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Raw Talent

Mixing rice, vegetables, fish, and other proteins can be tricky, but don’t let a little intimidation keep you from creating homemade sushi rolls.

Tiffany Duncan
Chelsi Fisher
April 29, 2017

One of the greatest but most overlooked date night or girl’s night ideas is making sushi at home. Not only is it fun to get creative in the kitchen and learn a new skill, but sushi also makes any ordinary night feel like a special occasion (and makes a great Instagram story too). However, there’s a reason there are entire schools devoted to the art of making sushi; it’s very difficult to master, especially if you’ve never done it before.

We’d never made sushi at home either, but we thought it would be fun to do a crash course for our readers. We’ve laid out a very basic beginners guide of utensils and step-by-step instructions to make two of the simplest and most popular rolls: Philadelphia and California.

And remember: rolling sushi is an ancient art form. Don’t worry about making it perfect (seriously, you will see in the directions where we even made our own mistakes!). Just break out the sake and roll with the punches — literally.

Sushi (Photo: Chelsi Fisher)
Sushi (Photo: Chelsi Fisher)

Philadelphia and California Rolls

The Philadelphia roll typically includes salmon, cream cheese, and cucumber (but we used avocado in ours by mistake. Hey, we’re learning too). Cali rolls are made with crab or imitation crabmeat, cucumber, and avocado. All steps are essentially the same as the Philly roll except that Cali rolls are made “inside-out,” meaning the rice goes on the outside (except we also put some on the inside too. Oops).

Sushi meat

If you prefer your salmon raw, it must be branded as sushi-grade to avoid any possible parasites (though please note that consuming any sort of raw or undercooked meat always comes with a slight risk). But if you prefer your salmon a little less fishy, purchase a cut or package of smoked salmon in the meat department. Crabmeat or imitation crabmeat will always come cooked and may also be purchased at the grocery store.

So what’s “imitation crabmeat,” anyway?

Imitation crabmeat — typically found in the California roll — isn’t actually crabmeat at all. It’s red and white “crab sticks” made of different kinds of finely pulverized white fish, starch, artificial flavors, sodium, and occasionally MSG (please note that because of the added starch, it is not gluten-free). Imitation crabmeat is basically like the hot dog of the ocean, but it is still a tasty choice if you are just venturing into the world of sushi and aren’t quite on board with the idea of raw fish yet.

Let’s talk sticky rice

Sticky rice is a staple of Japanese cooking, and it is the backbone of all quality sushi rolls. If both the rice varietal and preparation are not exact, your roll will fall apart and taste mushy and bland. Making perfect sticky rice is so time-consuming and so easy to mess up that we suggest simply picking up 2 or 3 sides of sticky rice from a local sushi restaurant (we chose In The Raw) right before your planned sushi night. That way, you can focus more on having fun with your friends or S.O. rather than fighting with the rice. (If you’re up for the challenge, however, there are thousands of sticky rice tutorials online).