How to make the perfect Japanese sushi

Today is Tuesday and whilst you might be wondering why this is important, let me tell you, this is the best day of the week… because it’s making sushi day. You see, every day of the week I cook a specific food from around the world. Tuesday is Japanese food day.

After years of travelling, I found that one of the most exciting parts about discovering a new country, is trying new food. Of course, there was the problem of coming home and missing certain dishes. So I came up with a solution: I started organising a schedule for buying specific ingredients and creating meals from all around the world, a different one, every day of the week.

Perfect Sushi Rice Japan

So today I’m celebrating my weekly Japanese day, a Tuesday dedicated to eating miso soup, ramen and my favorite: sushi. I used to make sushi before I went to Japan. I learned how to craft the rice and how to roll, but honestly, my sushi were mostly quite bland. I assumed it was due to lack of salt, so I started experimenting with the amount (and type) of salt I would add to my sushi, but nothing changed.

When I visited Japan, in December 2015, I started making conversation with a wonderful, talented itame from Shinjuku. As he was so friendly, I asked if he can tell me how to craft the perfect sushi rice. He didn’t just tell me, he decided to show me.

The trick to creating the perfect sushi is indeed the rice. I’ve been doing it all wrong because I didn’t know how to cook the sushi rice to perfection. Apparently it takes more than just boiling it and adding a bit of salt here and there.

So how do you do it? At the itame showed me, the first part is to rinse the rice to get rid of any starch. Run cold water over the rice grains for about 60 seconds. It is paramount that the sushi rice you picked is of good quality.

Sushi Presentation Soy Sauce Japan

To cook the sushi rice, you need to be aware that the water ratio is different than what you are probably used to. For every cup of rice, you need 1.15 cups of water and a dash of mirin (I really like mirin hence I add more like three dashes). This might sound like too little water, but is it turns out, it’s the perfect amount to make the rice sticky but not mushy.

Make sure you use a non-stick pan and a wooden spatula. (seriously… don’t even think of mixing the rice with a metal spoon, it will spoil your rice)

Start cooking the rice on high flame and keep mixing every minute or so until the water starts to boil. Then, lower the flame to the minimum possible setting and cover the pot with a lid. Allow it to cook for about 6-8 minutes, then keep on checking on it until there is no more water left. When that happens, the rice is done.

In the meantime, create the mixture which will make the sushi rice taste well… like sushi rice. Gosh, this is what I’ve been doing wrong all this time, I just didn’t know there was a magical ingredient missing from my rice.

Sushi Rolls Japan

Well this is it: for every cup of rice, you need 0.125 cups of rice vinegar (only use rice vinegar, no other vinegar, ever), 0.5 tbsp of sugar and 0.25 tbsp salt. Mix these three ingredients over low heat for about a couple of minutes until all solids are dissolved and set aside.

Transfer the sushi rice to a plastic bowl. Again, make sure you only use the wooden spatula. Add the magical sushi mixture you just created and mix well (yes, still with that wooden spatula). Allow the rice to cool down completely before rolling the best sushi in the world.

And there you go, it was a simple as rice vinegar, sugar and salt. Those were the missing ingredients from my sushi rice recipe. I was incredibly grateful to see an actual sushi chef demonstrate how to create amazing sushi rice. Of course, it’s worth noting that each itamae has its own recipe as this is what makes a sushi place in Japan unique and special.

Sushi Maki Japan

It was also in Japan where I learned how to properly eat sushi and respect the Japanese way of doing so. If you want to learn more about it click to read how to behave in a Japanese restaurant.

There are plenty of types of sushi out there, each of them being delicious because of the amazing sushi rice they contain. I absolutely adore maki, what is your favorite type of sushi and why? Tell me all about it in the comments section below.

Perfect Sushi Rice California Rolls
Perfect Sushi Rice California Rolls Japan
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Cory from You Could Travel entering Senso-ji in Tokyo, Japan

Cory Varga – Cory is a published travel writer and award-winning photographer. She travels full time with her husband and is passionate about creating in-depth travel guides. Cory published her first book on Japanese customs and manners because she’s obsessed with everything Japan. She has visited hundreds of destinations and has lived in 7 different countries. Cory is multilingual and an alumna from The University of Manchester.


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