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Sushi ingredients - best seaweed?

Hi y'all,

I have only ever made sushi at home once in my life during university and it was at a party where I didn't buy any of the ingredients. I'd like to make some this week at home and I'm kinda stumped on what I should pick up. I mean, I have a general idea of the core things I need, but unsure of brands.

Recommend any favorites/greats you've tried before? Preferably suggest stuff I can pick up at a T&T for ease of discussion. I'm not looking to make the world's most amazing sushi at home right now. Maybe later.

RICE: Haven't picked it up yet, I think I know I have to get Japanese rice (they're short grain?) but have no affinity or knowledge of any particular brand.
RICE VINEGAR: I stood in the vinegar aisle in T&T forever until I just decided on a whim to pick any damn ol' rice vinegar (I picked one in particular that said "sushi vinegar").
SEAWEED: Need some real suggestions on this one!
WASABI: I went with just some ol' paste in a tube. Far from fancy, obvs.
OTHER STUFF: What's some good stuff to put in sushi? I'm thinking sashimi grade salmon, avocado, oshinko, cucumbers, pumpkin/yam/squash if I can swing it...
EQUIPMENT: I have a rice cooker and a sushi rolling mat.

Am I missing anything? Am I going to fail miserably at this venture? Who knows. Suggest away! Thanks!

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  1. I used to make sushi at home all the time in residence at Waterloo -- sushi was a bit thin on the ground around those parts ;-).

    Rice: I liked the Japanese rices with "rose" on the end. I know there are super rices out there for more $$ but they always worked for me.

    Rice vinegar: I couldn't find any Japanese rice vinegar recently at TandT so I hit up Fujiya, as I do find there is a flavour difference. It's where I go for most of my Japanese stuff anyway, if any of the outlets are nearby you.

    Seaweed: get some decent Japanese stuff, no specific brand for me.

    Wasabi: my understanding is that there is no real wasabi in either the powdered nor the tube versions. Real wasabi is a root you grate. They sometimes have it at Fujiya but it is $$$. Really stunning taste difference but if you like what you've got...

    Stuffings: Anything goes, right? Well, maybe not cream cheese ;-). I do particularly recommend trying out some kaiware (radish sprouts) which are deffo at Fujiya and sometimes at greengrocers. I used to mostly make variations on California rolls due to lack of availability of ingredients where I was. I also mostly made cones, or I should say my guests did. We used to have sushi parties and it was more fun to have everyone make their own temaki than have one person using the mat. Made for fresher and more customized results, plus a significant entertainment factor. "Hey I made a sushi cigar/toilet roll/piece of modern art instead of a cone!"

    I never used a rice cooker but instead the pan and fan method which never failed me. The key seems to be to cool the rice rapidly after you add the seasoning sauce to ensure a nice texture and gloss. I did have kind of a foolproof recipe as well.

    Have fun and let us know how it goes.

    2 Replies
    1. re: grayelf

      Powdered wasabi is usually better than the stuff in the tube. Although there is one variety of tube wasabi from Fujiya that is kinda chunky like the real stuff, isn't that bright artificial fluorescent green and is much superior.

      1. re: jcolvin

        The superior tube wasabi is "house brand", all-japanese on the tube, available from H-Mart or Fujiya. Dark green and real-wasabi texture, has some fresh horseradish in it, not a fluorescent paste. Looks like this.

    2. South China Seas in Granville Island often has fresh wasabi root on hand (and many other sushi ingredients - lovely young ginger among them)
      Fresh wasabi is so much nicer. An in-between option is the premium wasabi powder Gourmet Warehouse sells http://www.gourmetwarehouse.ca/Wasabi...

      Also check out the Korean grocer H-mart for sushi ingredients.

      Gourmet Warehouse
      1340 E Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V5L, CA

      1. Sounds like fun. I tried it once and it WAS fun but I also got little bits of rice stuck all over the entire kitchen (neatness is a problem for me). Anyway, I think the other thing you might want is the gooey mayo in the squeeze tube. Yum.

        2 Replies
        1. re: waver

          How could I forget Kewpie mayo, duh! I used to use it instead of regular mayo on sandwiches when I was making sushi a lot, to use it up between sushi parties. Deffo yum.

          Gari is also an item that I am blushing to have forgotten to mention. I am not a huge fan so I often eschew it but it is an important part of the sushi experience for sure. What is the young ginger like from South China Seas, Kinnick? Is it pickled? Colour?

          1. re: grayelf

            No, it's fresh young ginger root (I buy it for tea, and for candying) They do sell pickled as well but I haven't tried.
            It's easy to pickle your own e.g http://japanesefood.about.com/od/sush...

        2. Like the others have already suggested - get yourself to Fujiya or another Japanese specialist - not T&T. Angel Seafoods is a great spot to buy frozen sushi fish.

          "Sushi Vinegar" is often flavoured vinegar which tastes very processed to me. Buy a proper rice vinegar and make your own tezu. Along with nori, you need another kind of seaweed - konbu (kelp) to make an infusion often used to make tezu. Most sushi restaurants here skip this step - it is more commonly done in Japan.

          Calrose rice is good. Fujiya sells some Japanese varieties which may or may not make a difference to you.

          Try some other brands of Japanese light soy sauces for sushi. Some sushi soy sauces contain bonito and mirin and may take getting used to.

          1 Reply
          1. re: fmed

            My favourite brand of Japanese soy sauce continues to be Yamasa. I remember trying it years ago after being used to Kikkoman at home. What a difference! So much lighter and brighter.

            I don't mind Calrose rice at all, good call. I used to use konbu in my rice prep (the recipe I use is quite traditional from a lovely book called Sushi -- the Light and Right Diet) and I think it added some depth to the rice. It was a bit of a pain cleaning the sand off the kelp though.

          2. Adding to others' suggestions of where to buy sushi supplies (ie: Fujiya), I also recommend Sakanaya Seafood on Granville, btwn 68 Ave & 70 Ave (storefront is between Safeway & Characters Books):


            Good fresh & frozen seafood and some (not a lot) sushi making ingredients. I've only been there 2-3 times for eating sushi (yes, they serve sushi). Japanese owned & operated.

            1. My last attempt at making sushi was quite positive with ingredients bought from Fujiya in Vancouver and Black Ocean Seafood in Richmond. The later has a great selection of frozen sashimi grade seafood of all kinds. The sushi rice I bought at Fujiya was Temaki Gold and was very good. One thing I wish I had was a proper wooden sushi rice mixing bowl. I used just a wooden salad bowl but it didn't have enough surface area.
              Besides, salmon and tuna, unagi is also an easy thing to find. It comes prepared and all you have to do is throw it in the oven and then cut it up into desirable pieces. Fish roe is also an easy thing to find as decoration. For spicy tuna rolls, I chopped up the tuna and mixed it with a combination of japanese mayo in the squeeze bottle and srichacha chilli sauce. I'd like to find a better recipe for a spicy tuna marinade though as it tasted a bit ordinary. I've had much better at some of the better sushi bars here in town. I'm not sure what the secret ingredient is. Another interesting marinade for the fish is japanese ponzu sauce which has a citus flavour.

              7 Replies
              1. re: GoaGirl

                The secret ingredient in spicy tuna rolls/cones/kimuchi is (japanese) kimchi sauce . You can get it at Fujiya and sometimes T&T. Comes in a glass bottle. For a spicy tuna kimuchi (a bit like a japanese ceviche) you can just mix some raw tuna chunks with the sauce. Or some nice sashimi quality squid.

                  1. re: GoaGirl

                    GG, I was just looking at your last post where you said you wished you had a proper wooden sushi rice mixing bowl. I hear ya, but with space in my kitchen at a premium, I have used my Corningware lasagne pan to very good effect. Nice and big, flat too for maximum surface area. I also started using an electric fan instead of a hand fan to speed up the cooling process.

                    1. re: grayelf

                      Thanks for the suggestion, grayelf. I wasn't sure if it had to be wooden so that the extra vinegar would get absorbed. Are you talking about one of those tiny hand-held electric fans that people use on their faces?

                      1. re: GoaGirl

                        I use a big fan that needs two hands to hold-works like a charm.

                        Of course it does require two people.

                        1. re: Sam Salmon

                          I used to use a mondo-sized Thai fan but as Sam points out, that requires two humans (one to fan, one to fluff -- I tried to do it on my own once; result: poorly cooled rice all over the place!). Then I got the SO to be my rice-cooling second with the manual fan which worked just fine but that meant he had to be home. Higher tech option: pull out the medium sized fan you have for the two weeks a year it gets hot enough here to use one and voila. Ours happens to be a tall one so I just put it near the work surface but you could use a table top one just as easily. I think the tiny hand held ones would be a bit too wimpy to cool your rice fast enough...

                          1. re: grayelf

                            WOW...sounds like my sushi making skills pale in comparison to you both. I may have to take if up a notch now....:-).

              2. Thanks for all the suggestions! I was pressed for time so I didn't manage to get to Fujiya, T&T had to suffice. Now that I have a little experience under my belt I will definitely make it out to Fujiya next time to get more ingredients!

                I still wasn't particularly sure how to pick seaweed, though. One thing we notice is the seaweed gets rather chewy by the time you finish your roll. Is there a reason for this? Is it due to quality of seaweed, or it's just that we didn't handle the rice well enough?

                Anyway, here are a couple of photos of our first little sushi at home experiment... it worked out surprisingly well!

                3 Replies
                1. re: dreamoo

                  Nice work!

                  Re: chewy nori. Try toasting the sheets over one of you stove's burners first.

                  1. re: fmed

                    That's another reason cones are better, quicker to construct and you can eat them immediately without need for cutting.

                    I seem to recall buying the "toasted" nori to help with that. Also I believe it's shiny side out for best results? I don't think I could do the toasting over a burner thing. I routinely light papadums on fire that way :-).

                    Those rolls look delicious BTW, now I am craving sushi!

                    1. re: grayelf

                      " I routinely light papadums on fire that way :-)."

                      LOL ! I bet Jim Morrison couldn't write a song with that .........