How to make hand rolls for DIY sushi

Yields Serves 4 to 6
A hand roll party is easy to prepare — all you need to cook is the rice. Use whatever fillings you like.
(Carlos Jaramillo / For The Times)
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A hand roll party is a call to creativity. You can use whatever fillings you like. Sashimi-grade fish is traditional, but ingredients such as market vegetables and herbs or even leftover potato salad and carne asada are as delicious. Tinned and/or smoked fish is great with sushi rice.

This is your guide to what the best sushi city in America has to offer, from the ultimate California roll to spectacular omakase.

Sashimi-grade seafood is available at Japanese markets already cut into blocks (called saku) that are easy to slice. Here you also will find high-quality short-grain rice, rice vinegar and sheets of nori (dried seaweed).

Sushi rice should be cooked a little less than regular Japanese rice so that it’s less soft and sticky. Shari — the seasoned rice for sushi — is slightly chewy, or even al dente. Measure the weight of the rice so that the ratio of rice to water is accurate. The seasoning is all about the balance of sour (vinegar) and sweet (cane sugar), and I prefer less sweet. Once the rice is cooked, most of the work is done.

Set out plates of fillings and bowls of condiments family style for everyone to make their own hand rolls.


DIY Handrolls

Sushi Rice
Spicy mayo
For assembly

Wash the rice: Put the rice in a fine strainer set over a bowl and fill with cold water. Gently wash the rice, stirring it with the tips of your fingers, until the water turns milky. Lift the strainer from the bowl and drain the water. Repeat the process a few times until the water is clear. Keep the rice in the strainer to dry for 10 minutes.


Cook the rice: Put the rice in an even layer in a medium-size, heavy-bottom pot with a tight-fitting lid and add the 2 cups cold water. Let sit for 10 minutes. Put the lid on the pot and bring the rice to a full boil over medium-high heat; this should take a few minutes. Immediately reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit, still covered, for 15 to 20 minutes.


Make the rice seasoning: In a small saucepan over low heat, dissolve the sugar and salt in the rice vinegar (it shouldn’t come to a boil). Set aside to cool.

Transfer the rice to a large bowl and sprinkle the vinegar mixture evenly over the rice. Gently fold with a wooden spoon or spatula, using a cutting motion to thoroughly mix and get rid of any lumps without mashing the rice.

To make sushi rice, mix with vinegar, sugar and salt.
A mixture of vinegar, cane sugar and salt is what seasons sushi rice. Sprinkle it evenly over the rice and fold it in gently until thoroughly combined.
(Carlos Jaramillo / For The Times)

Mix the spicy mayo: In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise, sriracha, soy sauce and lime juice (if using) until well combined.


Assembly: Put the sashimi and seafood on a large plate, garnished with shiso leaves. Arrange the vegetables on plates and the condiments and garnishes in small bowls. Put the nori on another plate. Serve family style with the sushi rice and nori.

Homemade hand rolls are easy: Add two or three of any of your favorite fillings.
Hand rolls are easy. Get creative. Put a little sushi rice on your nori, top with two or three fillings, and sprinkle with a favorite condiment or garnish.
(Carlos Jaramillo / For The Times)

Place a sheet of nori in the palm of your hand and top with about 2 tablespoons of sushi rice. Top the rice with two to three fillings of your choice. You can wrap the nori around the rice and fillings in a cone shape or just fold it in half.

Other suggested fillings and condiments: myoga (baby ginger), thinly sliced; umeboshi (pickled plum) paste; fresh or pickled chiles, thinly sliced; scallions, thinly sliced; ikura (salmon eggs); yuzu zest; finely grated ginger; toasted nuts; toasted pepitas; your favorite tinned fish; blue crab salad (8 oz. can Chicken of the Sea blue lump crab mixed with 3 tbsp. Kewpie mayo)
Spicy mayo recipe by Jeni Afuso. This makes more spicy mayo than you might need; store any left over in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a month.