Futomaki Sushi Rolls – A Lesson from Grandma Toshiko

One of the people I admire most in the world is my Grandma Toshiko. So vividly, I remember the two of us going out to the strawberry fields around Keizer, Oregon when I was very small. She’d squat and pick with precision, filling her baskets with speed. And I’d squat and pick just like her, altho I think more of the berries went into my mouth than the baskets.

Freshly Rolled
Freshly Rolled

Later, she’d freeze orange juice in ice cube trays, and I’d lounge in the sun in her perfect garden, scraping out the frozen juice with the sharp edges of a grapefruit spoon.

I don’t remember when she started showing me around her kitchen. But I’ve always been fascinated with the floor-to-ceiling wall of Japanese bowls, trays, tea cups, tea pots and beautiful pottery that I couldn’t even name, but was drawn to for their simplicity and beauty.

One of the first things my grandma taught me in the kitchen was how to make futomaki – fat sushi rolls. You can really fill the futomaki with whatever you’d like. Here’s what I made for dinner recently, along with Snow Pea Egg Drop Soup and some nigiri.

Start the sushi rice. In a rice maker, cook enough rice to make 5 cups of cooked rice.

Prepare the Tamago Now, I don’t have a tamago pan, so I make this the way my grandma showed me, which is just rolling the omelet in a skillet. Beat together 3 eggs, 1 T soy sauce and 1 T mirin. (Add some green onions if you’d like.)

Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat and coat with vegetable oil. Pour your whipped eggs into the pan. As they start to set, slowly fold them over onto each other, rolling them up as you go, and making a rectangle omelet. Remove from the heat, let set for ten minutes, and then slice.


Prepare the Carrots Cut a carrot into matchsticks. Add enough mirin to fill the bottom of a small saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Add the matchstick carrots and cook until carrots are flavorful but still crisp – maybe 5 minutes.

Slightly Sweet Carrots
Slightly Sweet Carrots

Prepare the Sushi Meshi (This is the sticky, vinegary, slightly sweet rice that’s the foundation of sushi dishes.) When the sushi rice is done cooking, remove it from its pot and spread 5 cups cooked sushi rice in a long, rectangular pan with edges. We use a glass baking dish.

In a small saucepan, heat 3/4 cup rice vinegar, 1 1/2 T sugar and 3 tsp salt. Stir over medium heat until the sugar is melted. Let it cool.

Sprinkle the sugar-vinegar mixture over five cups of cooked sushi rice and, using a little rice paddle or spatula, gently fluff and stir the rice until the liquid is incorporated. Fan the rice with your other hand or a fan as you do this. The rice will start to cool (which is good) and also start to take on a shininess (also good).

Roll the Futomaki  Lay out a bamboo rolling mat. Take a sheet of nori and briefly heat it over a stove burner. It’ll turn a brighter green and get crinkly. Lay the nori on the mat and cover with a thin layer of rice, leaving a 1 1/2 inch band of nori at the top. Usually I sprinkle the rice on, then press it firmly with a rice paddle, making sure it gets all the way to the edges and there’s no bare spots.

Lay a row of each of your ingredients in the middle of the nori.

Lay Out the Ingredients
Lay Out the Ingredients

With damp fingers, dab the green nori band at the top of the roll, so it’ll seal nicely. Then, carefully pick up the full side of the nori and roll your mat, pressing firmly to make a neat cylinder. Press the roll firmly and leave the futomaki to rest for a minute or two.

Freshly Rolled
Freshly Rolled Futomaki

Using a very sharp knife, cut the sushi roll in half. Wipe the knife on a damp towel and then cut each half in half, and then in half again.

Futomaki Rolls

Enjoy with ginger, wasabi and soy sauce. We ate this dinner with snow pea egg drop soup and some simple nigiri. Making this dinner is relaxing, and the results are so good. What a perfect evening. Thank you, Grandma Toshiko.


  • 3/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 T sugar
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 T mirin + about 1/2 cup more mirin for the carrots
  • 3 cups sushi rice (prepared)
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 4 – 6 pages of nori (seaweed sushi wrapper)
  • 1 carrot, cut into matchsticks

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Seattle Foodshed

Gardening, foraging, exploring and cooking. Time for a delicious adventure.

11 thoughts on “Futomaki Sushi Rolls – A Lesson from Grandma Toshiko”

  1. This brought back memories of the sushi rolls my mother would make. She was raised in Hawaii, and her version included sweetened canned tuna, a pink seasoning powder that we think may have been cuttlefish-based, and long strands of pickled daikon…

    1. Oh, that sounds really really good. Have you gone to your local Asian market to try to find out what the pink powder was? We have a large Asian grocery store here called uwajimaya that’s so fun to shop at. I wonder if I could figure out what that powder is.

      1. It might be hana ebi, it’s a shrimp flavored powder. I’m from Hawaii too and my grandma used to put it in her futomaki too.

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