Thursday, May 22, 2014

How to Make Authentic Japanese Sushi @LucyBurdette

Lucy with Japanese chefs
LUCY BURDETTE: I am just back from the trip of a lifetime, exploring Japan from Kyoto to Tokyo, with many unusual stops in between. I could go on forever about this fascinating country, but of course for this blog I will focus on food. 

For two years of my college life, I had a roommate who was half Japanese. Her mother would cook for us when she visited so I fancied myself to be familiar with the food. I like tofu. Yakitori. Tempura. (Although please hold the raw fish sushi.) On this trip, I urged myself to try as much of the strange food that was offered as possible, wanting to be a good and adventurous foodie. 

At the Kyoto market
One of the first events on the trip was a trip to the local market in Kyoto, followed by a lesson in making Japanese omelets and sushi. The market was glorious (though one problem was understanding what all the strange packages might contain!)


And then we headed to a private kitchen for our lesson. We had a Japanese translator named Chieko-San, and a number of ladies who helped us as we worked. They had prepared the rice and the dashi or stock ahead of time so we could work on the main event: Sushi rolls!


Square sheets of Nori (dried seaweed)
Sticky rice or Sumeshi (not regular American rice)
Eggs, cooked and cut into long strips
Crab legs, tuna, or whatever fish desired
cucumbers, cut in long triangles
soy sauce
Wasabi paste

To roll the sushi, you will need Makisu or bamboo sheets

Lay out the sheets of bamboo and place a square of seaweed on top. Then spread a thin layer of sticky rice over the seaweed.

In the center of the rice fields, arrange the logs of eggs, cucumber, and fish. All of these should be cut or rolled so they are thin and long, as these will be the center of your sushi rolls.

Moisten the ends of the seaweed. Using the bamboo sheets, roll the sushi tightly. Remove the bamboo, cut the roll into bite-sized pieces, and serve with individual bowls of soy sauce and wasabi paste. These rolls were delicious--though I did not use the optional tuna.

Gochiso-sama! (it was a feast!) Saiko deshta! (It was outstanding!)

PS, about the food in general...The sea urchin, although considered a delicacy in Japan, is not for me. Ditto the eel tempura. In fact I hate to confess something that's never before happened to me on vacation: I lost three pounds and began to yearn for the kind of recipes we cook at Mystery Lovers Kitchen! But the food was gorgeous--and fish lovers would be in heaven. Scroll down for a tour through the market...

Zucchini marinated in saki

Bamboo shoots--from scratch!

Sushi pops!

rice balls

Green tea sweets


Itadakimase! (Bon appetit, literally, "I humbly receive.")

Lucy Burdette is the author of the Key West food critic mysteries, including DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS--coming in December! Follow her on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter


  1. Several years ago my brother gave my boyfriend and me a sushi making class as a present. It was fun but we have a good local sushi place so it's easier to go out than to make it.

  2. Thank you for all the wonderful pictures! Aren't markets in other countries amazing?

    A few million years ago a date invited me to accompany him to a friend's house, where friend and other friends were making sushi for a New Year's party. I got to play with the bamboo thingies and the nori--but I've never repeated it. Did you bring home a kit?

    1. Yes, amazing! I was thinking of you in Ireland, Sheila. I looked all over for a kit, but no luck. I'm sure I can get one online.

      I did bring home chopsticks and the special sticky rice that they grow on Sado Island.

  3. Fascinating, Lucy. Thank you so much for sharing. Your sushi looks totally professional, so nice and tight. I'm curious – in a country that eats so much fish, did they mention concerns about radiation in the water?


    1. I should have thought to ask that, but we did not hear a peep about radiation. A lot of people wear face masks, which we don't see much in the US. Maybe some of that has to do with radiation, some with allergies, and some with not sharing cold germs (which I love!)

    2. I recently read an article about the face masks. Seems the Japanese are very surprised that we're not thoughtful enough to keep our germs to ourselves. Different cultures. : ) Actually, I'm surprised that US pollen sufferers don't use them. I bet they would help.

  4. Marvelous pictures.
    That must be some kind of record--to lose weight on a vacation! (Unless you get Montezuma's Revenge, but that's a completely different thing!)

    1. Thanks Libby. I had one day when stomach was upset, but the rest of the time it was the food. The Japanese eat differently than we do, with lots of fish and rice, and relatively few desserts and breads--you can see the difference in the people. Very few overweight!

  5. Amazing post, Lucy/Roberta. Wonderful pix and what an adventure.

    Welcome back!


  6. Ah, this takes me back to my two years teaching English in the greater Tokyo area 35 years ago, Roberta! I've never returned, but learned to make sushi there, and now we always make it on Christmas Eve. So glad you got to do some cooking there. Maybe you lost weight because the traditional food is so healthy. Doomo, doomo.

    1. it's definitely healthy! I bet that was an amazing 2 years Edith...

  7. Fantastic! What an amazing trip, Lucy. Thank you for bringing us along.


    ~ Cleo

  8. My sister brought me a sushi making kit from Hong Kong, but I've never tried it. Just found it when we cleaned out our storage unit. I will have to give it a whirl. This looks like it was a fantastic trip, and I feel like i've had a little "break" just reading about it!

  9. You're welcome Cleo and Peg--I was thinking of you guys all along the way!

  10. Wow, Lucy, what fun! What an experience. I'm curious...did you see any sign of gluten-free soy sauce while you were there or what do the Japanese do to help in that regard, since soy sauce normally is packed with wheat? Tamari sauce is not. Was that an option?

    Welcome back!
    Daryl / Avery

    1. I didn't see many bottles out so not sure what we were using, sorry Daryl!