The basic, nori-wrapped sushi roll (known as makizushi) is one of the Western world’s favorites (see exhibit A, the California roll.) The sliced rounds are colorful, pretty, accessible, and easy-to-fill with traditional or not-so-traditional fillings, making them a great place to start for beginners and skeptics.
And—great news for all you homemade heads and foodies on a budget—you can make your very own makizushi sushi rolls at home with just a few speciality items for a fraction of the cost you’d pay at your average sushi bar.
Here’s a makizushi play-by-play:
Set out your bamboo sushi mat (more on these later this week), and cover it with a piece of unbleached wax paper. You can also use plastic wrap, but it has that tendency to get bunched up on itself, which can mess you up. A good back-up is a clean plastic grocery bag, cut into a rectangle. Make sure the slats of your mat are running horizontally. Place a sheet of nori seaweed on top.
Use a nonstick rice paddle or rice vinegar-dipped fingers to spread a thin layer of high-grade sushi rice over the nori, leaving a small margin on the edge closest to you and stopping about three quarters of the way to the other edge (see below). One tip I saw said to place several, single grains of rice along the empty edge to help the roll seal. You don’t need much rice—only about one third cup or so.
Then, make a horizontal line of your chosen fillings across the middle of the rice patch. Don’t go crazy—keep your first few rolls simple until you get a feel for it. NOTE: In the following image, my sushi mat is facing the wrong way (tsk tsk!).
This is the trickiest part. It isn’t difficult, just takes some practice to get right. Starting from the edge closest to you, roll the sushi mat up and over the line of fillings. Push the slats of the mat away from you to roll, as you press toward yourself with your fingers to keep the roll tight. Take care not to roll the wax paper up into your sushi. You will need to reposition your hands and keep rolling from the folded part of the mat until your makizushi is totally sealed and cylindrical. Folks who roll their own cigarettes are naturally great at this part.
Now you’re ready to slice your roll into individual pieces, roughly a half inch thick. You must use a very sharp knife for this step, or else you’ll end up with squished sushi with scraggly edges. I thought my knife was plenty sharp, but you can see in this picture that my edges are scruffy and not clean. Learn from my mistakes.
Also, wet your knife before you slice, which will help it cut easily through the roll. You can even rub it with a bit of rice vinegar.
Almost done! Move your sushi to a plate, fix yourself a little bowl of soy sauce and wasabi, and get your chopsticks in position. Eat and repeat. Itadekimasu!
Rolling your own sushi makes a great theme for dinner parties and get-togethers—look out for a nifty sushi party guide, complete with details on the hard-to-find ingredients and nuances of preparation, later this week.