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I literally just returned from a fabulously epic girls weekend in Washington DC with my BFF, the famous S, Kate, Alex, Catalina, and Zack (honorary female) for the final weekend of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, and my first official order of business upon my return to Orlando was to make my own maki sushi rolls. Call me uninformed, but I honestly had no idea the festival was rooted in such rich Japanese history, so I learned all about the sublimity that is Japanese cuisine and Kirin beer. All of this newfound knowledge, I might add, is what spawned an urge to make my own homemade sushi rolls.
Apparently, Kirin is one of Japan’s oldest breweries, with a history dating back to 1888. The back story of Kirin’s history is that the mythical Kirin Beast is considered a good omen of serenity and prosperity– so everyone should consume it abundantly according to Asian prophecy. I’ve seen my brother drink it before at sushi//hibachi restaurants, but I’ve always turned a cold shoulder and stuck with wine… cause you really can’t ever go wrong with a glass of Riesling (let’s be real). Luckily, there are a few different variations of Kirin beer, so if something doesn’t quite fancy your palette, you have alternate options. My friends and I were able to taste test all the Kirin beers, known world-wide as beer at its purest because of its first-press brewing process and clean taste, and we were all obsessed.
First, there’s standard Kirin Ichiban, which is 100% malt, first-press beer with rich flavor, a smooth finish, and a clean aftertaste. It only uses the first strain of malt liquid, which means it’s truly beer at its purest, and it’s known for pairing beautifully with traditional Japanese cuisine and modern Asian cuisine. Second, there’s Kirin Light, which offers a full flavor and authentic Japanese-style beer with just 95 calories. Kirin Light calls to me, simply for the caloric content, and it intuitively pairs well with lighter, healthier Asian dishes, ie. pageant girl food. Lastly, there’s Kirin Ichiban Frozen, which is a draught beer topped with frozen Kirin Ichiban using a fancy pants proprietary process. Now available at select lucky U.S. location (Yes, D.C. is one of the privileged few), it’s an innovative and non-traditional way to enjoy Ichiban in Japan, and it’s good. Real good.
Kirin’s unique taste is the perfect compliment to refined traditional Japanese cuisine (like maki sushi), the bold flavors of modern Asian food, and other flavor-forward dishes. S, the driving force of our impromptu beer tasting, actually attended a National Cherry Blossom Festival event last week where former fashion model and celebrity chef Candice Kumai introduced Kirin pairing tips and Japanese-style recipes with event goers. Throughout the year, Chef Kumai will continue to share more special recipes and tips on Kirin’s Facebook page, so I will continue to attempt different Asian dishes and force poor bystanders to eat my masterpieces during this one-year time period. Have I mentioned I’m trying to be more domestic?
Former model and celebrity chef Candice Kumai at the National Cherry Blossom Festival Grand Sake Tasting, kicking off the release of Kirin’s Ichiban Frozen beer
In preparation for my little cooking adventure, I did some mild research on the Japanese customs, since my dad is adamant about doing as the Romans do when in Rome. Japanese custom mandates never filling your own glass and never letting another’s glass get completely empty, so you have to be on your hostess A game when preparing for an Asian-inspired dinner party. Also, in Japan, when everyone is ready to drink, they salute by saying, “Kanpai,” which literally means, “Dry your glass.” Cheers to that.
Homemade Sushi Rolls: What You’ll Need
In order to get started, you’re going to need a rice paddle, bamboo mat, rice bowl, and soy sauce ramekins, among other optional instruments. As far as the actual ingredients go, the essentials are: 10-12 sheets toasted nori (seaweed), 1.5 cups sushi rice, rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Set the mood for your evening with cherry blossoms, or in my case, the next best thing at Publix: purple or pink miniature orchids. Atmosphere is everything.
Homemade Sushi Rolls: Step-by-Step Instructions
Make your sushi rice first. Prepare and cook the sushi rice as directed on the package, sticking to a roughly two parts grain, one part water ratio. Cool the rice slightly while preparing your sushi-su (sushi vinegar), which is an Asian creation consisting of 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and one teaspoon of salt. Combine in a medium mixing bowl and whisk well to completely dissolve all the sugar and salt.
This is the kind-of-tricky part, and it’s best to tag team with a cooking partner. Transfer your slightly-cooled sushi rice into a large bowl. Using a rice paddle and a small paper fan (ie. piece of copy paper), fan the sushi rice as you slowly drizzle the sushi vinegar over the rice. Cut the sushi rice with the rice paddle as you fan the rice to cool at the same time. Be sure to not mix the rice. Simply cut through your block of rice until all of the sushi-su is absorbed.
This was the fun part. Don’t be surprised if a guy completely reveals his inner domestic goddess while rolling your homemade sushi rolls. Make sure your rice is still warm and that you’ve got a clean surface to work on, like a clean cutting board or counter top. Lay down your bamboo mat on your work surface, then place the nori on top of the bamboo mat, shiny side down.
Using your rice paddle, spread a layer of approximately .5 cup sushi rice in the middle of the nori sheet. At the bottom of the sushi roll, closest to you, add your choice of fillers (cucumber, avocado, etc.), proteins (imitation crab, salmon, etc.), and seasonings in a horizontal line. Tightly roll from the bottom up into a long maki roll. Gently squeeze the bamboo mat to tighten your roll.
To cut into edible pieces, remove your bamboo mat and cut your roll in half. Wipe off your knife with your towel in between slicing, or things get nasty real quick. Next, line up your two halves and cut into fourths and sixths. Repeat until all the sushi rice is used. Serve and enjoy your homemade sushi rolls immediately.
Make sure you’ve got wasabi (or in our case, Japanese horseradish), ginger, soy sauce, and spicy mustard, since those are popular Asian sauces/compliments. Serve your homemade sushi rolls on a rectangular sushi plate, and you’re ready to go.
No joke, our sushi tasted amazing. Like, legit amazing. The Kirin Light, ringing in at only 95 calories, was the perfect beverage pairing for me, and Ian opted for the full bodied (and full calorie) Kirin Ichiban beer. It’s refreshing, mildly sweet, and well balanced, so it complements the sweet and spicy flavors in the maki sushi like an absolute charm.
I never honestly thought that my trip to DC would spawn an urge to make my own homemade sushi rolls, but it did, and I’m glad it did. I feel more domestic already. The fact that Ian did 96% of the work while I “supervised” is irrelevant.
Who else has made their own sushi? Did you pair it with Kirin Ichiban like we did?
I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Millennial Central for Kirin. I received product samples to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.