Don’t bother denying it, because no one will believe you – eating at a sushi restaurant is fun! We all like going to sushi restaurants because of the minimalist ambience, how clean they are and the attention to detail. Also, because the seemingly simple food is actually full of nuances and depth. Mastering sushi, at the expert level, is a task that can take a lifetime, just ask pro Chef Jiro Ono. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t start practicing now at home. Taking the first step is the easy part and with this basic guide to making sushi, we will explain what to do and how to do it to become a real itamae, in no time.

Sushi Rice

The most important part of sushi is the rice – not the raw fish, as was the common belief in the west not long ago- and it can’t be just any rice or prepared in any which way.

Choose wisely

The first thing you should do is choose the right variety of rice: it should be short grain and have the right consistency once it is cooked, firm but not mushy. We recommend you use Mahatma® Short Grain Rice, which is specially made for making sushi. Next, extremely important for making perfect sushi rice, is to wash it well in a bowl with cold water – but we will get to that.

Cook properly

At first, the water will appear milky, so make sure to rinse it out various time- about five or six – until it is clear and transparent. This is to clear out any excess starch released from the rice granules. Once it is washed, you will have to cook the rice. You will need to cook it in a pot where the water vapor cannot escape, like a rice cooker (suihanki), instant pot or slow cooker. This seems like an unimportant detail, but it is necessary for positive results. A suihanki or Japanese rice cooker may be a good purchase if you’re a #sushifanatic. While the rice is cooking, prepare a mix of rice vinegar, salt and sugar. The dressing works to perfume the rice and give it that characteristic flavor. 

When the sushi rice- also called sumeshi– is finished cooking, it is important to stir it so that it loses its humidity and cools. This process is traditionally carried out in a cypress wood bowl called hangiri while the rice is stirred with a wooden paddle called shamoji. This is the time to flavor the rice with the prepared vinegar dressing, salt and sugar. Lastly, to air out the rice and let it set and cool down before handling it, you can use an uchiwa or traditional paper and bamboo fan.

Handle Carefully

You don’t need to have all of the traditional cooking tools, although esthetically it does look impressive, in the end the most important part is carefully handling the ingredients and following the instructions to make a good sumeshi. Any items that help you achieve the same results as the traditional Japanese tools will work just fine. You may, however, consider investing in a good set of hocho or Japanese knives, because they really are the “soul” of any accomplished itamae.

Put Your Skills To the Test

One of the simplest sushi recipes, even for sushi newbies, is vegetarian sushi rolls. Just wrap your choice of ingredients like carrots, peppers and cucumber or guacamole and rice in nori seaweed. This recipe is a good option for beginners who many not be brave enough to take on the raw fish, to take the first step and test out their skills handling the makisu or bamboo stick, for rolling the sushi. Serve it all with a good soy sauce, wasabi and ginger and you’re all set!

Nori wrapped vegetables into sushi rolls
Vegetarian Sushi Rolls

Become a Sushi Master

If you feel up to the challenge of using sushi grade fish, try out sushi from Authentic Grains with tuna and avocado wrapped in nori sheets. Visually, it is very pleasing and it is quite simple to prepare. Prove to yourself that you can master this art one step at a time!

To take it up a notch, try these curry salmon sushi stacks. Leave the nori sheets to the side on this one and pile up the sushi rice for this show-stopping sweet and savory tower presentation. These stacks are larger than classic sushi rolls and give your table an exquisite touch. 

Sushi Stacks with curried salmon, avocado and red onion
Curry Salmon Sushi Stacks

As you can see, mastering sushi takes time, but any long race starts with one simple step forward. Make sure to keep this guide close at hand when you’re making sushi so you don’t forget the basics.

Are you ready to take your first step toward mastering the art of sushi at home? Kampai!