Earlier this week, we offered up a little play-by-play on rolling your own makizushi, the well-known nori-wrapped sushi roll that is often the beginner’s first foray into the world of rice and raw fish.
One of the essentials for tackling the sushi roll at home is the bamboo sushi mat. These guys are pretty easy to find (any Asian market will carry them, as will many grocery stores if they have an Asian or “ethnic” aisle.) You can also get them online if all else fails. Don’t pay more than a couple of bucks a piece.
They are, essentially, mini versions of the bamboo shades you see on back porches and swanky windows—several thin bamboo sticks tied together in a neat rectangle that easily bends and flexes and rolls. In fact, in Japanese the sushi mat is known by iterations of the same name as the bamboo shades, “sudare.” Its full name is makisudare—“maki” from makizushi, the type of sushi you roll with it—or makisu for short. Sometimes, it’s just simply called sudare.
The most common type of sushi mat is made of thin, rounded sticks much like your everyday bamboo skewer. There are also specialized sushi mats made for rolling fatter futomaki rolls. These are very similar, but made of flatter, squared sticks, kind of like fettucini noodles.
A makizushi roll goes a long way, so you shouldn’t need more than one mat for your own personal use (even if your sweetheart wants in on the action, you can roll plenty for the both of you with just one.) That said, they’re good and cheap, and it doesn’t hurt to have a few extra around.
For one, rolling sushi makes a great dinner party, especially when each guest can work in their own little station and try it out for themselves. On top of that, you can also use sushi mats as hot pads or trivets, or even placemats.
When I was checking out of my neighborhood Asian market, May, the sweet lady at the register, laughed at my stockpile of sushi mats. “How much sushi are you making?!” she asked incredulously. But when it was time for the sushi party, I was glad to have a good supply—they all got broken out (and broken in).
Check back later this week for a quick guide on throwing your own sushi party and putting those new mats to good use.