Tofu Makizushi

Makizushi is essentially vinegared rice, plus selected ingredients, rolled inside nori (dried and pressed layer sheets of edible seaweed). Tofu makizushi is a makizushi made with tofu, or pressed bean curd. I made this dish at home the other day using ingredients from my Menu For Hope raffle-winning prize parcel. The art of making good glutinous rice is one that takes many many years of practice, and most Japanese sushi chefs would probably sooner let you fillet their mackerel than wash and cook their rice. I used to make sushi rice for makizushi every day when I worked at Comerç 24, so I guess the Western kitchen has allowed me to fast-track a few years. That said, I'm sure there will be some Japanese chefs shaking their heads at my Europeanised approach. I can only say that this recipe allows relatively inexperienced cooks to come somewhere close to producing the genuine article. Vegetarians should bear in mind that the bonito stock used in this recipe is made from dried fish.

Ingredients (serves 2)

1 cup sushi rice
200g tofu
100g pickled ginger
4 sheets nori seaweed
2 tbsp sushi vinegar
150ml bonito stock
1 tsp wasabi paste
salt and pepper

You also need a sushi rolling mat in order to prepare this dish.


The most important thing about making sushi is not to try to substitute non-Asian ingredients for the real thing. Most people will have access to a town in which suitable ingredients can be purchased from a Japanese, Korean or other east Asian food store. Don't try using basmati rice, crystalised ginger, carragheen and horseradish or you will end up with an awful mess! Just go to an Asian store, preferably a Japanese one, and ask advice.

Cooking glutinous riceFirst wash the rice in a sieve under clean running cold water for two minutes, thoroughly stirring the grains around with one hand.

Then put the rice into a solid-bottomed pan and point your index finger vertically downwards, just touching the surface of the rice. Now fill the pan with fresh cold water up to the level of the first knuckle on your index finger. This is the correct amount of water to cook the rice sufficiently so that the water will be fully absorbed, leaving none behind after cooking. Place the pan over a medium heat and bring the water to the boil.

As soon as the rice begins to bubble vigorously, remove to a minimum heat and cover. Leave for 12 minutes exactly.

While the rice is cooking, cut the tofu into 2-3" batons and marinate them in the bonito stock. The sweet and smoky flavour of the bonito will really penetrate into the protein-rich tofu, which is otherwise relatively tasteless.
Marinating tofu in bonito stock

Marinated tofu and pickled gingerAfter 10 minutes, remove the tofu and place it on a tray with the pickled ginger, ready for action.

These two ingredients will be the filling for your makizushi.

The rice having cooked for 12 minutes, remove it from the heat and leave it, still covered, for a further 2 minutes.

By now the rice will have become glutinous. It will appear to have the texture of a dry risotto, with the individual grains bound by a thick starchy liquid.

Add two tablespoons of sushi vinegar and stir until blended into the rice. Leave the rice to cool naturally, until it reaches room temperature.
Perfectly cooked sushi rice

A sheet of nori laid out on a rolling matNow it's time to lay out and roll the makizushi. Repeat the following steps for each of your sushi rolls.

Lay out a sheet of nori on the sushi rolling mat.

Now apply a thin but liberal layer of rice to the nori sheet, leaving a space of one inch at the far end which will act as an adhesive tab to seal the rolled maki.

A few light smears of wasabi paste will create little bursting surprises of spiciness throughout the finished product.
Rice and wasabi paste laid out on a nori sheet

Laying out the sushi contents on the rice and noriOne third of the way down the sheet (from front to back, not side to side), lay out the filling ingredients of pickled ginger and marinated tofu in a horizontal line from one end to the other going right to the edges.

The more observant will notice that I made the makizushi roll in this photo without any wasabi, so as not to overload on the stuff.

Now carefully roll the sushi away from you, moistening the spare nori that you left at the end, to achieve a seal. It's pretty much the same as rolling a cigarette - just on a much larger scale.

You are bound to make a bit of a mess at first, but you'll probably be surprised how quickly you'll develop your rolling skills.
Rolled makizushi, ready for slicing

A neat slicing act with a sharp knife and the job is complete. Which reminds me of a very important piece of advice - when cutting traditional nori-rolled maki you need a really sharp knife and a very smooth and consistent slicing action in order to end up with clean, flat edges on your finished product. Of course if you're only making these for yourself then it doesn't really matter, but if you are attempting these for a dinner party then you should bear this in mind. And here they are - traditional tofu makizushi made at home in your own kitchen. Delicious!

Tofu makizushi, ready to eat