Cooking with Kids: Make your own sushi rolls

Tonight we’re having one our favorite dinners – make your own sushi!  We like it because we can each make our own sushi just the way we like it.  There are many different ways to make sushi rolls (also known as makizushi), and after much practice we finally have it down to a science.  Getting take out sushi for our entire family is easily over $100; yet, for $100 we can make our own sushi for five separate meals (around $20/meal).

Because the kids have been on such a big anime and manga kick recently, we’re exploring Japanese culture and all things Japanese.  My son has even started to teach himself the Japanese language; he downloaded an app on his iPod Touch, and I’m finding little strips of paper with katakana and kanji all over the house.  Now, what I’d really like to get is a Japanese wooden table, or maybe a kotatsu, for our living room, for homework and meals.

Making your own sushi is a fun way to expose your kids to a little Japanese culture, involve the kids with a hands-on activity, and you’ll all get a healthy, tasty meal out of it.  Here’s how we make our sushi rolls – fast and easy:

Equipment you’ll need:

Rice cooker (makes it easy, peasy to cook perfect rice; comes with a rice paddle and measuring scoop – around $40)

Bamboo sushi mats (make it easy to roll; we share and take turns with the 3 we have – around $3/each )


Rice – we buy CalRose medium grain rice by the 15 lb bag ($12) at our local asian grocery.  You should plan on making at least 1 cooked cup of rice per person.  It’s usually 1 cup of cooked rice/roll; we make 12 cups of rice for around 16 rolls.  (Sushi rice is also called:  Japanese short grained rice, glutinous white rice, Nishiki or Botan Calrose Rice.)

Rice vinegar – we use Marukan seasoned gourmet rice vinegar (the one with the yellow label and lid).  This way we don’t have to worry about adding sugar and salt to the vinegar and cooking; just pour straight from the bottle.

Nori – we buy Nagai’s Sushi Nori in bulk (50 sheets for $7) at our local asian grocery.  (Tip:  don’t just go for the cheapest nori – get good quality nori, or it may be a choking hazard.)

Nova salmon (this is our most expensive ingredient)
Crabmeat sticks
Cream cheese
Soy sauce (we love low sodium Kikkoman)
Wasabi – be careful…

(Other ideas:  mixed egg, fried; cooked chicken breast/Morningstar fake chicken, shiitake mushrooms.)


Step 1:   Cook rice

Use a rice cooker – makes it so, so easy.  Follow the manufactur’s directions – pretty much just measure and add rice, then water, then hit “cook”.

Step 2:  Add rice vinegar

Turn cooked rice out into large nonmetal bowl.  Add seasoned rice vinegar and gently fold in.

Typical proportion amounts are around 1/3 cup vinegar to 4 cups of cooked rice.  Adjust to taste – start with less, then add more.

Let the vinegared rice cool  – should be only slightly warm when you make your sushi rolls.

Step 3:  Prep your fillings

Cut up all your fillings into small, thin strips.

Mix up your wasabi.

Time to put it all on the table:

Bowl of prepped rice
Plate of nori sheets
Bowls of fillings
Bowl of water for dipping fingers
Tall glass of water holding a sharp knife

Let’s make this sushi!

Unroll your sushi mat.  Lay 1 nori sheet on the mat, rough side up.

Place a little less than 1 cup of rice on the nori, and spread a thin layer of rice to the edges, leaving 1 inch clear on the edge farthest from you.  (Don’t use too much rice – thin is better!)  Use the rice paddle to spread the rice, or if your kids want to spread the rice with their fingers, use wet fingers – so it won’t stick.

Line up your fillings on top of the rice – left to right, in the center of the rice, on the side of the nori closest to you.

Wet your fingers, then lightly wet the 1 inch empty strip of nori on the edge farthest from you.

Roll your sushi – start with the edge closest to you, then roll tightly and evenly away from you, and the wet edge will seal your roll.  You’ll need to press gently but firmly, and even squeeze a little when rolling.  After you start rolling, you’ll need to open the mat and adjust it to keep it from getting rolled into the sushi roll.  Using a sushi mat makes it easy, but is not necessary – sometimes we substitute a paper plate, and that works fine.

Unroll the mat, and place the sushi roll seam side down.  Slice crosswise into 1” rounds with a wet, sharp knife – or fold up the ends and eat like a burrito.

Wasabi:  You can put a little wasabi inside your sushi roll, or spread a little wasabi on your roll then dip it in soy sauce, or mix it with soy sauce in a small bowl for dipping, or skip it altogether.

Serve with soy sauce, and wasabi if you like (we tend to skip the pickled ginger.)  The proper way to eat sushi is with your fingers.  Enjoy!

Photo:  By tucker_zoe.

P.S. Check out this sushi chef’s blog on how to carve a carrot Darth Vader. He also veggie carves Pokemon. How cool is that.


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