Sushi Rice: Information and Recipe

Sushi Maki
Sushi Rice
Sushi Gohan
page 267
  1. Sushi rice is Japanese rice dressed with a vinegar-sugar-salt dressing. It is the basis of several different kinds of sushi (rice) dishes. Note: o-nigiri is never made with sushi rice.
  2. Use regular white short-grain Japanese rice, or medium-grain California rice. You are likely paying extra if you buy rice sold as “sushi rice.”
  3. If you are using Japanese rice, rinse it in a bowl of cold water, gently rubbing the grains for 20 to 30 seconds. Drain, and add fresh water. Repeat the gentle washing and draining for a total of 4 times.
    • Cooking sushi rice is different from cooking rice for a meal, where you let it soak for 30 minutes before cooking. The proportions of rice to water are different.
    • I usually use California rice, so I skip the washing. For sushi rice, I do. And I follow step 4 below.
  4. For sushi rice, do not soak! Instead, rinse the rice and let it drain in a colander for an hour. This step helps to make the cooked rice firm You want firm rice when you toss it with the dressing so that the dressing coats the grains of rice rather than soaking in.
  5. Use only the best quality rice vinegar for the dressing. Remember, this is a key flavor of your sushi rice. If the vinegar does not taste good, then neither will your sushi rice.
    • Avoid buying the “sushi seasoned” rice vinegar. It is so easy to make your own vinegar dressing with the simple addition of only sugar and salt to your own taste, why would you want to buy a bottled (with what additives) version?
  6. For mixing the rice and vinegar dressing:
    • A hangiri is a container made of unfinished cypress wood. The wood absorbs moisture and retains heat so the rice does not become watery as you toss it with the dressing. Soak the hangiri and the wooden rice paddle for 30 minutes before using so that the rice won’t stick to the dry wood. Dry wood will also absorb some of the dressing.
    • An unfinished wooden salad bowl is a good substitute for a hangiri. Or use a large glass bowl.
    • The least desirable option is to put the cooked rice all at once into a large colander placed over a glass bowl. Break the rice roughly with a wooden spatula—vertical chopping, not stirring, which will break the grains,— and pour the dressing evenly over the rice in a large circular motion. Cutting vertically, lifting, and turning, toss the rice thoroughly. Pour any drops of dressing collected in the bowl back over the rice, and toss it again.
  7. Transfer the cooked rice all at once into the wooden tub (or salad bowl). With a circular motion, quickly pour the vinegar dressing evenly over the rice. Toss the rice thoroughly by cutting into it vertically with the spatula, and then lifing the rice and turning it over. Don’t mash the rice! The tossing should take only a couple of minutes.
  8. Fan the rice briefly. Fanning the rice facilitates quick cooling and drying of the vinegar to make it glossy.
  9. Prepared sushi rice should be stored at cool room temperature, covered with a moist cotton cloth. Never refrigerate sushi rice—it becomes unpleasantly firm.

Recipe for the Rice:
(See the author of The Japanese Kitchen making Sushi Rice)

  • 1 1/2 cups rice
  • 1 1/2 cups waterone
  • 2-inch square konbu
  • 2 Tablespoons sake

Place the rice and measured water into a heavy-bottomed pot. The pot should be three times deeper than the water and rice. Put the pot over medium heat. Cook uncovered until the water level is equal to the rice level. Reduce the heat to very low, cover the pot with a heavy lid, and cook until all the water is absorbed and the rice grains are plump. Let the cooked rice stand, covered, for 10 minutes. The resting allows the moisture to settle into the rice grains, making it easier to toss.

Sushi Vinegar Dressing:

  • 3 Tablespoons komezu (Japanese rice vinegar)
  • 1 Tablespoons sugar, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt

As soon as the rice begins cooking, combine the ingredients and stir well. By the time the rice is cooked, the sugar should be dissolved. (Alternately, you can microwave or boil the mixture to dissolve the sugar, but never let it boil!)

Su Water for handling the rice:

  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 cups cold water

To prevent the rice sticking to your hands or utensils, dip into this mixture.

Below is a table that will allow you to make various amounts of sushi rice:

Proportions for Basic Sushi Rice

Rice and Water Vinegar Sugar Salt Yield
US cups rice-cooker
TBS. TBS. tsp. pounds
1 1/2 2 3 1 1 1.4
2 1/4 3 4 1/2 1 1/2 1 1/2 2.1
3 4 6 2 2 2/3 2.8
Add to the cooking water for all the above:
—————one 2-inch square kombu, and 2 TBS. sake————–

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9 thoughts on “Sushi Rice: Information and Recipe

  1. I always used to buy “Sushi Rice” before. Then I was told that what is sold here in Finland as “Porridge rice” works just as well. I was suspicious at first, but having tried it, I can’t really taste any significant difference between the two. I wonder if a Japanese would be able to tell the difference in a blind test. They claim to be pretty picky about their rice I think.

  2. Hi Sam!

    How nice to hear from Finland! My grandparents all came from Finland.

    In the Asian grocery stores near me, there are lots of different kinds of rice. Even if I ignore the un-Japanese types of long grain rice (Jasmine, Basmati), there are many to choose from. I’ve tried several, from Japan and from California, and the differences are subtle. There was one brand from California that I did not like at all—I was very happy when that bag was empty! The brand I like best is also from California! When I first uncover a pot of cooked rice to fluff it, it just smells so good! Almost like the aroma of baking bread.

    From what I’ve read, the Japanese take a great deal of pride in their homegrown rice. But I’ve seen Japanese people buying the same brand of California rice as I like.

    The rice labeled as “Sushi Rice” is usually more expensive, and the only reason is the words on the bag. By the way, don’t use sweet rice (mochi-gome, or glutinous rice) for sushi!

  3. I see your recipe calls for Sake, I have to try it. I need to get rice to make sushi and I read you are happy with the California rice you use, do you mind to tell me the brand? Thanks!

    • Yes, I’ve tried Japanese rice, and it was good, but very expensive. There is a Korean market near me, and I’ve tried some of theirs.

      I like Kokuho Rose a lot. Calrose seems a little fussier to me—I tend to over-cook it.

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  6. Great description of rice preparation. I learned a lot. Thanks! P.S. one recipe for sushi rice calls for adding about a Tbsp of dashi to the rice, sugar and vinegar mixture but I haven’t tried it yet. What do you think?

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