how to make sushi designs (kazari maki)
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In our latest Chow-To episode, senior video producer Guillermo Riveros learns how to make kazari maki sushi with Hiroyo Belmonte at Resobox, a Japanese cultural center offering authentic Japanese activities, events, classes, and art exhibitions in Queens, New York.

Making sushi isn’t as difficult as you might think—and that includes making kazari maki, sushi rolls with fun designs hidden inside. Think of it as an edible art project and maybe it’ll seem less intimidating. It’s definitely fun, kawaii (cute), and delicious!

Our teacher, Hiroyo Belmonte, studied baking, pastry, and wagashi (Japanese sweets traditionally served with tea and often strikingly decorated) in her native Hokkaido, Japan, before moving to NYC. She’s also skilled in the art of decorative sushi, and walked us through how to make it at home.

decorative sushi penguin sushi

Chowhound

Specifically, she showed us how to make a sushi roll with a peach flower hidden inside—and if you follow along with the video, you’ll see it’s really not as hard as you might think. As Belmonte notes, many of the students at Resobox’s classes have never made sushi before.

A few key ingredients and tools will help you out.

Special Equipment

You’ll need a bamboo sushi mat, which helps tighten your sushi roll and make it uniform. You can find plastic or silicone versions as well.

BambooWorx Sushi Making Kit, $7.99 on Amazon

This kit includes two bamboo rolling mats, a rice spreader, rice paddle, and chopsticks.
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A rice cooker is also a great investment—but not the only option. Many Instant Pot models include a rice cooker function if you prefer more of a multitasker.

Aroma 6 Cup Rice Cooker, $14.96 at Walmart

Perfect rice at the push of a button every time.
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And a digital kitchen scale helps you perfectly portion your rice, but is also great for measuring anything else (especially in baking).

Accuweight Digital Kitchen Scale, $16.99 on Amazon

An inexpensive and invaluable kitchen tool.
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Special Ingredients

This particular sushi roll is made mostly with sushi rice, cooked spinach, and nori (seaweed), but the center of the flower is made from something you might not have had before: cheese kamaboko, or cheese flavored fish cakes. Kamaboko is similar to surimi (fake crab, or krab sticks), but this particular kind also has bits of cheese. Its long, cylindrical shape will serve as the round pistil of your peach blossom once the sushi is sliced. You can buy it on Amazon or at Walmart if you can’t find it locally.

Yaokin Cheese Kamaboko, 50 sticks for $42.16 on Amazon

Check for these at local Japanese markets or Asian grocery stores at a cheaper price.
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As for the rice, make sure you buy short grain sushi rice (also known as sticky rice). You’ll color half of it pink with beet juice for the flower petals.

Nishiki Sushi Rice, $2.98 at Walmart

Premium grade sushi rice that won't break the bank.
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And the nori you buy should be in large sheets; you’ll cut them in half, but if you buy the small snacking-size pieces, they won’t be big enough to roll up your rice.

Daechun Sushi Nori, 50 sheets for $9.99 on Amazon

The resealable package ensures your nori stays crisp.
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Tips & Tricks

As you make your artsy sushi (or any other sushi for that matter), keep these pointers in mind.

1. Help hold your roll together by using a few grains of cooked sushi rice to glue the edges of the nori down. (Sticky rice is certainly an ingredient that lives up to its name.)

2. Let your finished sushi roll rest for a few minutes so the rice firms up and the seaweed softens a bit.

3. Dip your knife in water before cutting the sushi into pieces; that keeps the aptly named sticky rice from sticking to the blade.

Want to Make More Sushi?

If you’re in New York, you can sign up for a Japanese sushi making workshop through Resobox—the next class on October 11 will teach you how to make Halloween-themed sushi:

Or, pick up a book and teach yourself to make even more designs:

Sushi Art Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Kazari Sushi, $14.50 on Amazon

Learn more techniques and find 85 sushi designs to try.
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Then again, if you just want to know how to make a tuna roll, see our guide to homemade sushi.

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Jen is an associate content producer at Chowhound. Raised on scrapple and blue crabs, she hails from Baltimore, Maryland, but has lived in Portland (Oregon) for so long it feels like home. She enjoys the rain, reads, writes, eats, and cooks voraciously, and stops to pet every stray cat she sees. Continually working on building her Gourmet magazine collection, she will never get over its cancellation. Read more of her work.
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