Lobster maki roll


One of the more interesting restaurants to open in Soho in recent years is Yo Sushi, fast food Japanese style, with the longest sushi conveyor belt in the world. The basic idea is that hungry guests sit at the rather cramped counter and watch all these wonderful dishes go by, grabbing whatever takes their fancy. Bills are calculated by counting how many empty plates there are, and drinks are dispensed from a patrolling robot. In practice, quite a lot of the dishes fall short of even rather basic Japanese standards, but it is cheap, it is quick and they do have their moments: this hand-rolled sushi with lobster being one of them. I would not normally recommend domestic cooks to try making sushi, but this one requires relatively little skill.

You will need to find a Japanese shop to buy the rice, wasabi, nori and vinegar. The vinegar’s name in Japanese is Sushi-Su, which sounds a bit like a down-market geisha to me. Most Chinese and Thai supermarkets have a small Japanese section, and none of the ingredients needed is at all obscure. There is a small Japanese shop on Brewer Street which sells everything needed, and has some interesting take-away food as well. The hardest ingredient to source may well be the lobster; if this is the case, substitute white crab meat or lightly cooked tiger prawns.

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  • 450 g Japanese short-grain rice
  • 800 ml water


  • 120 ml Japanese rice vinegar (Mitsukan is the best brand)
  • 6 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt

Nori Rolls

  • 8 sheets nori (dried laver seaweed, sold in paper-thin sheets; buy the best grade which comes ready toasted. Keep what you don’t use in a tin)
  • ½ cucumber, half peeled in strips, cut into 8 cm lengths, cored and cut into matchstick thin batons
  • wasabi (horseradish), available ready-mixed in tubes or in powder (mix exactly like mustard powder with the same volume of water)
  • 250 g cooked lobster meat (approx the meat from a 600-700 g fish, available in many supermarkets and fishmongers)
  • 1 ripe avocado, halved, stoned and cut into 3 mm thick strips (do at the last minute and sprinkle with a little lemon juice)

Hand Vinegar

  • 250 ml water mixed with 2 tbsp rice vinegar


Washing the Rice

Do this 2 hours before preparing anything else.

Place the rice in a large bowl, cover with cold water, stir and immediately drain. Massage the rice with the palm of your hand for a few moments. Repeat this step until the water doesn’t go milky. This process is rather tedious but utterly essential. Pour the rice into a colander and let stand for 60 minutes. The rice expands and softens a little during this drying time.

Making the Dressing

Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.

Cooking the Rice

Put the rice and the measured water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, cover and bring slowly to the boil over a medium heat. When the water boils, turn the heat up and boil for 3 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium again and simmer/boil for a further 5 minutes. Turn the heat low and simmer for a final 5 minutes. Leave to stand, covered, for 15 minutes off the heat.

This technique of rice cooking seems as complicated as washing-machine cycles; a rice cooker does it all automatically.

Dressing the Rice

You must dress the rice as soon as the cooking cycle has ended.

Turn the rice out into a large bowl. Slowly pour 150 ml of the dressing over the hot rice, cutting through with a wooden spoon rather than stirring. It is important that the rice is mixed well by this process. As soon as the rice is lukewarm, cover with a damp cloth. Do not refrigerate.

Assembling the Rolls

Prepare all the ingredients, including the ‘hand vinegar’ (which you must moisten your fingers with every time you handle the cooked rice).

With scissors, cut the nori into 8 cm squares. Lay a square on a very dry and clean chopping board. Moisten your hands with the ‘hand vinegar’ and spread about 1 heaped tbsp of rice on half the sheet. The rice should be in greater quantity at one end because the roll is going to be cone shaped. Towards the centre lay 3 cucumber strips and about a tenth of the lobster meat. Add 1 avocado strip. The non-rice ingredients should be lying on top of one another, nearly at the edge of the rice. Dab a line of wasabi along the rice immediately next to the vegetables and lobster. Roll into a cone, using a crushed grain or two of rice to stick it together. Your first effort will look amateurish, but will taste delicious. Dexterity will improve rapidly. Try and get the lobster in the centre of the roll, with it and the other ingredients surrounded by the prepared rice.


The rolls are eaten by hand, and a good soy sauce like Kikkoman is used as a dip. Do not assemble these rolls in advance, as the nori will go soggy, rendering all your work pretty pointless. Think sushi chef here, and meticulously arrange all the component parts of the dish beforehand. If everything is well organised, then the assembly can be done easily and quickly.