©Photo by Fiona Uyema

Recipe: Maki Zushi (For Hanami & Picnics)

And For Your Ordinary Lunch

By Fiona Uyema
April 10, 2017
Food & Drink

Boil, Fill, Roll.

I experienced my first spring in Japan in the beautiful city Kanazawa located in Ishikawa prefecture along the west coast of Japan. The Japanese culture of hanami made such an impression on me that I brought it back to Ireland.

© Photo by Natalia Kop from Smiles! Photography

Since returning to Ireland I celebrate hanami every year with my family and friends. We prepare a Japan-inspired obento to enjoy under the cherry blossom trees either at Powerscourt House & Gardens, just outside Dublin, or at its quaint Japanese garden. Another favorite place of mine to enjoy hanami in Ireland is very close to my home. It’s called The Irish National Stud in Kildare and has a stunning Japanese garden. The horses galloping alongside the line of blooming cherry blossoms is a sight you have to see if you ever come to Ireland.

© Photo by Natalia Kop from Smiles! Photography

Here is a quick and favorite traditional Japanese recipe to enjoy at your cherry blossom picnic in Japan or anywhere else in the world! (My sushi bento recipe takes the fuss out of sushi making, so you’ll be able to try it more often at home for your work lunch, your kid’s lunch or day trips.)

Hanami Bento Recipe: Maki Zushi (Sushi Rolls)

Makes 2 rolls

  • Sushi rice (80g per roll) 寿司米 Sushi-mai (see how to make your sushi rice below)
  • Nori (roasted seaweed sheets), ¾ sheets

For the filling  

  • 120g of good quality tinned tuna mixed with 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise  ツナの缶詰 Tsuna no kandume and マヨネーズ Mayonezu
  • Ripened avocado, peeled and cut into thin strips (coat in fresh lemon juice to avoid browning) アボカド Abokado
  • Ripened mango, peeled and cut into thin strips マンゴー Mango
  • Water bowl, damp clean cloth and sushi mat

  1. Place the seaweed sheet (nori) shiny-side down with the lines in the nori running vertical on a sushi mat.
  2. Dip your fingertips in the water bowl and shake off any excess water.
  3. Take a large spoonful of rice and using your fingertips gently spread the rice over the nori sheet trying not to press on the rice too hard.
  4. Spread the rice to the edges of the nori and leave a gap at the top of the seaweed.
  5.  Place the three ingredients in a straight line on the nori sheet. Hold the nearest end of the mat with your index fingers and thumbs. Use the rest of your fingers to hold the ingredients in place. Roll the mat forward to bring the nori and rice wrap around the fillings. Press down firmly but gently to create a roll shape. 
  6. To finish the complete roll, pull the end of the mat with one hand and continue to push the roll forward with the other hand. 
  7.  Place the roll on a chopping board and using a sharp knife cut in half (try to only cut in one direction). Then, using a damp clean cloth wipe the knife clean and continue to cut the two halves into four pieces and then cut the four pieces in half leaving you with eight pieces altogether.
  8.  Put together a colorful and well balanced bento with a simple fresh fruit salad and pickled vegetables.

How to make sushi rice

  1. Wash and cook white rice using an electric rice cooker or a pot
  2. Prepare a homemade sushi rice seasoning (awase-zu)
  • Pour 100ml of rice vinegar (米酢, komezu) and 2 tablespoons of sugar into a non-aluminum saucepan
  • Heat until the sugar is dissolved and then add half a teaspoon of salt
  • Set aside and allow to cool
  1. Mix the sushi rice seasoning with the cooked rice
  • Transfer the hot cooked rice to a shallow non-metallic baking tray (with a wide flat base) using a rice spatula or wooden spoon.
  • Sprinkle 100ml of the sushi rice seasoning evenly over the rice and then gently turn and fold the rice with the spatula (try not to break or mash the rice grains).
  • At the same time, fan the rice with a piece of cardboard or uchiwa (paper fan) to help cool the rice to room temperature and absorb the excess sushi rice seasoning.
  • Try to use the rice as soon as possible and avoid putting in the fridge as this will harden the rice. You can cover the rice with a damp tea towel for a few hours if necessary.


  • You have to use Japanese short grain rice to make sushi.
  • Sushi is best served at room temperature.
  • You can use bottled sushi vinegar instead of making your own. However I prefer to make my own as I can control the amount of sugar and salt that I add to the sushi vinegar.

Don’t forget to share your amazing maki zushi photos with us via Facebook or #savvytokyo on Instagram. Enjoy! Xx

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