso leaves; natto; dashimaki tamago (omelet roll); takuan (pickled daikon).

Rolling your own sushi How to roll sushi Rolling your own sushi How to roll sushi

Once the rice is cooked, sprinkle it with the sushi su. A little goes a long way - you want just enough to give the rice a nice sheen and a hint of the vinegar taste. While adding the vinegar, make cuts through the rice with your shamoji (rice paddle) and toss. This will help disperse the vinegar without crushing the rice. If you can get someone to help fan the rice while you’re tossing it, it will help create the shine you are looking for. Because of the vinegar the rice will not keep and cannot be used in other dishes like fried rice; you need to consume it the same day it is made.

I prefer to avoid using a makisu (bamboo sushi roller), and instead roll the sushi into the cone-shaped temaki-zushi: Put a small amount of rice on one half of the rough side of the nori, making a square. (The smooth side is the outside.) Place your ingredients diagonally across the rice and roll into a cone.

It is a nice touch to have some oshibori (wet towels) set out for your guests. For beverages, serve beer, sake, shochu or, for wine, try an Alsatian riesling, a pinot noir or champagne. Round out the menu with some salads or a variety of Japanese tsukemono pickles.

Published 22 August 2006

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