Sunday, June 27, 2010

Learning How to Make Sushi with Chef Nikki Gilbert

I love sushi, but most sushi restaurants serve mediocre sushi. Plus, they are not cheap. I enjoy cooking and learning new recipes, so I decided to sign up a sushi class at the Epicurean School of Culinary Arts to learn how to make my own sushi. This way, I can control the quality of my ingredients, be cost effective, and it would be lots of fun to make them for my family and friends.

The class is being taught by Chef Nikki Gilbert, aka The Sushi Girl (also check out her blog under "My Recommendations" on the right). Chef Nikki worked and lived in Japan for a number of years, so she knows everything you need to know about sushi. During the class, she demystified many misconceptions Americans have about sushi. It was very educational and eye opening for me.

To start, Nikki showed us how to prepare the sushi rice, which is an important part of making great tasting sushi. She shared with us that good sushi means warm sushi rice with cool sashimi (raw fish). If the rice is cold, it is not good sushi.

The first sushi we learned to make was cucumber sushi maki rolls. Nikki says that in Japan, cucumber sushi is actually a very common dish vs. the American misconception that cucumber sushi is "low grade" or "nothing." She showed us how to cut cucumbers correctly so we can taste its freshness, and how to prepare our sushi rolling mat or makisu. Here's my station and the cucumber sticks I made, with my makisu ready to go.

Next is the fun to actually roll the sushi.

Here I go making my first sushi roll ever!

Voila! My very own cucumber maki roll! It's surprisingly refreshing. I now appreciate the simpleness of cucumber rolls a lot more.

Next, Nikki showed us how to make California roll. This is an "inside out" maki roll. Nikki told us the type of imitation crab to get that would make excellent California rolls, and what wasabi is really used for. After she told us about the background of the California roll, I now have a new found respect for these. Here's mine with imitation crab meat, cucumber, and avocado. Delish! I'm starting to get the hang of this.

Then, Nikki taught us how to make spicy tuna hand rolls. Here's Nikki showing us how to roll it. She also taught us how to make the hot sauce mixture. No more watered-down-blender-minced spicy tuna rolls for me at restaurants! My spicy tuna rolls will have yummy chunks of meat in them from now on.

Here's mine before I devoured it. I will make these look a lot prettier with a little more practice.

Lastly, we made hand-formed nigiri sushi. Nikki pointed out that we often have the misconception that this is "real" sushi, which is incorrect. Sushi comes in different forms—maki cut rolls, hand rolls, nigiri—and they are all "real" sushi. Here's Nikki showing us how to cut the fish correctly for nigiri sushi. She also taught us the grade of fish we should buy.

My nigiri sushi! I can't believe how pretty they looked. We made four kinds: yellow tail, octopus, shrimp, and snapper. Nigiri sushi is supposed to be bite size, not a big chunk of rice and fish. If you cannot eat it in one bite, it is not made correctly. When you eat it, you are only supposed to dip the fish side with a little bit of soy sauce, not the rice side. Wasabi should not be mixed with soy sauce, but placed as a tiny little amount on top of the sashimi. I actually dabbled a little wasabi on top of my rice balls before placing the sashimi on top.


Making sushi is a lot of fun and is actually quite simple to do. The keys to making great sushi are the rice and the quality of the ingredients. I also learned how to distinguish good sushi from not-so-good sushi. If you enjoy sushi and like cooking, I highly recommend Nikki's class at the Epicurean!


  1. Wow!!!! Wonderful blog. My husband and I love sushi.We eat not less them 2 times a week. Thanks for sharing this recipes.
    Free Brazilian Recipes

  2. Thank you for stopping by. I'm glad you liked it!