Are you interested in learning how to make sushi at home? Finding good sushi can be time-consuming and expensive, and restaurants may not even have the type of sushi you like.
I was interested in learning to make sushi at home because where I live there aren't many good local sushi restaurants and I have an allergy to crustaceans, so I wanted to learn to make great sushi that was free of possible allergens.
I decided to research all the components of making sushi so I would know exactly what I needed in order to make the best sushi I could.
This is What I Found:
While investigating, I found that most web sites and videos suggested I get a dedicated sushi knife (Yanagiba), a bamboo rolling mat, a sushi rice spreader, seaweed sheets (nori), sushi rice, seasoned rice vinegar, and ingredients for the sushi. Other suggestions for making sushi were a sushi rice cooker, a cypress sushi rice tub (Hangiri), and a rice washing bowl.
What Kind of Knife Do You Need?
After looking at several different web sites and watching many videos, I found that I needed to get a Yanagiba (sushi knife) that is traditionally made out of high carbon steel. You do not want to get a knife made out of stainless steel only; they will not cut as well as Damascus steel and will degrade significantly over time. High Carbon VG-10 Damascus Steel is the criteria your knife will have to meet in order to be considered a true Yanagiba sushi knife.
This type of knife is beveled on one side and does not need to be sharpened. This knife is very sharp, so it is very easy to cut through sushi rolls and easy to cut sashimi very thinly.
These knives can run from just under $100 to thousands of dollars, but as long as you make sure the knife is high carbon VG-10 Damascus steel and gets good reviews, you should be able to get a decent knife. I bought a knife that was about $100 on Amazon and it's done a great job so far, so it doesn't have to be crazy expensive to work well.
Do You Need a Bamboo Rolling Mat?
Not really. While researching, I found many people suggested that I needed a bamboo rolling mat for creating sushi rolls. One video suggested putting the bamboo rolling mat in a plastic freezer bag so the mat doesn't get dirty. I've used a mat the first few times rolling sushi rolls. It is used to create an even, tight roll.
However, I found that it's a lot easier to create sushi rolls without a bamboo mat. I just put the nori on a plate, spread the rice with a rice spreader, add the ingredients, and roll it by hand. I actually get a better roll when I do this than with the bamboo mat; it's less messy and a lot quicker this way too. Whether or not you get one is up to you, but I really don't think it's needed.
Do You Need a Sushi Rice Spreader?
Yes. A sushi rice spreader makes spreading your sushi rice on the nori a lot easier than using your fingers or using another utensil like a spoon, fork, spatula, etc.. I prefer using a plastic sushi rice spreader over a wooden one because the plastic one is easier to clean and the sushi rice doesn't stick to it at all.
While you can use your fingers to spread the rice (just dip your fingers into a small dish of water in between so the rice doesn't stick to your fingers), the rice spreader can pick up larger amounts of rice and you can easily spread it on the nori without tearing it.
Do You Really Need to Get Sushi Rice? What's the Difference Between Sushi Rice and Other Types of Rice?
Yes, you really need to get sushi rice for good sushi. Sushi rice is sticky, which is very important when spreading the rice on the nori and the taste is different than other types of rice. Other types of rice just don't get sticky enough to use on nori and it's very important that your rice is correct when making sushi.
The sushi rice that I prefer is Nishiki Premium Sushi Rice. I find that it is very easy to make and cooks consistently in a rice cooker. I get my rice from a local Asian market in 15-pound increments. I find Asian markets to have better prices than big box stores, so look there first if you want to get some good sushi rice at a fair price.
What Do You Need as Far as Ingredients?
You need good quality nori (your seaweed sheets should be dark in color, uniform in texture, and should not smell fishy). I'd go to a local Asian market and ask what they recommend as they usually have several different options. You also need seasoned rice vinegar to season your sushi rice as well as your internal sushi roll ingredients.
You want to make sure all of the ingredients you use taste good and are of good quality. Use filtered water when you make your rice, use quality nori and quality internal ingredients. I prefer California rolls (any sushi that does not have raw fish), so I use organic chicken breast and premium cream cheese in my California rolls.
What About a Rice Cooker?
I think a rice cooker is one of the best things you can get if you are dedicated to making sushi. I make sushi enough that a sushi rice cooker was worth it to me instead of being aggravated when trying to cook rice on the stove.
I got a Zojirushi rice cooker that has a sushi rice cooking option. Some rice cookers just say use the white rice option if they don't have a specific sushi rice option, but that doesn't give you the sushi rice stickiness that is required. Some rice cookers also have a white rice/sushi rice combination option, but don't get that either as sushi rice is cooked differently than white rice.
The Zojirushi is a popular Japanese (although the one I got was made in China) rice cooker and is known to be of good quality. It has a dedicated sushi rice option and measurements for the sushi rice and water inside the rice cooker pot. The manual makes it very easy to learn how to rinse the rice properly as well as cook the rice optimally, so I didn't feel overwhelmed.
The Zojirushi rice cooker that I bought was about $150, which is not cheap compared to other rice cookers, but it cooks amazing sushi rice perfectly every time so I think it's worth having. The bonus is that it cooks all kinds of rice, so if you like to eat rice, it's a good buy all around.
What is a Hangiri?
A Hangiri is a Japanese cypress sushi rice tub that allows your sushi rice to cool and absorbs excess water so your sushi rice doesn't become mushy. It allows for superior sushi rice texture and allows for one to mix their seasoned rice vinegar with the sushi rice so the vinegar is spread evenly throughout the sushi rice.
The cypress wood is important because it does not grow mold easily. They can be somewhat expensive, but you should never have to buy another if you take care of it properly. I noticed on Amazon they sell Hangiri that look like the cypress tubs, but they are actually made out of bamboo. It can be tempting to get these because they are much cheaper, but spring for the cypress Hangiri instead.
The Japanese cypress Hangiri should be in the range of about $90-$130 on Amazon if you want to get it from there (I did). They seem to be similar in price when I looked at restaurant supply stores, so I think Amazon has a fair price for the Hangiri bowls. I bought the medium sized tub and it is plenty big enough for about six cups of rice to spread evenly and cool. I usually need about 3/4 cup of sushi rice for two rolls, so it's plenty big if you want to make more than a couple of rolls at a time.
Do You Need a Rice Rinsing Bowl?
Yes, most definitely. Luckily, these are fairly inexpensive compared to everything else on this list. You need to rinse your rice off whenever you are to make sushi rice. This rinses the starch off so your rice has a much better texture by the time you are done cooking your rice.
I've tried sushi rice that wasn't rinsed before and that was rinsed thoroughly before and I can tell you there is a huge difference in texture. Don't do what I did and try to use a fine meshed sieve or a bowl and your hands, because it just makes a huge mess and you end up losing rice. A dedicated rice rinsing bowl will keep all of your rice in the bowl and allow you to drain water between rinsing.
I found a cheap one on Amazon for $10. They range from $8 to $20, so they really aren't that expensive. Just make sure you get one that has the straining holes on one side, near the top; that way, you can rinse your rice (swirl it around with your fingers), then drain it on the side. Don't get a regular colander type because that won't give you any room to let the rice sit in the water as you rinse it off.
This article features the things you will need to make the best sushi you can from home, but I can also write another article in the future if anyone wants to get tips on how to put the sushi together, roll it, and cut it. Please let me know what you think in the comments below!