Seasoned Rice for Sushi


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes

Appears in

An Ocean of Flavor: The Japanese Way with Fish and Seafood

An Ocean of Flavor

By Elizabeth Andoh

Published 1988

  • About

Here is the basic recipe for making the vinegared rice essential to all sushi recipes. There are three keys to achieving the best taste and texture: (1) Use short-grained rice, preferably the Japanese-style rice grown in California (Ko-kuho Rose, Blue Rose, and Kotobuki are among the most readily available brands). (2) Use freshly cooked rice, still warm and therefore more receptive to absorbing the seasoned vinegar. (3) Do not refrigerate the seasoned rice. Sushi rice is a naturally preserved food (in fact, that is how it became popular in Japan, centuries before refrigeration was possible) and will keep well for many hours in a cool room if covered with a clean damp cloth and/or clear plastic wrap. If refrigerated, it will turn hard and crusty and any attempt to warm it up will result in mushy, tasteless rice.


  • cups raw Japanese-style short-grained rice
  • cups cold water softened kelp left over from stock making, optional
  • ¼-⅓ cup sushi su (seasoned rice vinegar)
  • 1 cup rice vinegar (or cup distilled white vinegar, 2 tablespoons water, and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice)
  • tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Place the rice in a bowl and cover it with cold water. Stir vigorously to wash the rice clear of excess starch. Strain the rice and repeat the washing procedure with fresh cold water until the rinsing water runs clear. This usually takes two or three rinsings. Drain the rice well after the final rinsing.
  2. Place the rice in a sturdy, straight-sided 3- to 4-quart pot. (If you have a piece of kelp left over from making stock, lay it over the rice for added flavor.) Measure in the cups fresh cold water. Ideally, let the rice sit in its cooking water for 10 minutes before cooking it. If pressed for time, add ½ teaspoon more water. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid.
  3. Over high heat, bring the water in the pot to a rolling boil. It’s best not to remove the lid to check on its progress. Instead, rely on other clues: You can hear the bubbling noises and see the lid begin to dance. This should take about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and continue to cook at a simmer until the water is absorbed (about 5 minutes longer); you may hear a low hissing sound. Increase the heat to high again for 30 seconds, to dry off the rice. Remove the pot, still tightly covered, from the heat and let the rice stand for at least 10 minutes, or up to 30 minutes. This final self-steaming makes more tender grains of rice.
  4. Transfer the cooked rice to a large bowl. (The Japanese use a wide wooden tub called a handai or sushi oké, which is ideal. But a wide-mouthed glass or ceramic bowl is fine, especially if it has a wide flat bottom. Avoid metal since it tends to retain heat.) Toss the rice while fanning it, to cool it without condensation forming. (The Japanese use a flat lacquered fan called an uchiwa, but a piece of cardboard is just as useful.) Use a wooden spoon to toss the rice (the Japanese use a paddle-like one called a shamoji).
  5. When there are no more clouds of steam rising from the rice, begin to toss it with the seasoned vinegar, starting with just a tablespoonful. Using gentle folding and tossing motions, gradually season the rice with more of the vinegar. Taste a bit of rice after using ¼ cup of the seasoned vinegar; if it still tastes bland, add the remaining vinegar. Cover the seasoned rice with a damp cloth until you are ready to use it.