Take a stroll down memory lane with me, will you? I am 17 years old, in my hometown of good old La La Land, late 90s, dipping my toes into what would end up becoming a lifelong fascination with the art of food. By “dipping my toes,” I mean dipping my nigiri into a truffle infused soy sauce at Sushi Roku in West Hollywood. Yes, I felt fancy, and yes, I felt hip (in my cookie cutter school uniform somehow holding my own amidst the designer clad WeHo women in their frocks from Robertson), but above all of that, my teenage self felt inspired. This was not your mama’s California roll.
Many moons later, I still adore Sushi Roku – a stalwart in the LA dining scene, continually pushing the envelope with flavor fusions and classics alike. Under the guidance of Chefs Hiroshi Shima and Iron Chef alum Tyson Wong, and with the finesse (and tutelage) of Chef Jiro Kobayashi, Roku remains a mainstay for its dedication to honoring ingredients, honing in on precise preparation, and yet never losing its playfulness. Today, the lovely team at Sushi Roku are helping us take the guess work out of making nigiri and maki in your very own home. Truth be told, I’m feeling a little homesick at the moment – so this is just want the doctor ordered. Arigatou Gozaimasu! Break out the sake, friends!
We use Japanese sticky rice and season it with sugar, salt, and Japanese rice vinegar (you can find Japanese sticky rice in any local grocery store). We cook the vinegar over the stove with a small sheet of dried kelp to infuse flavor, and take the kelp out when it cools down. We then add the mixture to the rice when it’s cooking.
You can use any sushi-grade fish to make Nigiri sushi. When cutting into fish, make sure you cut against the grain. When using Spanish mackerel, make sure you remove the skin.
When shaping sushi, don’t squeeze too hard. Mold the fish to the rice.
Nigiri sushi is garnished with wasabi and just a brush of soy sauce on the fish side (never dip rice side into soy sauce). Spanish mackerel is traditionally garnished with ginger, scallion, and ponzu as well.
Here, we’re making a veggie roll, but as noted above, you can make any sushi with sushi-grade fish as well. There are two ways to make roll sushi – with the rice on the inside or the outside of the roll.
With Soy Paper
To make a veggie roll with soy paper, lay the soy paper on the countertop and spread the rice evenly corner to corner, leaving about an inch of soy paper at the top.
Lay ingredients on top of rice – here we’re using cucumber, pickled carrots, and avocado.
From bottom to top, roll the soy paper in an upwards direction, but don’t squeeze too hard.
Cut the roll with a sharp knife (we recommend cutting down the middle first to ensure equal portions).
To make a veggie roll with seaweed, cover the seaweed with rice edge-to-edge.
Flip the seaweed over so it’s rice side down and pile your ingredients onto the roll lengthwise (hot-dog style).
Cover your makisu (bamboo mat) with saran wrap so the rice doesn’t stick to it.
Roll the sushi with the covered makisu and cut into six even pieces.