How to Make Simple Nigiri Sushi

From an early age, I’ve loved Japanese cooking. My Grandma Toshiko’s kitchen is one of the most magical places you can visit – full of delicious smells, wonderful tastes, and looking out onto a beautiful Japanese garden that’s alive with plants, birds and squirrels.


Here’s another reason my grandma’s amazing. Ever since I was small, I’ve admired several dolls she has around her house. They wear gorgeous kimonos that look like they date back to the time of the samurais, their luxurious black hair is perfectly coiffed, and they’re perfect down to the most minute detail. It wasn’t until just recently that I learned that my grandmother actually made these incredible dolls. Apparently young Japanese women back in Japan learned all sorts of sophisticated skills, and these dolls were part of her training.

So, when I admired the gorgeous, hand-painted silk scrolls on the walls at her house, I was impressed (but not surprised) to learn that the artist was actually Grandma Toshiko as well. Of course, she also makes her own clothes, cuts her own hair and has a Japanese garden at her home that she opens up for tours. She’s so accomplished, gracious, and self-assured, even into her nineties. A seriously impressive woman and one I’m so honored to know.

Getting back to the cooking, making nigiri is delightfully easy, especially if you have sushi meshi ready.

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 from its pot and spread 3 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.

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 as you do this. The rice will start to cool (which is good) and also start to take on a shininess (also good).

Shape the Sushi Wet your hands on a damp towel. Don’t let your hands get too wet, or it’ll change the texture of the rice. But wet enough that the rice doesn’t stick to your hands. Pick up some rice and, holding a slightly-larger-than-a-walnut amount, gently squeeze and pat it into a torpedo shape. It will start to get a little glisteny and hold its shape. Don’t over-handle, but definitely don’t be afraid to shape the rice.

As you finish each torpedo, set it down on a serving dish. Continue making little torpedos. Put a little dab of wasabi on top in the middle of the rice balls.

Using sushi-grade sashimi purchased from your local specialty market, cut off thin slices of fish and lay them on top of each rice torpedo. (These slices are a little on the thick side. I’d make them thinner next time.)

Fresh Nigiri
Fresh Nigiri

Enjoy with futomaki, perhaps.

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Seattle Foodshed

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

9 thoughts on “How to Make Simple Nigiri Sushi”

      1. Yes, it’s very sweet. I never had the chance to cook with my grandmother, but I have some of her recipes from my mother. It’s lovely to have them.

  1. I had no idea she made the scrolls too! Don’t leave out the Japanese flower arranging and that she was a chef in a restaurant too. Did you visit her recently?

  2. Can you clarify? Instructions are to spread 3c rice in pan. Later you refer to sprinkling vinegar mix over 5c rice. Is this the rice in the pan? Should it be 3 or 5? Thank you!

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