MacGyvered sushi (recipe)

If I had to sum up the attitude I’ve settled on for dealing with 2020 and its pandemic, it would be this: “Don’t try to make it feel like 2019.”

The best way I’ve found to stay on an even keel is to acknowledge the strangeness and do my best to live into it. We started the year in Washington state, an early site of U.S. Covid cases. I encouraged my family to cocoon at home as much as possible beginning in March. I first wore a mask to the grocery store April 5. Who knew these were the beginnings of habits that would continue long past our September move to Minnesota?

One thing we miss as a family is eating out, and I especially miss going out for sushi. It was our traditional celebratory meal, the one our son would choose after band concerts and other special events. At his request, we’d go to the nearby kuru-kuru sushi restaurant, where tempting plates of sushi glided by, waiting to be plucked from a conveyor belt, stacks of empty dishes growing on our table.

Those days are now long past (where is the nearest kuru-kuru sushi here anyway?), but I did recently put together a simple sushi lunch at home.  

Homespun sushi

Sushi often brings up images of raw fish, but the word “sushi” refers only to vinegar-seasoned rice. The ingredients? Rice, vinegar, salt and sugar. It can be served in many different presentations, from the everyday to the decadent.

If you’ve read The Same Moon, you might recall the summer evening when I joined Naoko and her family for firefly viewing (Chapter 30. The essay version is available online via the Christian Science Monitor). Before our firefly adventure we had temaki sushi for supper.

This is the most homespun variety of sushi I’ve experienced. I think of temaki sushi or temakizushi as make-your-own sushi tacos: Sheets of nori (seaweed) provide soft shells; sushi rice, and various vegetables and meats are the fillings; soy/tamari sauce, wasabi, plum paste and/or mayo replace salsa. Casual, comfy, tasty!

We didn’t have all the ingredients on hand … neither did our usual grocery store … so I MacGyvered the recipe. And guess what? It tasted special, was fun to eat, and I’m fired up to make it again — and to share it with you.

That’s another thing I’m learning from 2020. Regular days are worth celebrating.

Recipe: MacGyvered Temaki Sushi


  • Sushi rice (the type of rice does make a difference)
  • Rice vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Kombu (kelp, optional — my grocery didn’t have it)
  • Nori sheets (seaweed — my grocery didn’t have nori, but it did have snack packs of roasted seaweed. We stacked a couple of sheets together and — ta-da! — make-do mini-sheets of nori.)
  • Fillings (I stirred some mayo into a couple of cans of tuna, and sliced a cucumber and an avocado into spears.) 

How to:

1. Make your sushi rice. This great tutorial from Just One Cookbook makes it easy. No kombu, no kosher salt, no special equipment? No problem! Where the instructions call for a paper fan, you could substitute a manila file folder — anything that will move the air around and cool the rice as you coat it with the vinegar mixture.

2. Assemble your fillings. I made tuna salad and sliced up a few veggies. To take it to the next level, you could boil some chicken or prawns and add some Japanese condiments, like plum paste and wasabi, on the side. Another delicious filling is sliced Japanese omelet … mmm … another recipe for another time.

That’s it! Place seaweed in your palm, pile in a bit of rice, add your toppings and itadakimasu!

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