Using Sushi To Roll Through Lockdown

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Words: Leo Smith (He/Him)

Lockdown in student accommodation was an odd period in that the rest of the country forgot we existed. They were dealing with the deadly consequences of a global pandemic, and while we went through our fair share of chaos, it was mostly a blessing to live in a student bubble far away from the devastation taking place in the real world. 

However, what we did have to deal with was unadulterated boredom, flat implosions, and police raids over dinner, all of which triggered a depressing amount of drinking. Coping methods were hard to come by, but luckily my flat found ours in the preparation of food. I cooked, and we ate together most nights in a remarkably wholesome manner (by student standards). 

Any excuse to cook a ton of food and then celebrate was taken and includes: Dia de los Muertos, National Estonia Day, Chinese New Year, Thanksgiving, Christmas, pub opening day, Burns Night, St Patrick’s Day and pretty much every single block member’s birthday.

This is how we uncovered sushi. When a friend rolled us all some on my birthday, one beady eyed flatmate saw the business potential. Despite the slight mysticism surrounding its creation, with a little organisation, it’s surprisingly easy to make (plus has excellent profit margins). We decided to avoid selling traditional sushi due to both cost and the risk of making someone ill. Therefore, we stuck to mostly vegan sushi to avoid such risks. 

We made an Instagram with a link to an order form, did some promo and before we knew it, had 40 orders…

I think we all learnt a valuable lesson in prior preparation on that first “Sushi Sunday”, as it was, for lack of a better phrase, a colossal fuckery. The rice was undercooked and rolling took much longer than expected and so we ended up serving crunchy sushi at around 9PM on a Sunday, when we had promised to have boxes out by 6PM. It was an incredibly stressful way to spend a hungover, and we felt slightly embarrassed at our failure but c’est la vie.

Although our order numbers dropped significantly the following week, we continued until the end of term, a total of 12 weeks, and, by the end, we had a loyal fan base and had honed our skills. Some weeks went more smoothly than others, often based on how many flatmates felt capable of getting out of bed, but it became slightly addictive and made us feel genuinely productive – a rarity in lockdown. The profits went towards cooking flat meals, stocking the cupboards and occasionally, as the one who did the shopping, buying beers for myself.

Based on our experiences, I can now provide a plan for how to organise your very own Sushi Sunday and offer some suggestions for fillings. Most of our recipes relied on seasonal winter vegetables, but, based on our experiences, I’ve listed the best bits and bobs that will allow you to roll your own nori in a more outdoorsy and relaxed style. 

Firstly, I would like to note that sushi works best in larger quantities and with a few special assistants to help you out. Organise to do it with some friends or family, and it’ll be miles easier and tons more fun.

Manual to a Sushi Meal 

Key basic ingredients. The fillings you can pick and choose

  • Sushi rice
  • Nori seaweed. For rolling
  • Rice wine vinegar

Sushi rice

Key info:

2 cups of sushi rice will make around 5 rolls (6-8 maki pieces per roll)

Ratio of 1:1, rice to water


  • Rinse rice about 5 times then strain
  • Combine water and rice at a 1:1 ratio
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low heat for 15 mins. DO NOT OPEN THE LID
  • Turn off heat but leave covered for an additional 15 mins

Meanwhile prepare the sushi seasoning

Slowly simmer: 

  • 125 ml rice wine vinegar 
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp mirin. Optional

When the rice is done, combine with seasoning.

Lay rice out on baking tray to cool.


Grill/roast or BBQ

Roasted peppers: Grill them whole until the outsides are burnt. Cool in a covered bowl then remove the skins.

Grilled vegetables, grilled in larger slices then cut into smaller slices for ease of rolling: Aubergines, courgettes, asparagus, peppers, sweet potato, carrots, pak choi, broccoli, large flat cap mushrooms.

You can also boil/steam these vegetables.

Some quick pickled veg

Preferably prepare the night before (or up to 2-3 weeks prior) but, if in a pickle, just a few hours before will do.

Bring 1 cup of vinegar (distilled or rice wine), 1 cup water, 4 tbsp brown sugar, 3 tbsp salt to a simmer (optionally add a bay leaf and a few peppercorns)

Use this as brine for thinly sliced: 

  • Radish
  • Carrots (parboiled for 2 mins)
  • Cucumber 
  • Onion
  • Roasted peppers

Quick and easy sauces

Some of these will need thinning out with boiling water. 

Enhance with ginger, garlic, chillies and spices like; coriander, 5 spice, sichuan peppercorns.

  • Peanut butter thinned out with; soya sauce/fish sauce and black/distilled vinegar 
  • Toasted cashews blended with soya sauce. Hoisin sauce
  • Black bean paste
  • Sriracha mayo
  • Sweet chilli sauce
  • Sesame sauce (tahini and soya sauce)

Additional bits and bobs

Fried tofu strips/cubes- fry until golden. 



Crushed peanuts/cashews

Cooked mushrooms


Fried onions


Caramelised carrots (thinly slice, parboil for 2 mins, oven roast at 200℃ with a splash of vinegar and a sprinkle of sugar for 15-20 mins)

Spring onions

Sesame seeds

Assemble all your components. It’s time to roll!

It’ll be easier to understand the rolling process by watching a video so below is a QR code for a brief but solid tutorial. Mix and match fillings in any way that you’d like and either chop the rolls into pieces or eat them like burritos. 


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