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Sushi Making Tools Used by Sushi Chefs from Makisu, Hangiri, to Dinnerware

Some home cooks go H.A.M. (Hard as a Mother******) with their kitchen tools. If that is you, I got you, although I will also be providing the sushi making tools bare essentials and where to buy them.

I have never made a pizza from scratch at home, but I have done tacos (the Mexican way and the gringo/TexMex kind). Yet the bulk of those dishes do not require special tools unless you make your tortillas from scratch, then you need a cast iron tortilla press (except, you know, most of you are out buying Dorito flavored taco shells, aye wey).

The easiest route for preparing sushi is: 1. sliced fish (sashimi), 2. sliced fish/bits of fish/seafood atop sushi rice (chirashi), then 3. handrolls (temaki), 4. rolls (makizushi), and 5. fish atop rice (nigirizushi) being the most difficult.

Like choose your own adventure, you can choose your level of difficulty.
Photo Description: a picture of a sashimi plate in a wavy round greenish and brownish (Earthy colors) colored plate. On it are several raw cuts of fish and octopus. Directly beneath is crushed ice with a banana leaf and oba shiso.
Sashimi and chirashi will be the two simplest ways. well, beyond going to a restaurant. Image by Jeremy Eades.

First things First

  • How do I know what sushi chefs use? I worked a short stint as a sushi chef in a Japanese owned and operated sushi bar.
  • You should know that there is difference between Americanized sushi and Japanese sushi. Just like there is a difference between Taco Bell, and real Mexican food.
  • The types of sushi I will be focusing on here is: sashimi, rolls, and hand rolls.
Photo Description: a close up look of the Hasegawa non-stick makisu (rolling mat), the quintessential sushi making tool. The texture of the plastic green pieces have several raised dots.
Most of you have seen the bamboo version, so I am stepping up my game to show you an embossed advanced plastic makisu meant to be hygienic and non-stick by Hasegawa (made in Japan). Now there is no need to wrap it in plastic wrap (the image is cropped).

The Short List of the Bare Essentials of What You Need

  1. Makisu (rolling mat): typically made of bamboo, these mats roll sushi rolls.
  2. A good knife: a sharp knife is critical for either slicing fish or cutting up rolls (if you can only buy one knife, a santoku is the most versatile Japanese knife).
Photo Description: several santoku Japanese knives are depicted (4) with a bunka style knife in the lower right..
A santoku multi-purpose knife starts as low as $70 to several hundred.

Where to Buy and the Best Japanese Ingredients for Sushi

If you just want to jump to my focused content, here are the categories:

Almost Everything You Need to Prepare/Serve Sushi

Aside from listing multiple cutting boards, I will only be listing Japanese or sushi specific equipment, tools, and dinnerware.

Photo Description: rectangular sushi plates have an irregular pattern. One is gold colored, the other is white colored plate. On both ends, it's slightly raised. These plates are by Musubi Kiln.
These plates are essential for me because they are PIMP’level plating (optional for everybody else). Image by Musubi Kiln.

I have included a mix of vendors (very minimal links to Amazon, if any), and many of these products are meant to help support Japanese/Japanese American manufacturers/producers and small vendors (many supply restaurants and other businesses).

I pride myself on not being an Amazon Associate ho, and not a single one of these other companies drops me a dime. I do it because this is the type of content I want (legit content is good content).
Photo Description: the components of the sushi rectangular sushi press. There is an inner section that is the base, along with the top lid which is meant to be the final part of the press.
For you fabricators fabricating exhaust manifolds to you woodworkers, you all know what a jig is (this is your sushi jig). Made in Mie, Japan.

If you have ever used a Spam tin to form Spam musubi, you will be a natural when using this hinoki cypress mold to produce your oshizushi (you can also use it for Spam).

Photo Description: the 2nd shot of the sushi press (oshizushi) is a rectangular box with several slits (4) in the cross section for cutting/slice the roll into 5 pieces.
“Let go Luke, feel the force” (feel the wooden guides as it guides your cuts and the wood walls shape the rice and fish as it molds to the will of the mold). Made in Mie, Japan.
  1. Rice cooker: The proper way to cook short-grain rice with a push of a button is with a Japanese rice cooker (from your basic ones starting at $35 to cookers utilizing fuzzy logic to get your rice just right, and more than right, like super ichiban right).
  2. Hangiri (wooden mixing tub): The best way to mix sushi rice is with a cedar tub because it absorbs excess moisture when mixing your shari su (vinegared sushi rice mixture) into your rice. Since I believe this is an essential tool, I will have several products listed below (you can also see a manufacturer (Shimizu Mokuzai) here, but they do not sell direct to the public).
  3. Makisu (rolling mat): Typically made of bamboo, this is a core tool for sushi chefs to roll sushi rolls. You can purchase it on Amazon, but I highly suggest you consider Korin (NYC) for your makisu needs. They offer up your base level makisu, like this Kyo Makisu Bamboo Sushi Mat for $7.95, or a non-stick plastic product with a monofilament string that does not collect food particles. The latter product by Hasegawa measures 10″L x 9.5″W in size, for $29.95 (not like the small one, 10 x 6.5″ people b*tch about on Amazon – In Japan, they don’t have a Jessica albacore/rainbow rolls, so this smaller product is used for hosomaki, or a single ingredient roll).
  4. Cutting boards: You will be slicing up fish, so having separate cutting boards for your rolls and prepping veggies is ideal.
  5. A specialized knife: There is a long list of task-specific Japanese knives for filleting, cutting, slicing, and prepping all sorts of ingredients. Although, you will want a specialized sashimi cutting knife, a yanagiba. The yanagiba is a single-bevel knife and the knife you will see most sushi chefs handling.
  6. Sushi molds: If you don’t feel confident about your rolling skills, a mold will have you feeling like a professional in no time at all such as the one offered by Bento & Co for only $13 (pictured above). In fact, “oshizushi” is a style of sushi from the Kansai region (Osaka to Tottori) that uses molds/presses.
  7. Squeeze bottles: This is the easiest way to consistently apply sauces (you can Google it yourself on where to buy).
  8. Sushi serving plate: For presentation purposes, sushi serving plates are a nice touch for hosting a sushi party, and if you like to take things over the top, Musubi Kiln is your goto for sushi plates. Although, if you are on a budget, MTC kitchen to Korin will do just fine.
  9. Sushi decoration leaves: Ideally you would want to use fresh shiso leaves or bamboo leaves, qty 100, ($12.95) although the artificial kind will work too, Plastic Mountain Shaped Decorative Sheet (Yama Baran), qty 1,000, $3.95.
  10. Soy sauce dispenser: You can pour directly from the plastic bottle, but a soy sauce dispenser will give you that restaurant feel (the glass Kikkoman dispensers for two range from $7-14, an Asvel dripless dispenser (asvel.co.jp) will set you back $12, or you can go with a distinctively unique one curated by Kiriko Made out of Portland, OR for, well, more money (click the link to find out how much more).
  11. Soy sauce dishes: Too many of you like to have your rolls chillax in a tub of soy sauce like a big dude in Speedo’s in a hot tub, so you need a dedicated soy sauce dish/tub. Well, I have where you can find just that. The first vendor is Koyo out of El Segundo, CA, owned by Akira Takahashi and est. in 1990 (in 2005, Maki Takahashi and their partner took over the reins). The company owns and produces their products in a high-end production facility in China, but they provide logo imprints in-house. The second one is one of my favorites, MTC Kitchen in New York City.

I Highly Suggest Buying a Hangiri/Handai/Oke

A hangiri also known as a oke/handai or in Murica, a “wooden tub used for mixing rice.”

Ask any sushi chef and what I think is the most critical component is to sushi, and we would all say the sushi rice. So, that is one reason why I suggest buying a hangiri/handai/oke.

I sort of liken it to a lobster roll, or a Philly cheesesteak because the wrong bun/bread can ruin the aforementioned (I mean, people swear by Amaroso for cheesesteaks, and I think they nailed it at the Anchor in Venice Beach, CA for lobster rolls).
Photo Description: a round wooden tub made of cypress (light colored wood) with two copper bands encircling the tub. There is also a lid with one center rib used for a handle.
Why do you want this cypress mixing bowl? It’s the same reason why saunas are made of wood like cedar vs. tile. The main reason is to help absorb excess moisture, like big dude in a Speedo. On top of that, the wood has natural antimicrobial qualities, in case you go and sit where dude was sitting (I use “big dude in Speedo’s” as an example, so that you can easily picture what I am talking about, you’re welcome).
Hitachiya
(Torrance)
Hitachiya
Japanese wooden sushi oke-sawara cypress
27cm/11″ (2 cups) to 48cm/19.2″ (20 cups)

$84 to $249
Japanese
Taste

(Amagasaki,
Japan)
Tachibana (more than a 100 years of history)
Sushi Oke Wooden Hangiri Bowl with Lid
Made in Japan
36cm
$64.00
Japanese
Taste

(Amagasaki,
Japan)
Umezawa (Mokuzai Kougeisya)
Sawara Cypress Sushi Oke Wooden Bow
Natural sawara cypress (body) / copper (belt)

Made in Japan
36cm
$119
MTC Kitchen
(NYC)
MTC Kitchen
Cypress Sushi Oke Hangiri Mixing Bowl with Sanitary Stainless Hoop 28.25″ dia (72 cm)
$420
Toiro
(W. Hollywood)
Yamacoh Co.
Sawara Cypress Handai Sushi Bowl with Lid.
Size: Small: 11.0″ x 4.0″ / 28 cm x 10 cm (ideal for up to 2 – 2.5 rice-cups of rice) | Large: 13.0″ x 3.5″ / 33 cm x 9 cm (ideal for up to 5 rice-cups of rice).

Product of Japan (Gifu)
$160 to $215
Pricing and availability subject to change.

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