What is a sushi mat?
A sushi mat, "makisu" in Japanese, is a tool used when making sushi rolls. Other than sushi rolls, a sushi mat is also used to perfect the shape of other Japanese dishes, such as rolled omelets (tamago-yaki).
Traditional sushi mats are made from bamboo but recently those made from plastic and silicone are also available. Sushi mats made from bamboo are flexible and purpose-designed, making sushi-rolling easy. On the other hand, those made from plastic and silicone are easy to clean after use.
How to use a sushi mat
Sushi mats have a front and back as well as a top and bottom. When using, make sure the flat surface (the bamboo skin side) is facing upwards, and that the edge with the strings attached is on the top.
When making sushi rolls, place the nori seaweed on the nearest edge of the sushi mat, then spread sushi rice evenly on top. At this time if you leave about 1 cm (0.4 in,) of space on the top edge of the nori seaweed when spreading the sushi rice, it will be easier to neatly roll up.
Place the ingredients on top of the sushi rice and roll up once, then gently place your hand on top of the sushi mat and while holding the sushi roll in place, tightly pull the sushi mat upwards and away from you with the opposite hand.
Complete the roll so that the end of the nori seaweed is facing downwards, then set aside for a while to complete.
When a sushi mat is not available, plastic wrap and parchment paper can also be used. Prepare the plastic wrap or parchment paper in sizes larger than the nori seaweed and use in the same manner as a sushi mat. However, as these alternative tools are softer than a sushi mat, you may find these difficult to roll, especially for large sushi rolls with many ingredients.
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