Roll-Your-Own Sushi Party

>> Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Roll-Your-Own Sushi Party

I'm hesitant about posting about "how to host a roll-your-own sushi party" because I'd really rather go to each of your homes and make sushi with you. A sushi-making party is the perfect friend experience. Sushi takes a lot of prep but none of it is hard if you have a good sharp knife and a little coordination; the best part is having a glass of wine and catching up with people you love while you julienne vegetables and slice fish into tiny fillets.

I wouldn't say that I could eat sushi every day, but I could eat it a lot, and since you can put an astounding variety of things into them, I could eat a different sushi menu every day. You could start out with a recipe book if you wanted, but it's not necessary. At a recent sushi-making party, we had five cookbooks between the eight of us. But after awhile there were bowls of green onions and spicy tuna and fresh mango slices and an enormous bowl of sushi rice, and everyone improvised the items they put onto hand-formed rice balls and sheets of nori seaweed wrappers.

Starting to make a sushi roll

I'm gonna be realistic and assume you're not all going to invite me to make sushi with you. So here are some tips and ideas for making sushi at home, especially if you have a bunch of friends helping you. We have been making our own sushi for years and have learned a few things about how to help the party flow while actually producing something that wouldn't make a real sushi chef cry.

I originally posted some recipes on my Homemade Sushi post a few years ago (was it really three years ago?). So this post is intended to take the fun a little further with some things we've learned since then. If you have any questions for this avid amateur I'd be glad to answer them.

If you have trouble finding any of these ingredients in mainstream grocery stores, I would like to point you to Asian Food Grocer. I have heard good things about this online store but we live in an area with lots of ethnic variety and have found what we need without their help.

How to Host a Sushi Party

1. Plan for your utensils.

Here are things you'll definitely need on hand. We all had our favorite knives and cutting boards, and several of us brought full sushi dinner place settings which also came in handy when we were rolling.

  • Bamboo mats for making sushi rolls - for 8 people, we used 4 mats; the other 4 people were slicing and forming sashimi
  • Plastic wrap cut to the size of the nori sheets, for making sushi rolls
  • Very sharp knives - we had 6 knives for the 6 people cutting ingredients at the beginning; some knives were just used for raw fish, some for vegetables and fruits
  • Small bowls of vinegar water to seal the sushi rolls and rinse off sticky rice-covered fingers; wet towels are also helpful
  • Chopsticks, plates, and soy dipping bowls
  • Counter/Table space
  • Plenty of cutting boards
Slicing salmon for sashimi

2. Plan who will bring each ingredient to the party.

We made WAY too much food the at our last party. Friends brought home rolls and bits of fish we didn't eat; Joe and I had sushi again the next night, made seared ahi tuna wraps for lunch one day, and used up the rest of our leftovers in a luscious seafood udon soup.

We made sashimi of tamago (Japanese omelet), shrimp, ahi tuna, and smoked salmon. We made sushi rolls of spicy tuna and spicy salmon, California rolls, and rolls that had a mixture of fish, avocado, green onions, mango, and wasabi mayonnaise. Here's a suggestion to feed 8 people:

  • 1/2-1 pound ahi tuna
  • 1/2 pound red snapper filet or smoked salmon 
  • 1/2 pound fresh sushi-grade salmon
  • 1/4 pound crab or crab sticks
  • 1/2 pound shrimp, cooked and cleaned
  • 2 avocados, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 small English cucumber, julienned
  • 2 stalks green onions, julienned
  • 1 mango, peeled and pitted
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and julienned
  • 1/3 cup brown or black sesame seeds (toast briefly on a dry hot skillet to intensify the flavor)
  • 1/4 cup fish eggs (the orange fish roe is called tobiko or masago and can be hard to find; try a jar of inexpensive small-egged caviar from the canned meats aisle of the grocery store)
  • 1/2 block cream cheese, cut into thin strips (this works better if you partially freeze it first)
  • Tamago made with 4 eggs
  • Rice vinegar
  • 3 cups uncooked sushi rice
  • 1 piece of Kombu (thick seaweed) for making the sushi rice
  • Chili-garlic paste
  • Soy sauce
  • Pickled ginger
  • Wasabi paste
  • 1/2 cup mayo mixed with 1 tbsp wasabi paste
  • 10 sheets of nori
Tamago sushi and spicy salmon roll sushi

3. Plan the Party.

Once everyone has agreed on what they're bringing, there are a few things the host can do ahead of time. Note that it will take at least an hour, but probably more time to make the sushi, so appetizers and drinks are welcome. Here's a step-by-step plan to get ready for the party.

One Week Before
Finalize the food and utensil assignments; shop.

One Day Before
Make wasabi mayo; if desired, you can make the spicy tuna or salmon a day in advance by mincing 1/2 cup of fish with 3 tbsp chili-garlic paste.

If you'd like to provide a guide to popular sushi rolls, you can print off a list from our sushi post here.

3–4 Hours Before
Chill cold drinks.
Prepare sushi rice and allow it to cool.
Prepare appetizers or starter sushi rolls.

1 Hour Before
Prep ingredients for all sushi rolls.
Set out utensils and prepare a cutting area and a rolling area. We did our cutting in the kitchen, then brought the ingredients to the table and assembled the sushi there.

During the Party
Pour wine, guide slicers and assemblers, and enjoy your friends!

Since many of our friends hadn't made sushi before, we floated between groups showing them how to roll sushi and how thinly to slice different fish. We nibbled as we worked, but then cleared the ingredients off the table and set to eating full platters of sushi in earnest once we had made enough.

That's all there is to it! If you host a roll-your-own sushi party, let me know how it goes.


Courtney Galler August 15, 2014 at 9:10 AM  

This looks absolutely amazing. I am a sushi lover, and I've tried to make it before. I wasn't as skilled as you, but it was edible. I've been hitting up all of the sushi places in our new town, and I'm excited to see what tonight's restaurant has to offer:

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