How to make Sushi Rice

After months of hesitating to join Daring Cooks, I decided to take the plunge. I’m excited but at the same time scared – what if I can’t meet up the challenges?

For my first Daring Cooks Challenge (the November 2009 one is brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen), we are asked to make sushi from scratch. Lucky me, I love sushi!

After a bit of researches, I found that the traditional form of sushi is fermented fish and rice, preserved with salt. The fermentation of fished and rice produce vinegar which breaks the fish down into amino acids. This results in 1 of 5 basic tastes (along with sweet, salty, etc.) called umami in Japanese (a.k.a. glutamates). Narezushi, the oldest form of sushi in Japan, still resembles closely to this process and it has evolved into Oshizushi, and finally Edomae Nigirizushi to which the world knows today as Sushi

Although sushi in various forms has been around for fourteen centuries, the modern version was invented in Japan by Hanaya Yohei (1799-1858) at the end of Edo period in Edo. An early form of fast food where a ‘hand-formed’ sliced fresh fish and vinegared rice ball could be eaten with one’s hand on roadside or in a theatre. This sushi was known as Edomae zushi because it used freshly caught fish in the Edo-mae (Edo Bay or Tokyo Bay). Nowadays, sushi is made with various seafood, meats and vegetables, raw and cooked.

There are 4 parts in this challenge and I will show you how to make each of this in separate posts for easy reference:

  1. Making proper sushi rice with home-made sushi vinegar
  2. Dragon Sushi Roll – a covered inside-out rice roll with a tasty surprise filling
  3. Spiral Sushi – a nori-coated rice roll which reveals a decorative pattern when cut
  4. Nigiri Sushi – hand-shaped rice rolls with toppings

It’s really fun making your own sushi. I challenge you to do make some! But first, let’s learn how to make Sushi Rice, the process is somewhat long but not as complex as it looks.

Sushi rice

Total Preparation time: 1¾ hours

  • Rinsing & draining rice: 35 minutes
  • Soaking rice: 30 minutes
  • Cooking and steaming time: 25 minutes
  • Finishing the rice: 15 minutes
  • 2½ cups short grain (round rice) or Japanese rice
  • 2½ cups water
  • 3 inch square dashi konbu (or kombu – dried kelp seaweed) wipe with a damp cloth to remove white powder & cut a few slits in the sides of the kelp to help release its flavours – OPTIONAL
  • 2½ tsp sake (Japanese rice wine – don’t use cooking sake) – OPTIONAL

Sushi vinegar dressing

  • 5 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 5 tsp sugar
  • 1¼ tsp salt
  1. Swirl rice gently in a bowl of water, drain, repeat 3-4 times until water is nearly clear. Don’t crush the rice in your hands or against the side of the bowl as dry rice is very brittle.
  2. Gently place rice into a strainer and drain well for 30 minutes.
  3. Place the rice in a heavy medium pot with a tight fitting lid (if you have a loose fitting lid use a piece of aluminum foil to make the seal tight).
  4. Add 2½ cups of water and the dashi konbu (if you are using. This is optional.).
  5. Set the rice aside to soak for 30 minutes, during this time prepare the sushi rice dressing.
  6. After 30 minutes of soaking add sake (if using, again optional) to the rice.
  7. Bring the rice to the boil. Then reduce heat to the lowest setting and simmer, covered for 12-15 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this process.
  8. Turn off heat. Let stand with the lid on, 10-15 minutes. Do not peek inside the pot or remove the lid. During this time the rice is steaming which completes the cooking process.

Preparing the Rice Vinegar Dressing

  1. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small pot.
  2. Heat on low setting. Stir until the mixture is clear and the sugar and salt have dissolved.
  3. Set aside at room temperature to cool until the rice is cooked.

Turning out the rice

  1. Lightly moisten a flat thin wooden spatula or spoon and a large shallow flat-bottomed ceramic, plastic or glass dish. Do not use metallic objects as vinegar reacts to it and will produce sour and bitter sushi rice.
  2. Remove the dashi konbu (kelp) from the cooked rice (if you added it).
  3. Use the spatula to gently loosen the rice and tip the rice pot over the dish, gently letting the rice fall in one central heap. This is to avoid damaging the rice grains.
  4. Slowly evenly pour the cooled sushi vinegar over the hot rice by dripping it on the spatula.
  5. Using the spatula, gently spread the rice into a thin, even layer using a 45° cutting motion to break up any lumps and to separate the rice. Don’t stir or mash rice.
  6. After the rice is spread out, start turning it over gently, in small portions, using a cutting action, allowing steam to escape, for about a minute.
  7. Continue turning over the rice, but now start fanning (using a piece of stiff cardboard or fan) the rice vigorously as you do so. Don’t flip the rice into the air. Continue to gently slice, lift and turn the rice occasionally, for 10 minutes. Cooling the rice using a fan gives good flavour, texture and a high-gloss sheen to the rice. The vinegar dressing will be absorbed by the hot rice.
  8. Stop fanning when there’s no more visible steam, and all the vinegar dressing has been adsorbed and the rice is shiny.
  9. Your sushi rice is ready to be used.
The Verdict

The rice turned out perfect and deliciously good. It’s worth making your own sushi vingear as you will taste a big difference. (I did not add sake or dashi konbu to my rice)

Sushi is easy and cheap to make at home. Best of all, you do not need to use any special equipment to make this and it is fun to make together with family and friends.

Sushi Rice


To maximize your time in preparing sushi, prepare your rice vinegar dressing, sushi fillings and toppings while rice is draining and soaking.

If you cannot get sushi Rice, replace it with short (round or pearl) or medium grain rice. Do not use Arborio, long-grain, or parboiled white rice.

For rice vinegar, make sure there is no salt or sugar added in it. You can substitute it with apple cider vinegar, and if you don’t have apple cider vinegar, use mild white wine vinegar or mild red wine vinegar. Do not use normal white vinegar – it’s too harsh.

Dashi konbu – or ( dashi kombu) – dried kelp, it looks like broad, leathery, wrinkly greenish ribbon often coated with a white powder. The darker green the leaves, the better the quality of kelp. Dashi konbu adds a refreshing light ocean taste to sushi rice.

Keeping the rice moist

Cover with a damp, lint free cloth to prevent the rice from drying out while preparing your sushi meal. Do not store sushi rice in the refrigerator. Leave it on the counter covered at room temperature. Sushi rice is best used when it is at room temperature. Cooked sushi rice can be placed in plastic bags and frozen for 3 months, microwave when needed.