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Try These 7 Sushi Hacks for Better Homemade Sushi

Salmon roll sushi

1. Microwave Your Takeout Sushi

If you ever buy sushi from a supermarket and find that the rice is too hard or the flavor is lacking, try this simple trick. Place the entire container in the microwave and heat it for about 30 seconds. This will soften and warm the sushi rice, enhancing the flavor of the fish without cooking it. However, be cautious and ensure that your container is microwave-safe.


2. Opt for Lemon and Salt Over Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is wonderful for enhancing sushi, especially with umami-rich fish like tuna, thanks to its high glutamic acid content. However, for more delicately flavored fish such as snapper and halibut, soy sauce can overpower their subtle tastes and aroma. Instead, try using lemon juice and sea salt. This pairing works exceptionally well with salmon, scallops (my personal favorite!), white fish, Dungeness crab, and Uni (sea urchin), as it accentuates their natural flavors without overwhelming them. If you find yourself missing the depth of soy sauce, just add a tiny dab to enhance the aroma without compromising the dish's integrity.

3. Eat Sushi with Your Fingers

Eating sushi with your fingers is a practice well understood by Japanese people and sushi chefs alike, although it might not be as obvious to everyone. It’s worth reiterating sushi is traditionally a finger food. Originating from street food stand in Tokyo about 250 years ago—much like hot dogs—sushi was initially designed to be eaten with your hands. It's only in more recent times that using chopsticks became common, possibly because it appears more sophisticated and elegant (my opinion.) However, I consider eating sushi with your fingers at a sushi bar as a cool, authentic way to enjoy it. So next time, feel free to eat your sushi the traditional way—using your fingers.

4. Host Your Next Party with Hand Rolls

Hand roll sushi kit by Breakthrough Sushi
Hand roll sushi kit by Breakthrough Sushi

There's a wide variety of sushi types, and while many Americans are familiar with inside-out rolls and nigiri, there's a less commonly known but trendy option catching on: the hand roll, aka, Temaki. Thanks to establishments like Kazunori and Brothers in LA, and Hand Roll Project in San Francisco, hand rolls are proving to be an easy and delicious sushi form that you can make at home. Here’s how you can do it:


Make sushi rice: The base of any good sushi starts here.

Select your fillings: Gather some vegetables, fish, and meats. These don’t necessarily need to be sushi-grade; a popular filling in Japan is canned tuna or Tuna Mayo, and even corn mayo.

Consider other proteins: Chicken teriyaki also makes a fantastic filling for hand rolls.

Arrange everything family-style: Lay out all your ingredients so everyone can create their own custom hand rolls.

Incorporate diverse ingredients: Use tempura shrimp from Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, or consider fried fish from the frozen food section as great alternatives to raw fish.

Experiment with smoked salmon: It pairs wonderfully in a hand roll (try adding some cream cheese for extra richness).

Add condiments and sauces: Enhance your hand rolls with sauces like Kewpie mayo and sriracha for that authentic flavor kick.

If you like to order sushi grade fish, check out our guide for ordering fish online.


5. Proper Storage: Keep Your Fish on Ice

Whether you're handling sushi-grade or regular fish, it's crucial to keep it on ice within your refrigerator. Even better, submerge it in ice water because heat transfers approximately 20 times faster in water than in air, helping to keep the fish at an optimal cool temperature.

First, wrap your fish in plastic and place it in a tightly sealed Ziploc bag. A vacuum sealer like Food Saver is ideal if available, as it further enhances preservation. Position the sealed fish on an ice pack, or if none is available, in a container of ice water. This setup helps maintain the fish at an optimal temperature range of 1-2˚C (34-36˚F), where bacterial growth is minimized and the decomposition of the fish's flesh is significantly slowed. By doing this, your fish could potentially last twice as long compared to being stored at the typical refrigerator temperature of 4-5˚C (39-41˚F).

Should your fish begin to emit a fishy odor or its exterior starts to discolor—a common issue with tuna—rinse it under water and gently pat dry with a paper towel. This method often removes surface bacteria responsible for odors. If the smell persists, carefully slice away the outer layer of the fish with a sharp knife and discard it. This will expose the fresher, typically sterile inner flesh, which often appears much fresher.

6. Experience the Authenticity of Fresh Wasabi

Fresh wasabi and wasabi grater

If you've never tried fresh wasabi, your experience with wasabi is incomplete. In many sushi restaurants in the US, the wasabi offered is typically a powdered version that isn't genuine wasabi. Most powdered variants are a mix of horseradish, yellow mustard, and food coloring, and even those that contain real wasabi elements fail to deliver the full experience.

What does real wasabi taste like? Initially, it introduces a mild tingling sensation, akin to a gentle heat, followed by an enveloping aroma that fills your mouth and nose, leaving a subtly sweet aftertaste that fades pleasantly. The experience of authentic wasabi is uniquely gratifying and far superior to its common substitutes.


You can find fresh wasabi at several Japanese supermarkets throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, including Tokyo Fish Market in Berkeley and Nijiya Market. Additionally, fresh wasabi is available online from:


For the best experience, use a wasabi grater made from shark skin. This tool is specifically designed to maximize the release of wasabi's aromatic properties, enhancing your culinary experience with its authentic flavor and aroma.

7. Opt for Slightly Warm Sushi Rice

Sushi rice in wooden rice warmer ohitsu

Sushi rice is generally considered to taste best when it is close to body temperature. However, serving it slightly warm can enhance the experience even further. Warm sushi rice not only releases the subtle aroma of sushi vinegar but also helps to amplify the flavors of accompanying ingredients like fish. This method of serving sushi rice slightly warm was popularized by Sushi Nozawa in Los Angeles, and has since become a favored technique among sushi connoisseurs for its ability to elevate the overall flavor profile of sushi dishes.

kewpie mayonnaise

Sushi neta case wooden sushi ingredients case

Breakthrough Sushi offers sushi classes and sushi catering in the San Francisco Bay Area using sustainable seafood.

If you like to inquire about your next corporate or private event, please send us an email to request a quote.

If you like to sign up for our scheduled public classes in San Francisco and San Jose (Santa Clara), please see the schedule here.

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