Homemade Sushi

Homemade Sushi

You can’t buy sushi just anywhere, as one of my friends learned after picking up a salmon roll at a gas station. I still can’t figure out what possessed her, but she was sick for days. For the record, other places NOT to buy sushi: vending machines, convenience stores, and dive bars. If you live in most big cities in the US, great sushi is probably a phone call away – but that’s not the case everywhere.  I thought it would be fun to have a little sushi-making lesson, so that you can roll your own if you get the craving, but don’t have a good place to find it.

California Roll

California rolls are one of the most familiar and popular forms of sushi, and the ingredients are easy to locate.  You can’t expect to find sushi-grade tuna at the local grocery, and it’s critical that the raw fish in sushi be very, very fresh.  A California roll is a good gateway food to begin eating sushi; it has vegetables, crabmeat, sticky sushi rice and nori (the seaweed wrap that keeps the roll together,) and is served with wasabi, pickled ginger, and soy sauce.  You can use crabmeat for the roll, but it’s easier and less expensive, to use kamaboko, or crab sticks, which are a form of white fish processed to look like crab meat.  Most California rolls are made with kamaboko.  Wasabi is sometimes referred to as Japanese horseradish, but it’s more like a pale green hot mustard.  You can buy the powdered version and mix it up yourself with a little water to make a paste, as I did.  As with all things sushi, the fresher, the better, so prepare the wasabi just before you assemble the roll.

California Roll

Once you have the ingredients together, it’s merely a matter of assembling them with Japanese-like attention to detail. I wouldn’t consider this a make-ahead meal to be served formally; rather, it is an entertaining way to have a couple of friends in the kitchen for a good gossip while you roll and eat, and roll another one.  Offer up some steamed edamame to nibble on, with a little sake to smooth things out, and you’ve got a comfortable, casual – and impressive – meal.

California Roll

Serves: makes 32 pieces

Prep time: 30 minutes to cook the rice and assemble the ingredients, with an additional five minutes to put together each roll


  • 1 ½ cups sushi rice (medium grain Japanese rice)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 4 crab sticks
  • 1 seedless cucumber, cut into thin strips
  • 1 avocado, cut into strips
  • 1 tablespoon wasabi powder
  • soy sauce for dipping
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 package nori seaweed (use one sheet per roll)
  • 1 bamboo kitchen mat for rolling up the sushi, available at Crate and Barrel or large grocery stores


  1. To make the rice, bring water to boil.  While it is getting ready to boil, rinse uncooked rice until water becomes clear and strain.  Add rice to boiling water and turn heat to low.  Steam for 15 minutes.
  2. Cover the bamboo mat with plastic wrap, to keep the rice from sticking to it.
  3. To make the “su” or vinegar mixture: Mix together the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a nonreactive saucepan and cook at low heat until salt and sugar have dissolved.
  4. Fold a piece of the nori to fit the size of the mat.  Dip your fingers in the vinegar mixture and gently spread the rice to the edges of the mat in an even layer.
  5. Keep wetting your fingers so they don’t stick to the rice, press lightly on the rice or it will get soft and mushy.California Roll
  6. Sprinkle rice with sesame seeds, then turn the nori with the rice on it over so that the rice is on the bottom and the nori is facing upward.
  7. At the bottom edge of the nori line up several strips of cucumber, then avocado.
  8. Add crab sticks along the edge of the avocado.
    Roll bamboo mat over the filling, lifting the rice over the filling, and roll until the rice meets the nori.
  9. Begin to peel bamboo mat away as you roll, so you don’t roll the mat into the California roll. When rice is completely rolled up, give the mat a squeeze so that rice sticks together well.
  10. Carefully slice roll into one-inch thick pieces, to make 6 pieces of sushi.California Roll
  11. Mix wasabi powder with a bit of water to make a paste.
  12. Serve sushi with wasabi and soy sauce.California Roll

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