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Sashimi and sushi at home

I recently made some homemade sushi, and I must be doing it all wrong (no chow pun intended), but it NEVER tastes the same- even similar- to bought sushi (even store bought sushi!)

Firstly- I think I use either too much vinegar to season the rice, or just the wrong flavourings? I use sushi vinegar (or seasoned rice vinegar)- proportions are 1/3 c vinegar, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp salt. The rice turns out just...weird tasting...am I over seasoning?

The ingredients themselves I know vary because I use diff ingredients, except for the California roll, which is pretty easy to replicate. I also make the spicy mayo, and to save time i use store bought popcorn shrimp (clearly this affects taste, but it's just easier).

Lastly, most recently I decided on a whim to buy some salmon to try at home sashimi. I bought less than half a pound from a very reputable fishmonger (I asked specifically for sushi grade salmon, it was marked atlantic salmon but he said it was sushi grade?)...I kept it in the fridge until I sliced it up for dinner- no fishy smell, no visible problem- the taste was COMPLETELY not there! It literally tasted like ...raw salmon...which i know is hard to describe, but it did NOT taste like sashimi (even bad sashimi)...it wasn't a troublesome flavor, it's just what I would imagine eating raw fish is like if I hadnt ever eaten sashimi...it wasn't great (and I love sashimi)..

Can anyone offer any tips or tricks?

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  1. sushi rice: darn, could not find my basic recipe, but this is one I found in another cookbook:
    1) cook 2 1/2 cup raw rice
    to the warm rice, add:
    4 T rice vinegar
    3 T sugar
    2 t salt
    2 T mirin
    the ingredient amounts you list might be correct, but it depends on how much rice you have. Also, try checking out the websites for various rice manufacturers. Reasonably sure their recipes are tried and true.

    as to "salmon sushi":
    your fish monger was giving you the biz. TMK, no one is making "sushi grade" salmon. This is because salmon does not contain human-affecting parasites like tuna. If you wish to do salmon sushi style, you need to have sockeye, king, coho salmon; atlantic, pink, dog, or chum salmon simply do not have enough flavor (these are the types usually reserved for canned salmon).
    IMHO, it is worth the trouble and $$$ to get sockeye.

    I should say that I have done brief stints in the past as last minute sushi chef substitute. Although I know how to do it, I usually just buy it, as they are pretty good, and it is way too much trouble, in most cases, to do it in my home kitchen except as part of a party or special event.

    6 Replies
    1. re: jerry i h

      See, I had walked into my neighborhood grocery store (a big box chain) where there is a little sushi booth (and you can buy the sushi on trays, sometimes they make it during the day there)...I asked the lady there if I could get some salmon off of her (haha), and she showed me what the company sends her- a vacuum sealed slab of salmon, skin on, Nanuk brand (basically the kind you can get in stores, not at a particular fish monger!)

      Am I better off looking for this brand/in store packaged/frozen fish, or still going to a reputable fishmonger and asking for SOCKEYE instead (assuming it is sushi grade) to get the buttery non-raw fishy taste of sashimi

      1. re: strawberryfields

        Sockeye (or King, in a pinch) is definitely worth seeking out: the difference is dramatic. Anything cryovac'ed is probably not the freshest thing in the fish case. I worked for a fish monger who would personally drive out to the airport to pick up freshly caught whole sockeye and king still on ice from copper river every week, and we often ran out. Raw, I never tasted anything so good. This is the kind of place you need.
        Word of warning: this little culinary treat will cost an Andrew Jackson (or more, now that the SF salmon season has been canceled) per #. But: you really do not need that much for sushi, and besides, it is worth every ยข.

      2. re: jerry i h


        with regard to the salmon/tuna parasite issue, you have it background. for all intents and purposes, tuna does not have parasites. parasites and raw salmon are a concern. freezing adequately kills parasites in either fish.

        1. re: filth

          Just a suggestion, but you probably want to elaborate on your post here. Parasites are absolutely found in tuna. Of course it depends on your level of potential harm arising from consumption, but there are most certainly bugs in tuna.

          1. re: HaagenDazs

            Good point. I went to the FDA website, and there are NO legal rules on eating raw seafood. However, it "suggests" that ALL seafood eaten raw be frozen solid to eliminate parasites. So, this means that all oysters, clams, shrimp, lobster, crab, etc, should be frozen SOLID first if you do not cook it thoroughly. It also means that ALL seafood not frozen hard be thoroughly cooked to white, hard, coagulated meat. So, "rare" tuna or quickly sauteed shrimp or oysters on the half-shell are also, technically, very un-safe ways to serve seafood.

            Having worked in the industry, I maintain that:
            tuna (whether sashimi or seared) must be so-called sushi grade.
            salmon, raw, is safe (and if the high quality, tastes heavenly; most commercial grade of salmon you will find in your stores are not that good, so you might as well cook them; even here, if you were to follow FDA recommendations, it has to be cooked solid and white-opaque all the way through, way beyond the "easily flaked" stage most cookbook authors recommend)
            eating at a restaurant or patronizing a good fish monger that is dedicated to freshness and quality is your best defense for getting safe seafood that you can eat raw safely.

          2. re: filth

            I've studied parasitology and have had at length discussions about sashimi, oysters and all other raw goodies that I like to eat with parasitologists.

            Most of the fish these days are flash frozen on the boat which does kill any parasites. The big risk for parasites are for those who live on the coast and have direct access to fish just pulled from the ocean.

            Tuna can carry Anasakis simplex- a type of parasitic worm.

            Salmon is sketchy because it spawns in fresh water which increases the probability of parasites (diphylobothrium latum- a fresh fish tapeworm). It is my understanding that most Japanese won't touch salmon during certain seasons because of the risk of parasites.- But again, if the salmon is flash frozen, nothing is going to out live that.

            You're chances of getting sick from some type of bacteria in raw oysters is probably greater than picking up a parasite from sushi.

            Not that that is going to stop me from eating raw oysters. Having second thoughts about the steak tartare I had recently though...

        2. Sounds a lttle heavy on the vinegar depending how much rice was used. I bought some sushi grade tuna and salmon, marked Atalantic salmon origin Chile, I'm sure it is farmed, they were packed in small potions vacuum sealed back, frozen solid, I understand a very cold temperature freeze is used to kill all organisms. I agreee parasites are unlikley to be a problem but bacteria in never frozen atalantic salmon could be a problem. My local market says of their salmon fillets are fresh, we live in the midwest. I don't get much flavor out of the sashimi either, there is a good mouth feel to some of the fattier fish. Keep trying, my first rice batch was a mushy mess. I now appreciate the sushi makers work better now. Good sushi thread on the general topic board.

          1. 1/3 c of SEASONED rice vin + 1tsp of salt would be for a very good amt of rice. How much rice do you put this on?

            1 Reply
            1. re: gordeaux

              I used 2 c rice (cooked in 4 2/3 c water) for 1/3c seasoned rice vinegar (it did have sugar and salt already, as suggested below this could've been my problem)+1 tbsp white sugar+1 tsp salt

              It tasted fairly vinegary, so the fact that I put too much vinegar easily coudlve been the problem..

            2. I would add more sugar, but it depends on how much rice you're cooking. When I first started making homemade sushi it came out really awful too. It's just kind of trial & error. Making sure that you mix & fan the rice right made a big impact on my rice too.

              As for the salmon tasting like nothing, mabye brushing some shoyu on it might help... I always like to rub a bit of a lemon wedge ontop of salmon sashimi too.

              1. All rice vinegar is not alike. The recipe you are using is calling for un-seasoned japanese rice vinegar. That's why you add salt and sugar to it. If you look on the side of your bottle, you'll see that it already has salt and sugar added. I'm guessing that this is why your rice tastes "overseasoned." I actually really like the pre-seasoned stuff, and I think the proportions are just right for sushi rice. I don't know the exact proportion that I use, I usually just keep adding by the capful until it tastes right.I am pretty sensitive to "weird tasting sushi rice," being from Vancouver I'm used to a certain level of authenticity in my sushi, since moving to Montreal, I've tasted some pretty funky rice in my sushi, not to mention what they sometimes try to pass off as shoyu here. I've been making sushi for years now, and the rice turns out pretty great every time. Don't be afraid of the bottle, the bottle is good.

                1. When I make the rice, I generally use some mirin in place of regular rice vinegar. I also use GOOD rice vinegar, and remeber you need to fan it - you want the sugar mixture to cool and form a glaze on the rice. You are "slicing" the sugar/vinegar mixture into the rice, correct, not stirring it in? And of course, use good short-grain sushi rice, wash it, let it rest, etc. If you want to reduce potential variables that could mess up your rice, use bottled water for cooking it

                  If you are die hard, make sure you find Q-P mayo - its a Japanese brand, with a different flavor than U.S. mayo.. mix with some Sriracha sauce to make the Dynamite sauce.

                  There is no such thing as "sushi grade" as a formal rating. There is one thing only - fresh. I had thought, though, the salmon was generally brined before serving as sashimi to kill any parasites.. might be wrong on that..

                  But I would avoid going fish-crazy at first. I started with maki - I made 3 batches - 3 evenings worth of work - before I got somewhat proficient at rolling, etc. Start with inside-out rolls, as they can be the most forgiving. Work with common, safe ingredients - shrimp, fake "crab" sticks, smoked salmon - and practice. You need to get comfortable with how much rice to use in the roll, how much "innards" to stick in, the rolling technique, how to slice it, etc.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: grant.cook

                    "sushi grade" actually is a formal designation, and here is why.
                    Tuna can be infected with a parasite that humans can pick up if you eat it raw. So, to kill it, "sushi grade" tuna is frozen (at -10 degrees F, I think...) for (I forget how many...) hours to kill this particular parasite. Other types of fish, like salmon, do not carry this parasite or any other nasty that humans can pick up if eaten raw. So, only tuna needs to be "sushi grade" if eaten raw. You can eat raw salmon with impunity, no parasites (OK, it is susceptible to some parasites that salmon carry, but these are not transmittable to humans, and the fish gets skanky anyways and should be culled by the fish monger beforhand anyway).
                    "brined" salmon? Hmmm...interesting, never heard of it before, unless you are thinking of gravlax, where the salmon is cured with salt and/or sugar, but not a traditional sushi ingredient. I know the american indians in alaska will brine and smoke salmon to preserve them, but this also is not what we think of as sushi.

                    1. re: jerry i h

                      I think its the other way around.. per the NYT:

                      Food and Drug Administration regulations stipulate that fish to be eaten raw -- whether as sushi, sashimi, seviche, or tartare -- must be frozen first, to kill parasites. ''I would desperately hope that all the sushi we eat is frozen,'' said George Hoskin, a director of the agency's Office of Seafood. Tuna, a deep-sea fish with exceptionally clean flesh, is the only exception to the rule.


                      The FDA also doesn't seen to require in any way shape or form that the fish be fresh or have a certain set of characteristics, the way it does with beef labelled Prime..

                      1. re: grant.cook

                        USDA regulates meat, not FDA. FDA does regulate fish.

                        1. re: grant.cook

                          It's the fattinness of the salmon that lends itself to parasite infestation. Tuna, being extremely lean, is less prone. So salmon for sushi must ALWAYS be frozen first.

                    2. Sushi Rice
                      Cook a short grain rice per package instructions but add a hunk of kombu to the cold water and remove it when the pot comes to a boil. While cooking make the dressing - for each cup of rice use 1T rice wine vinegar, 1T fine sugar, and a pinch of salt. When rice is done, turn out into a board or wide dish and cool using fans WHILE dribbling on the dressing.

                      1. Once you perfect your rice, the rest is just depending on the taste of the ingredients you buy, right? So... you already know you've got to get a handle on the rice. I've done it several times and usually end up ditching the rice and just mixing the rest of it up in a bowl! It's usually good but I just can't eat that much rice before I feel like an Oompa Loompa.

                        I'll be watching here to see if someone shares a tested recipe for their perfected rice...

                        1. instead of sushi, why not just make chirashi instead - basically, you eat the toppings on top of a bowl of rice.

                          the rice - making sushi rice correctly requires a lot more attention to detail than most westerners are willing to observe. it starts with washing, rinsing and soaking the rice prior to cooking. as for the ratio of mirin, sugar and salt, it depends on the brand of mirin, and each chef i've talked to about it has their own ratio which they're generally reluctant to share. it's reasonably expensive, but to avoid a lot of the fuss of trying to make sushi rice, you can purchase a premade mix to stir into the rice. but it's not just flavor; more significantly, the texture of the rice has to complement the taste of flavor of the topping. the rice should be sticky enough to hold together when lightly squeezed, yet still fluffy. the washing, rinsing and soaking of the rice are part of the process that facilitates this.

                          do you live near any japanese supermarkets? that's the only place i would personally endorse for acquiring sashimi-grade fish - even amongst the asian supermarkets they tend to be the only ones who actually keep their fish under the proper conditions to maintain proper rigor mortis - exposing the fish to air hastens the deterioration process.

                          if you are limited to the types of fish you have access to, i imagine one of them will be tuna (maguro). you can also of course make tekka maki, but you can also take some of the tuna and make zuke - which you can make by mixing equal amounts of sake, mirin, and soy sauce, and marinating the tuna for at least 20 minutes. a simple chirashi of maguro, zuke, sliced avocado, and shredded nori over rice can be a reasonably cost effective meal.

                          1. I think you're also cooking your rice in too much water and adding way too much vinegar. I use plain white vinegar, sugar, and salt - and just make sure the taste is right and that I don't add too much liquid. In any case, for making sushi, make sure the rice is dressed when hot and then allowed to cool and absorb the seasoning flavors for up to an hour. This step is often forgotten or is not known.

                            I don't know what your experience is, but we prefer to have sashimi with very hot gohan. The flavors of the fish should be light and subtle; and the contrast of cold fish and hot rice is a part of trhe enjoyment. How you cut the sashimi is very important to the taste as well.

                            1. Let me first offer a warning... I am a traditionalist when it comes to sushi, so in my mind, there is some possibility that your rice has the proper flavor and the stuff in today's sushi bars doesn't! So, how old is your sushi recipe? Again, you may be using too much liquid. And I don't care what "modern" sushi chefs say, when I make sushi, first off I cook (no automatic rice cooker!) my short grain high quality genuine "Japanese gohan" in a saucepan with about equal ration of rice to water. And before cooking the rice, it has to be washed until the water runs clear to remove all the talc from polishing. Then, when the rice is cooked, I dump it all in a big pile in the middle of a large container that allows me to work it. No, I don't have room for the traditional rice container most sushi chefs use, but any large, flat bottomed container will work. Then I sprinkle on my seasoning mixture and "toss/fluff" the rice with a rice paddle while vigorously fanning the rice with a paper fan with the other hand. It produces a lovely sheen on the rice and makes gorgeous sushi!

                              As for salmon, I personally would NEVER use salmon for sashimi! The problem with salmon is that it lives in both salt and fresh water, and for me, sashimi DEMANDS salt water fish! It also demands a fish monger who knows what he's doing in order to be able to examine it and be certain there are no flukes present. When I lived in California, with lots of oriental fish markets with fish mongers who knew what they were doing, I did make sashimi at home. One of them even taught me how to slice sashimi thin slices, then hold the slice up in front of a light bulb to look for flukes myself. I now live in Dallas, and though I do have a huge selection of oriental markets, this is waaaaaaaay too far from the ocean for me to trust ANY raw fish!

                              Good luck! And there are lots of kinds of sushi you can make that do not require raw fish.

                              1. How many of you heat your rice vinegar/sugar/salt combo to get it to meld? I've been doing that would like to save myself a pot to clean. I have a bad track record with microwaves, but am willing to try that again if it's the solution.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: blkery

                                  Exactly. I do it in the MW where it takes just a few seconds.

                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    Any particular heat level? I'm not sure what the consequences of microwaving the mixture would be at max heat.

                                    1. re: blkery

                                      Interesting: in all the times I have made sushi, I do not think i have ever had to use Mr. Microwave. This is the method passed on to me by various aunts & uncles: simmer rice for 15 minutes. heat off, steam for 30 minutes. This is an excellent time for you to assemble your mixing bowl, seasoning mix, wooden paddle, and assistant to fan while you mix. Immediately dump out the rice into your bowl, and 1/3 seasoning, stir, more seasoning and more mix, more seasoning more mixing. If you have goofed and the rice has cooled off, I guess you could scrape the rice into a microwaveable bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and zap at max power for at most 10-15 seconds, and try again. How cold is cold? the rice should be lukewarm like baby formula.

                                      1. re: jerry i h

                                        blkery & jerry i h: the MW is used only for the seasoning liquid, not the gohan. Just hot enough to get some bubbles rising ensures that the sugar is dissolved. We always dress the gohan after bringing to a boil, simmering for 20 minutes, and letting sit for 10. The rice fluffed as it goes into my 100 year old hangiri and is ready for the warm seasoning and perhaps a bit of fanning. More important than fanning is letting the rice cool and absorb the seasoning for at least an hour.

                                2. We love making home made sushi. We use Marukan seasoned rice vinegar with Nishiki premium grade rice. I had used a pot for the longest time to make the rice, until my wife got a rice cooker at the store. I love the cooker, the rice comes out perfect every time.
                                  I rinse the rice thoroughly in a strainer and let rest for 30-40 minutes.
                                  I like a 1 to 1 ratio of rice to water and then I add 1/2 more cup of water. Somtimes I will add a little bit of nori to the rice/water mixture to cook.
                                  While the rice is cooking, I will nuke the vinegar mixture for 2 minutes to get all the sugar to disolve. For 2 C of rice, I add 3 T of vinegar and 1.5 T of sugar. I have tried adding salt to the mix but we just don't care for the taste it puts off.
                                  This mixture can be done ahead of time to let it cool a bit but not too long as it creates a film on top that I don't like. I have heated it again very little in the microwave.
                                  Once the rice is done cooking, I let it set 15 minutes in the cooker. Then I spoon it out in to a 13x8 pyrex dish. I put the ceiling fan on and drizzle the vinegar mixture over the top and fold the mixture in to all the rice. Then let the rice cool to room temperature.
                                  Once the rice is ready, one can do a couple of things, I will make little pads for sushi, but moisten the hands well and shake off or the rice will stick. The other in making maki or hand rolls. In either case, moisten hands before applying rice to the nori to prevent it from sticking to your hands. If maki rolls are made, have a large glass of water near by the knife to dip the knife in to or the rice will stick to the knife and prevent clean cuts as you continue to cut. When rolling up the maki, put a few spread out rice kernels on the end of the nori sheet to, if you will, glue/hold the roll together.
                                  As far as fish goes, we are very lucky to have some nice asian markets near by. My absolute favorite is uni(sea urchin), saba(mackeral) and ikura(salmon roe), however, we use unagi(fresh water eel), shrimp, crab, fake crab, tuna, smoked salmon. The fish are typically forzen or the market has put them out and they have thawed.

                                  1. Has anyone used brown rice vinegar to make their sushi before? I'm using Nishiki white...can someone describe the flavor difference? Trevor Corson recommends it, but he seems to recommend alot of Mitoku products....


                                    Also, has anyone used the crab that comes in a jar/tub from Costco for making sushi? I haven't used it for anything before and don't remember the name.

                                    1. I am perplexed. You bought raw salmon and you are disappointed that it taste like raw salmon. When you go to the sushi bar and order sashimi salmon, what does it taste like? Are you absolutely sure that the sashimi salmon is in fact raw. Some Health Departments forbid the serving of raw salmon. The sushi bars then substitute cold smoked salmon. Cold smoked salmon looks raw but has a hint of smoke. It is very good. it is worthwhile to ask your sushi chef what kind of salmon you are being served. He will be happy to answer.

                                      Pacific Salmon do carry parsites that can infect human. (atlantic salmon is not native to the pacific waters but they are farmed raised in the pacific.) I have done literature searches on medical journals via index medicus and found that there was one source that specifically mentioned salmon as the source of the infection. Other fishes were mackeral and skip jack tuna. I am referencing this because there are differences of opinions in this thread on whether or not salmon carries parasites that can infect humans. I am reporting that there is at least one medical journal that is reporting infections by salmon. You should have accurate information so you can exercise the proper precautions. I personally do not eat raw salmon or mackeral.

                                      1. NEVER open the pot while your sushi rice is cooking. The steam helps it become that sticky but not pasty rice. Also after adding your vinegar mix, spread the rice out on a wooden tray (or any flat clean surface as long as its not metal) and fan the rice with a paper fan (magazine, cardboard) turning over the rice occasionally. This gives the rice a nice shine and prevents it from becoming pasty.

                                        1. I finally found a recipe that I like for sushi rice.
                                          And even then it is kind of a taste and tell thing.
                                          For each cup of dry rice, use:
                                          1 TB rice wine vinegar
                                          1 TB sugar
                                          3/4 tsp salt
                                          Heat this till the sugar melts - either on stove or in microwave

                                          Mix with the rice and taste. If it isn't sweet enough add a bit of mirin, if it isn't tangy enough add a bit more vinegar