Skip to main content

I love sushi!

By Joshua Dineen, Chef Specialist, Lincoln Land Community College

It’s my birthday this week, and sushi has been one of my favorite ways to celebrate for a couple of decades. I was taught how to make sushi more than 25 years ago and immediately became obsessed with it. I just love the way it takes what seems like a couple of simple ingredients and creates a delicious and satisfying dish. What I came to really appreciate over the years of learning and practice is the genuine importance of ingredient quality prepared with great attention to subtle details and techniques.

Sushi comes from Japanese cuisine, and in its simplest forms dates back hundreds of years. Sushi does not mean raw fish; it literally translates to “sour rice.” In its beginning, fish was preserved in rice and allowed to ferment. The rice would later be removed and discarded when the fish was consumed. Eventually someone added rice vinegar to the fermented rice and ate it alongside the preserved fish so as not to waste the rice. As time passed, fresh rice was prepared then mixed with vinegar and salt. This was then topped with raw fish and other seasonings. In the early 1900s there were many sushi carts around what would become Tokyo, and sushi was almost like a fast-food option. Eventually these would evolve into sushi bars and restaurants as we know them today. 

Another fun fact about myself is that this month my wife and I will celebrate our 23rd anniversary. Time flies when you are having fun! We have enjoyed a ridiculous amount of sushi over the years. In our 20s, we always threw my wife a big birthday party, and I would make over 700 pieces of sushi each time for those celebrations. Our youngest son has requested sushi as his birthday meal since he was four years old; he will be 18 next month. 

As my family, coworkers and students have learned, I am passionate about cooking rice. Well, I am passionate about anything food related. I always measure the quality of the sushi I am eating by the texture and taste of the rice. The cooked grains should be whole and delicate, sticky but not mushy, and seasoned aggressively without losing the rice aroma. Toppings, fillings, sauces and garnishes should all complement each other while maintaining a delightful balance. I have found keeping things simple, but using the best ingredients available is usually a great idea. 

Pressed sushi and hand rolls are probably my favorite styles to make at home. In making pressed sushi, a small rectangular bamboo box is used as a frame that is filled with layers of seasoned rice and desired fillings. The layers are then pressed, unmolded from the frame and sliced into bites. Hand rolls start with a narrow piece of seaweed, and ingredients are stacked in a particular order at one end of the seaweed. The stack is picked up, and the seaweed is wrapped around in a cone shape to hold the ingredients together. Most people who enjoy sushi are familiar with sushi rolls, which are types of maki sushi, and nigiri sushi, little footballs of rice topped with fish, eggs or vegetables. Inari sushi is fried and seasoned tofu pockets filled with sushi rice and fillings. 

When I go to a sushi restaurant, I order chirashi or omakase. Omakase is 10 to 20, or more, pieces of sushi the chef sends out as they are inspired. Chirashi, also known as scattered sushi, is a bed of seasoned rice topped with very artfully placed fish, vegetables and garnishes. 

For smaller gatherings or dinner at my house, we love to make a wide range of toppings, fillings and garnishes and place them in a row at the back of the countertop. We make a line of sushi mats in front and a big bowl of seasoned rice at one side. Everyone can build their favorite style and be creative. It is super fun and interactive, and often fun new combinations are discovered. 

Sushi Rice


  • 4 cups sushi rice
  • 1 piece of kombu seaweed
  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons salt


  1. Place the rice in a pot in the sink, and almost cover with cold water.
  2. Aggressively stir the rice with your hand to wash the starch from the rice grains.
  3. Add more water, and then let the rice settle to the bottom of the pan quickly. Then pour off the water mostly, keeping the rice in the pan. (A side note for those with a green thumb: this starchy water is great for watering plants.)
  4. Continue rinsing the rice until the water runs clear. 
  5. Level the rice. Add cold water. There is a special trick to the amount of water to add. Place your finger pointing down at the rice, and just barely touch the top of the leveled rice. Fill the cold water to the first joint of that finger. The size of the hand does not matter. 
  6. Add the kombu, and cover with a lid.
  7. Bring to a full rolling boil.
  8. As soon as you have achieved a full rolling boil, turn the heat to as low as possible.
  9. Set a timer for 15 minutes.
  11. Do not lift the lid. 
  12. After 15 minutes, remove the rice from the burner, and do not yet remove the lid. 
  13. Let it rest for 10 minutes.
  14. Combine the vinegar, sugar and salt in a microwave safe container. 
  15. Heat until the sugar dissolves. Stir, and set it aside.
  16. Place the cooked and rested rice in a very large bowl, and gently fluff the rice to break up the large clumps a bit.
  17. Add the vinegar mixture, and gently incorporate by folding or gently stirring. 
  18. Be careful not to smash or mush the rice. Take your time. 
  19. The rice should look a little shiny. Cover with a damp cloth, and hold at room temperature. 
  20. Place a piece of nori seaweed on a sushi mat.
  21. Run cold water over your hands, and do not dry them.
  22. Using wet hands, pick up a handful of seasoned rice and place it on the nori seaweed.
  23. Use your fingertips, work quickly to gently push the rice to cover the seaweed into an even layer. 
  24. Fill with your favorite ingredients — shrimp tempura, cucumber, carrot, asparagus, crab sticks. The possibilities are endless. Don’t forget a little swipe of wasabi. 
  25. Roll it all up, slice it into bites with a very sharp knife and enjoy it with a little soy sauce, unagi sauce, sriracha mayonnaise and pickled ginger.


Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management and Baking/Pastry, and non-credit cooking and food classes through LLCC Community Education.

Cooking or food questions? Email