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Shari - Sushi Rice Recipe

How to cook rice for sushi
How to make sushi rice

Sushi Rice and Vinegar-mixture

The most important  technique in the preparation of sushi is how to make sushi rice, that is called 'shari,' 'sushi-meshi,' or 'su-meshi' (vinegar[ed] - [cooked]rice), in its best condition, and that depends on how perfectly mix-up the cooked rice and vinegar-mixture (awase-zu) together deliciously.

The taste of sushi greatly depends on the taste of sushi rice. It is often said that the rice part shares as much as 60% of it, according to the opinions of many sushi chefs.  The key factor is the 'shari'  itself, as well as fish (sashimi) quality.

There are some certain and easy know-hows in preparation of the sushi rice at home.

      Short grain rice
Short grain rice

How to select rice:

It does not much depend on the quality of the rice, such as 'Koshi-hikari', one of the best and most expensive brands, or 'Sasa-nishiki', usually the second and expensive one, those are ideal japonica species for usual daily diet in Japan, but they are sometimes said to be less suitable for sushi-rice, because of their much sticky characteristics.

The most important  factor in selecting a short-grain (japonica subspecies) white rice is how much that brand is capable of absorbing the water in nature, which in turn corresponds to how much the vinegar is soaked by the cooked rice. Because the degree of the vinegar penetration into the rice plays a greater part of the taste of sushi rice, and it effects whole sushi taste consequently.

By this reason, it is not always necessary to use a new rice ('shin-mai') which is relatively abundant in water-content, but an older, long-stored rice ('ko-mai,' i.e. one year old) is rather suitable for 'shari' owing to lesser water content.  Many sushi restaurants use their own mixture of these two kinds with a ratio of more than 50% of 'ko-mai.'

How to cook rice:

Washing (Polishing):
At first, flush with abundant water and stir to wash out dust and dirt or offals 2-3 times.  Roughly drain the water off and wash (polish) the rice surfaces by scrubbing the grains each other gently, and rinse.  Repeat this about three times.
Add and adjust the water with less than the normal measuring for the daily cooking (1 : 1.2 - 1.3 vol.,) i.e. to around 1 : 1.1 by the volume of rice, because an adequate 'awase-zu' liquid is added (as much as 10%) to the cooked rice afterward.  Keep for a half an hour in summer (26 °C / 79 °F water) to one and half an hours in winter (5 °C / 41 °F water), for the absorption of the water.
Heating (cooking):
An electric rice cooker is the most recommendable way to cook today.  After the heating is completed, let the rice leave in the pot and steam for a while (ca. 10 - 15 minutes) without opening the lid.  This waiting time is very important  for a delicious cooked rice.

How to vinegar the cooked rice:

Do not wait a minute after the cook.  Rice vinegar ('kome-zu/yone-zu') mixture ('awase-zu') should be prepared 30 minutes before the use for good dissolving of the ingredients, with the following Basic Recipe (if possible, with 'kombu' (kelp), and/or either a little of sake or mirin - sweet cooking rice wine.)  Add salt to vinegar first and warm it up for a better dissolving and secondly sugar.
(By the way, sugar was never used in the very former times at all, but no one does so today.)
Awasezu Basic Weight Parts (by wt.) Volume Conversion
Rice (dry - uncooked) 640 g 1.4 lb. 100   [ 32 ]  [8] 4 cups 160 g/cup 1 cup = 200 cc(*1)
(140 g)
(5 oz.)
1. Rice vinegar 75 - 80 g (cc) 2.8 oz.   12     [ 4 ]  [1] 5 tbs. 15 g/tbs. 1 tbs. = 15 cc
2. (Bay) salt 20 - 25 g 0.7 oz. 3 - 4   [ 1 ] [1/2] 1½ tbs. 15-18 g/tbs. 1 tbs. = 5 tsp.
3. Sugar 40 - 45 g 1.4 oz. 6 - 7   [ 2 ] [1/4] 5 tbs.  9 g/tbs. 1 tsp. = 5 cc
4. Kelp/Konbu 5 g 0.2 oz. 8 - 10 cm sq. eq. (Immerse for 30 min. & take out.)
5. Sake or Mirin < 5 g < 0.2 oz.    < 1 < 1 tsp. (As you like.)
(*1) Conversion:   1 gou = 180cc = 150g · rice

There are many examples in Awasezu Recipe Data.

Mixing technique:

The most important and critical point is the temperature of the cooked rice, which is the key factor how much the vinegar can penetrate into the rice grains, and this is the crucial process in the preparation and getting the utmost taste of the sushi rice.
(°C / °F)
As soon as the rice has been cooked, replace it in a ball or plate and spread (sprinkle) the vinegar mixture over the rice still it is well hot (at 90° C,) and mix it to every rice grain completely by using spatula with a movement of 'cutting action,' with all possible care not to smash the particles to get sticky (for 1 minute is enough.)
Only after completing the mixing (at 70° C,) again replace and/or spread the 'shari' on a wider plate, preferably in a wooden vessel (uncoated 'sushi-oke' or 'hangiri,') which can absorb excessive sweat, and fan the 'shari' to evaporate unnecessary moisture on the grain surfaces (for 1 minute is enough.)
To get a maturation of the 'shari,' cover with a clean damp towel and leave for a quarter of an hour to cool it down, then it will be ready for sushi making (Nigiri) at 30° C - this temperature is also a key factor of a delicious sushi.


A Practical Example:

This is a typical example for a small sushi party, for 2-3 persons.  It takes about two hours or more in total from the beginning.
Ingredient/Procedure Measuring Weight (g) Conversion Time (min.)
  Rice (dry) 2 cups / 400 cc 320 [1.0] 160 g/cup 0 (Start)
  Rice washed (wet)   350 [1.1]   +  5 (  5)
  Water add/adjustment + 440 cc 790 [2.5] 1 : 1.1 vol.  
  Immersion period     Summer + 30 ( 35)
  Cooking/cooked rice 6 cups 730 [2.3] 120 g/cup + 45 ( 80)
  Awasezu mixing + 70 g 800 [2.5]   +  5 ( 85)
  Shari (sushi rice)   800 [2.5] Cooling down + 30 (115)
  Nigiri 32 - 40 kans 800 [2.5] 20 - 25 g/kan +  5 (120)
  Hosomaki (Thin roll)
  Futomaki (Thick roll)
10 - 12 rolls
4 - 5 rolls
65 - 80 g/roll
160 - 200 g/roll

How to make Nigiri by hands:

Use 'Te-zu' (hand-vinegar, vinegar for hands, some diluted vinegar solution thinned with water by 1:2 or 1:3) for moistening your hands.  Also it is advisable to warm up cool down your palms at the same or preferably below the temperature of the shari in order not to stick much.

Do not grasp and press shari and fish too tight, and try to introduce much air space (hollows) in the rice.  Also at the same time, be sure and try not to get them be aparted each other easily! (a contradictory story, but it the true technique for a better taste of sushi.)

The ways of hand-forming of sushi are actually named, Te-gaeshi, Tate-gaeshi and Kote-gaeshi ('-gaeshi' suffix for 'kaeshi' means turning the sushi rice ball.)

A delicious, hand-formed shari (now 'nigiri') and fish never broken down when picked up with chopsticks, and at the same time, pieces of rice never fail to get loosed until in the mouth.

Rice Calories & Nutrition Facts:

Cooked paddy rice (well-milled rice) (edible part: 100 g)
(Plain white cooked rice, cooked from dry japonica short grain rice 47g)
  Very low in saturated fat
  No cholesterol, sodium, sugar
Calorie 168 kcal
Water 60.0 g
Protein 2.5 g
Total lipid (fat) 0.3 g
Carbohydrate 37.1 g
Ash 0.1 g
Dietary fiber 0.3 g
 (soluble) (-)
 (insoluble) (0.3 g)
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium (Na) 1 mg
Potassium (K) 29 mg
Calcium (Ca) 3 mg
Magnesium (Mg) 7 mg
Phosphorus (P) 34 mg
Iron (Fe) 0.1 mg
Zinc (Zn) 0.6 mg
Copper (Cu) 0.10 mg
Manganese (Mn) 0.35 mg
Salt equiv. 1.3 g
Vitamin A (β-carotene) 0 µg
Vitamin E (α-tocopherol) trace
Vitamin K 0 µg
Vitamin B1 (thiamin) 0.02 mg
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) 0.01 mg
Niacin (nicotinic acid) 0.2 mg
Vitamin B6 0.02 mg
Vitamin B12 0 mg
Folic acid 3 µg
Pantothenic acid 0.25 mg
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) 0 mg

Grain white paddy rice (well-milled) (edible part: 100 g)
(Grain white rice, dry japonica short grain sticky rice, including glutinous and non-glutinous rice, average)
  Very low in saturated fat
  No cholesterol, sodium, sugar
Calorie 356 kcal
Water 15.5 g
Protein 6.1 g
Total lipid (fat) 0.9 g
Carbohydrate 77.1 g
Ash 0.4 g
Dietary fiber 0.5 g
 (soluble) trace
 (insoluble) (0.5 g)
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium (Na) 1 mg
Potassium (K) 88 mg
Calcium (Ca) 5 mg
Magnesium (Mg) 23 mg
Phosphorus (P) 94 mg
Iron (Fe) 0.8 mg
Zinc (Zn) 1.4 mg
Copper (Cu) 0.22 mg
Manganese (Mn) 0.80 mg
Salt equiv. 0 g
Vitamin A (β-carotene) 0 µg
Vitamin E (α-tocopherol) trace
Vitamin K 0 µg
Vitamin B1 (thiamin) 0.02 mg
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) 0.01 mg
Niacin (nicotinic acid) 0.2 mg
Vitamin B6 0.02 mg
Vitamin B12 0 mg
Folic acid 3 µg
Pantothenic acid 0.25 mg
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) 0 mg

Japanese rice vinegar (edible part: 100 g)
Color: Light yellow
Acetic acid: 4.4 g
Calorie 46 kcal
Water 87.9 g
Protein 0.2 g
Total lipid (fat) 0 g
Carbohydrate 7.4 g
Ash 0.1 g
Dietary fiber 0 g
 (soluble) (0 g)
 (insoluble) (0 g)
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium (Na) 12 mg
Potassium (K) 16 mg
Calcium (Ca) 2 mg
Magnesium (Mg) 6 mg
Phosphorus (P) 15 mg
Iron (Fe) 0.1 mg
Zinc (Zn) 0.2 mg
Copper (Cu) trace
Manganese (Mn) -
Salt equiv. 0 g
Vitamin A (β-carotene) -
Vitamin E (α-tocopherol) -
Vitamin K 0 µg
Vitamin B1 (thiamin) 0.01 mg
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) 0.01 mg
Niacin (nicotinic acid) 0.3 mg
Vitamin B6 0.02 mg
Vitamin B12 0.1 mg
Folic acid 0 µg
Pantothenic acid 0.08 mg
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) 0 mg
Based on: Standard tables of food composition in Japan (Fifth revised and enlarged edition, 2005) [Link: Food Composition Database] Japanese

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Updated on: 2009.03.08
Created on: 2003.05.09
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