Home-made temakizushi (手巻き寿司) looks fancy but is very easy to prepare. Cut the sushi fillings, display everything on the table and let the crowd serve themselves. It is fun and great for a little party with family and friends.
Warning! There are lots of photos today and the post is a bit long as there were so many ingredients involved in my family temakizushi. But you can make it with less ingredients.
Sushi is a food representative of Japan and there are quite few different forms of it. Nigirizushi (握り寿司, hand-pressed sushi), chirashizushi (ちらし寿司, scattered sushi), and oshizushi (押し寿司, pressed sushi) to name a few. But I think that temakizushi is best suited for serving a crowd, particularly with your family and friends. There are good reasons for this:
- Easy to prepare
- No need to measure quantity accurately
- Flexible set of ingredients
- Looks fabulous and colourful
- Can be served for both meat eaters and vegetarians
- No cooking other than the rice
- Guests make their own sushi, no skills required
We have a family temakizushi party or two every year at my place, even with no reason to celebrate anything. We just get an urge to have it once in a while. All we need is for someone to say “we haven’t had temakizushi for a while” or “I want to eat sushi”. Then another will say, “yeah, let’s have temakizushi, mum!”.
I always wonder why they add “mum” at the end, expecting me to get everything ready. But now that I am posting temakizushi, they can prepare it and I can be invited for a change.
About sushi rice
There are no rules as to what should go inside temakizushi but you must have suitable rice to make sushi rice. The best grain rice for sushi in general is short grain rice. It is often sold as “sushi rice”. You can buy sushi rice at supermarkets or Asian grocery stores.
Most Asian and Japanese grocery stores also sell the Japanese brand short grain rice, e.g. Koshihikari. See the sample bag of Koshihikari rice in my post, How to Cook Rice the Japanese Way.
If short grain is not available, you could use medium grain rice but other grain such as long grain, and Jasmine rice are not suited for sushi.
When the rice is cooked, you need to add sushi vinegar and mix. Sushi vinegar is called sushisu (寿司酢) and can be made from rice wine vinegar and sugar and salt. Please refer to the post Japanese Dressings. You can also buy a bottle of sushi vinegar from the supermarket and Asian grocery stores. Don’t get it mixed up with rice wine vinegar. Sushi vinegar should be sweet.
It is important to add sushi vinegar while the rice is hot, otherwise the rice will not absorb it. The steam coming from the hot rice also evaporates the strong acid fumes. Once the sushi vinegar is mixed well, use a handheld fan or thick paper to fan the rice so that the rice will start getting shiny. The fan is not to cool down the rice but to evaporate any moisture quickly before the rice gets sticky. The result is shiny rice.
Ingredients for Temakizushi
You can roll almost anything when it comes to temakizushi. Traditional ingredients are those similar to nigirizushi, i.e. raw fish such as tuna and kingfish, cooked prawns (shrimps), dashimaki tamago (Japanese rolled omelette), and cucumber.
But just like the more Westernised sushi shops, you can use teriyaki chicken, avocado, smoked salmon, or prawn (shrimp) cutlet. The possibilities are limitless. Just make sure that ingredients are cut into appropriate size to roll them easily.
For those who might not be familiar with the ingredients in the photo above, here is the list.
- You can see the sushi rice in a wooden bowl and the black items in a small round plate is the quarter-size yakinori sheets.
- On the large round plate from 12 o’clock, clockwise – avocado, takuan (pickled white radish), cucmber, tuna, kingfish, salmon, scallops, Shime Saba, prawns (shrimps), pickled burdock, and salmon roe in the centre.
- On the long rectangular plate – Unagi no kabayaki (鰻の蒲焼, flavoured grilled eel).
- On the small round plate in the centre of the photo – Ootoro (大トロ, tuna belly).
- On the small round plate on the right – Dashimaki Tamago.
- In the square bowl on the bottom right – Hikiwari natto (挽き割り納豆, finely chopped fermented soya beans).
I can only buy frozen unagi no kabayaki at Japanese grocery stores. The pack looks like the photo below and it comes as a whole fish with no head. You simply slice it for sushi topping but the common way of eating it is to cut it into just half and place the slice on hot cooked rice like the picture on the pack. This dish is called una-don (鰻丼, eel on rice in a bowl) or una-ju (鰻重, eel on rice in a box) as in the picture. Yum.
Now, let’s talk about natto. I’m not sure if you ever had an opportunity to try this but this is something you have to grow up with to become fond of it. It’s like Vegemite for Aussie. It has distinct smell of fermented soybeans and the texture is really sticky.
It comes in a little pack of about 40-50g (1.4-1.8oz). You need to mix well to make them sticky, add chopped shallots (scallions), hot mustard and dash of soy sauce. It goes well with hot cooked rice. All my kids love it. I can buy them frozen at Asian/Japanese grocery stores in Sydney.
The photo below are: Frozen natto – 3 packs (top left), inside a pack with mustard and flavoured soy sauce which come with it (top right), mix with shallots (scallions), mustard and soy sauce (bottom left), sticky and ready to eat (bottom right).
For temakizushi, I bought hikiwari natto which is the finely chopped natto. You could buy normal natto as above and chop yourself (before mixing to make it sticky) if you can’t find hikliwari natto.
Yakinori (焼き海苔, Roasted Seaweed Sheet)
You can buy yakinori at supermarkets and Asian/Japanese grocery stores. They usually come in a pack of 10 sheets but if you go to Japanese grocery stores, you will probably find larger pack containing 50 sheets or even 100 sheets.
The quality of yakinori can be judged on the thickness of the sheet and the colour. There should be no holes in the sheet, nor too thin and you shouldn’t be able to see through it. The colour of the yakinori sheet should be almost black. The blacker the better.
The standard yakinori sheet is 19cm x 21cm (7½” x 8¼”) and you need to cut it into halves or quarters. When you use a half size yakinori, you will be able to make an almost professional looking temakzushi (see the 2nd photo in this post) and the yakinori will be in a perfect cone shape. The only down side of this in my view is that the yakinori sheet overlaps a lot to make a cone shape and I find that there is too much nori for the small amount of rice.
So, I usually cut it into a quarter as you can see in the other photos. This will not easily let you make a perfect cone shape as the yakinori sheet is not long enough. But hey, it is self-serve and I am not really fussed about how it looks. You could make a small roll like the photos below as well!
Cutting ingredients for temakizushi
You will usually cut each ingredient into a thick matchstick shape of about 1.5cm x 1.5cm x 7cm (½” x ½” x 2¾”) so that the ingredients can sit in the middle of the rice nicely. If the ingredients cannot easily be cut into a match stick shape, such as avocado, try to slice them so that they can be rolled easily.
As you can see in the photo, I did not make the raw fish into the matchstick shape. It was close to sashimi. I did it because (1) we won’t make perfect cone shaped temakizushi, (2) we might just eat them as sashimi as the rice will fill our stomachs up too quickly, and (3) I wanted to take photos of how to make sashimi (last week’s post) while preparing for temakizushi.
Reason (3) is a bit of an excuse but even without the matchstick shape, they look great, don’t they?
I hope you try temakizushi at the next family gathering or get together with friends.
- 150ml rice wine vinegar (note 1)
- 3⅓ tbsp sugar (note 1)
- 2½ tsp salt (note 1)
- 1.5kg cooked rice (note 2)
- 800g fresh sashimi quality fish of your choice
- 6-8 fresh prawns (shrimps), medium size
- ½ avocado sliced into 1cm (⅜”) thick pieces
- 1 cucumber cut into thick matchsticks of 7cm long
- Dashimaki tamago per the recipe, Dashimaki Tamago
- 20 yakinori sheets
- Soy sacue
- Wasabi (Japanese horseradish)
- Mix rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt well until sugar is dissolved.
- When rice is cooked, while it is still very hot, transfer the rice to a large bowl (wooden if possible), then add half of the vinegar mixture to the rice, spreading evenly.
- Using a spatula, mix the rice well to evenly mix the vinegar. Use cutting motion to mix the rice with the spatula and do not break or squash the rice grain.
- Add the remaining vinegar mixture and mix well. Use a handheld fan or thick paper to fan the rice to let the moisture evaporate faster (optional).
- Fish - slice a block of fish fillet into thick matchsticks of about 1.5cm x 1.5cm x 7cm (½” x ½” x 2¾”) or sashimi slices (refer to the recipes Sashimi and Shime Saba).
- Scallops - slice them into two thin rounds but do not detach them completely so that the slices can be opened to make it look like a butterfly.
- Prawns - remove the heads and devein. Starting from the front end of the prawn, insert a toothpick or a short bamboo skewer diagonally downwards towards the tail. Make sure that at least about 1cm of the end of the stick is showing so that you can pull it out later. Boil the prawns for a couple of minutes in the boiling water with a dash of vinegar. Remove the stick and the shell. Cool them down.
- Dashimaki tamago - either slice or cut into thick matchsticks.
- Yakinori sheets - cut into halves or quarters.
- Group each ingredient together and spread evenly so that people can pick each piece up easily.
- Serve with soy sauce and wasabi (Japanese horse radish).
- Place a yakinori sheet on a plate or a bamboo mat.
- Spread a small amount of sushi rice thinly on one side and place ingredients of your choice in the centre of the rice. (note 4)
- Starting from the rice end of the yakinori sheet, roll the sheet to make either a cylinder shape or a cone shape. The secret is not to add too much rice and ingredients onto the yakinori sheet.
- Dip one end of the roll into the soy sauce and bite. (note 4)
2. You need to use sushi rice, short grain rice or medium grain rice (order of preference). Please refer to How to Cook Rice the Japanese Way but add 2 sheets of 10cm x 10cm konbu (kelp) when cooking the rice if you can. This will add umami to the rice.
3. The quantity of ingredients is approximate as it all depends on how much people can eat and how much rice vs ingredients people use to make temakizushi.
4. If you prefer, you can spread a small amount of wasabi onto the sashimi before rolling. Alternatively, dissolve wasabi in the dipping soy auce.
5. I did not include flavoured grilled eel, tuna belly and hikiwari natto (finely chopped fermented soya beans) which are also in the photo because they are not commonly consumed. But if you are interested, you could buy a frozen version of these at Japanese grocery stores. Hikiwari natto will need to be mixed with finely chopped shallots (scallions).
Pickles are also excluded as they might not be be readily available in your country. But if you happen to have it, by all means, cut them like the cucumber.
Oops, I forgot to add the photo of how to skewer prawns (shrimps) so that it won’t curl when cooked. Here it is.