How to Use a Bamboo Mat for Sushi Making

If you love sushi, it stands to reason that you would want to learn how to make your own. However, you might be wondering how you should start. One thing that can help you make great sushi is a high-quality bamboo mat, as well as the knowledge of how to use it.

To use a bamboo mat for sushi making, start by covering your bamboo mat with plastic wrap. Put down a layer of nori, a ¼-inch thick layer of rice, and the fillings of your choice. Roll up the bamboo mat with the ingredients on the inside, pull it out, and then cut up the sushi roll.

If you are interested in learning about how to use a bamboo mat for sushi making, read on. The information you learn could help you make sushi that’s even better than what you’ve eaten in restaurants.

What Is a Bamboo Mat?

A bamboo mat, also known as a makisu, is a mat created from bamboo and cotton string. Generally, it is used for food preparation purposes. It is used mostly to make a type of rolled sushi that is called makizushi.

However, it has other uses as well. Many chefs will use it to shape other types of soft food, as well as squeeze any excess liquid out of food that is being prepared.

Usually, the dimensions of a bamboo mat are 25 cm by 25 cm. However, they can be smaller or larger. One type of bamboo mat has bamboo flat and thick strips, while the other has thin and cylindrical strips.

The former is typically used to make thicker sushi rolls and is considered to be a more versatile bamboo mat overall. The latter is meant specifically to make makizushi.

How to Take Care of a Bamboo Mat

When people are using a bamboo mat in the kitchen, some will cover them with plastic wrap. This is to make them easier to clean after the sushi is finished. This is particularly important when creating sushi that has rice on the outside of the roll, as this type is more likely to make a mess on the mat.

It is important to air-dry your bamboo mat after food preparation in order to prevent the growth of fungi and bacteria. Some mats can be thrown away after they have been used.

How to Use a Bamboo Mat for Sushi Making

There is a basic process that you can follow in order to use a bamboo mat for sushi making. Before you start, you will need a few things:

  • Bamboo sushi mat
  • Plastic wrap
  • Seaweed paper (nori)
  • Sticky rice
  • Wooden spoon or rice paddle
  • Sharp knife
  • Your preferred sushi fillings

Of course, you will need to prepare the rice. Before you use the bamboo mat, you will have to make sure all the ingredients are ready.

Prepare the Ingredients

First, you will need to gather and prepare all of the ingredients that you will be using. Chop the fillings of your choice into thin strips so that you can easily roll them. Also, you will need to prepare the sticky rice.

For the rice, you will want to use either a medium or short grain white variety. These will stick together better than other options. Before you cook it, rinse it until the surrounding water is not cloudy. You want to do this to take away any powdered glucose, rice powder, or talc that might be on the surface of the rice. This will improve the flavor of your final result.

Then, put the rice into a bowl with water. For each serving of rice that you are preparing, you should add three times that volume of water. Use your hands to stir the rice around, as this will help scrape up any residual powder on the rice.

After this, pour everything into a mesh strainer to get rid of the water. Do this over and over until the water is no longer cloudy when you are rinsing the rice.

Once the rice is cooked, let it cool down to room temperature. This will make it easier for you to mold it into the ball shape you will need for the sushi. Once the temperature has gone down, sprinkle some rice vinegar on it, as this will give it some additional flavor. Make sure to stir it evenly into the rice.

Prepare the Bamboo Mat

Cover your bamboo mat with plastic wrap. This will help you during the cleanup process since it will prevent the ingredients from sticking to the mat. Another option is to place the bamboo mat in a large Ziploc bag, if you would prefer to do this and if you have a bag that is large enough.

Lay Down the Nori

Now, put one half-sheet of nori on top of your bamboo mat, with the shiny side down. Make sure to line up the edges of the seaweed wrap with the edges of the bamboo mat.

Create a Layer of Rice

Now, cover the sheet of seaweed wrap with a layer of sticky rice that is about 1/4 of an inch thick. Leave half an inch of the nori bare on each end. Make sure the rice is spread evenly on top of the seaweed wrap, using a wooden spoon or rice paddle if you need to do so.

Put Down the Fillings

Now, put the sushi fillings on top of the rice. Make sure to put them down so that they are lying there lengthwise. Try to center the ingredients within the rice as well as you can.

Moisten the Edges

Use a little bit of water to moisten the edges of the nori that you have not covered with sticky rice. This will make it easier for you to seal up the roll at the end of the process.

Start Rolling

Now, start folding one end of the bamboo mat with exposed seaweed wrap towards the opposite side. While you are rolling, use your fingers to push the sushi fillings towards the center of the sushi roll.

Once you have completely rolled the mat, push the bamboo into a roll so that you completely make the shape of a tube. Once you have the roll entirely covered with a bamboo mat, squeeze it so that you can seal it, make it firm, and shape it to your liking.

Pull Out the Mat

Now, slowly pull the mat out from the sushi roll. It should look like a tube at this point. Once you have extracted the mat (do it carefully, or else the arrangement of ingredients could end up falling apart), use a very sharp knife to cut your sushi roll into small pieces. Serve and enjoy.

Modifications for Different Types of Sushi

The procedure we have detailed above is appropriate for a simple type of sushi called hosomaki. These are thin rolls that typically only use one ingredient. This is a fairly simple type of sushi, and you can follow this procedure when you are using a relatively small amount of ingredients.

However, if you are making a different type of sushi, you would want to modify the procedure a little bit.


Futomaki sushi is somewhat more complex than hosomaki, mostly because there is a larger volume of ingredients that goes into it. Typically, it includes a minimum of four ingredients. For futomaki, you follow a similar procedure for hosomaki, except you use a full sheet of nori.

However, you don’t just start cutting lengthwise along the roll. Start by cutting into the center to make two halves. Then, cut the halves into smaller pieces.


Uramaki is what people commonly know as the inside out sushi roll. It is very common in the United States. Many people believe that the reason it is so popular is that the rice on the outside covers up the nori and makes sushi look less intimidating to sushi neophytes. One very popular type of uramaki is the California roll.

If you are preparing uramaki sushi, you will follow a very similar procedure for hosomaki. However, after creating the layer of rice on top of your nori, gently lift the nori and rice and flip it over onto the mat so that the rice is in direct contact with the plastic on the mat. Then, you will add the ingredients and start rolling.

Similar to the process for making futomaki, you will start by cutting the roll in half and then cutting those halves into smaller pieces. 


Temaki is a type of sushi that is commonly known as a hand roll. It is a piece of nori shaped like a cone and has some ingredients coming out of the top. For this, you can just use your hands and don’t necessarily need a bamboo mat.

You just need two-thirds of a sheet of nori. Place the shiny side facing down, and put 1/2 cup of rice in the upper left corner of the sheet. Put all the ingredients on top of the rice. Then, take the upper left corner of the seaweed wrap sheet and roll it to come towards your ingredients. In the end, it should look like the ingredients are spilling out of the nori.

Tips to Keep in Mind When Rolling Sushi

There are a few tips that you should keep in mind when you are using a bamboo mat to roll sushi. The following are some of them:

  • Make sure the knife is moist before you start slicing. If the knife has a little bit of water on the surface, the rice will be less likely to stick. It would be a good idea to wipe the knife with a wet cloth between each of the cuts so that the knife is moist the entire time you are cutting.
  • Use a very sharp knife. If you use a dull knife, you could end up pushing the fillings out of the edges or just making a big mess.
  • Be particularly careful with the ends. The ends of the roll are the loosest parts of it. If you are too careless with the ends, you can end up unraveling the entire thing and having to start over.
  • Don’t put in too much filling. If you overstuff your sushi, you may not be able to close the roll, and the nori sheet will not be able to hold everything in it. A good rule of thumb would be to stick with a ¼-inch layer of rice and a ½-inch layer of other fillings.
  • Keep your hands moist. It is better to prepare sushi with bare hands, rather than using plastic gloves to which the rice can stick. While you are preparing the sushi, make sure that your hands are always clean and moist. It would also be a good idea to put a little bit of vinegar on your fingers in order to prevent ingredients from sticking to them.
  • Make sure the ingredients are of high quality. Particularly if you are using tuna or some other kind of fish, make sure that it is not brown or dull-colored in any way. If it is, this might mean that the fish is starting to oxidize or go bad.
  • Use the right types and shapes of fillings. Keep in mind what will be the easiest to slice. If you have a hard time slicing through something, this could mess up the entire roll.
  • Use the nori sheet immediately. Once you take it out of its packaging, start working with it right away. If you have it exposed to the air for a long time, it will absorb moisture and not stick well to your other ingredients. This can lead to the unraveling of your roll.

While it can be very challenging to make a high-quality roll of sushi, especially for a beginner, following the above tips can help maximize your chances of success. At the very least, they can make it so that it takes fewer tries for you to achieve success in this particular endeavor.

What Can I Use Instead of a Bamboo Mat to Roll Sushi?

If you don’t have a bamboo mat or can not get to one in time, there are other ways that you can make sushi.

  • Use a towel. You can get a similar result to what you would achieve with a bamboo sushi mat if you use a tea towel that you fold over once, lengthwise. Lay it flat on the counter, and covered in plastic wrap, just as you would with the bamboo mat. Stack up your ingredients the same way, and then roll them using the towel instead of the bamboo mat. Just try not to press too hard, at the risk of tearing the seaweed wrap.
  • Use a machine. Believe it or not, there are sushi roller machines that you can use. All you need to do is put your sheet of seaweed wrap into the machine, put your toppings on top, and close the lid. The machine will do all the rolling work for you, and this is a great option for someone afraid of messing up their sushi. There are also tubular devices, which will push all of your ingredients into a cylindrical shape and create a log of rice that can be placed onto a sheet of nori for the final wrapping process.
  • Use a sushi rack. There are training racks for this particular purpose. One big problem when someone is learning how to make sushi is knowing how much of each ingredient to use. You don’t want to use too much, or else the nori could break. If you use too little, the roll will be limp. The racks are particularly helpful because they give you plenty of guidance on how much of each ingredient, particularly the rice, to use.
  • Use a silicone sushi mat. One alternative to a bamboo mat is a silicone sushi mat. Some people prefer this because, for one thing, it is easier for them to wash. When you use a bamboo mat, you can sometimes get grains of sushi rice, which can be quite taxing to clean by hand. With a silicon mat, all you need to do is toss it in the dishwasher after you are done using it.


A bamboo mat can be very useful when you are rolling your own sushi, regardless of the exact type of sushi you want to make. Although there are other ways that you can make sushi, a bamboo mat is one of the best ways that a beginner can use.

Of course, you should keep in mind that making sushi with a bamboo mat can be challenging, like any new endeavor. You may not get it right the first time. However, with practice, you are likely to develop your abilities and eventually make a great roll of sushi.

Once you master the techniques, there’s no need to leave your house if you suddenly crave for some freshly rolled sushi.


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