Cold-Smoked Herring Bouzushi



Sushi is a great hot-weather food. The vinegar in the rice helps lift a sagging appetite and aids the digestion. Depending on the kind of ingredients you use, you can get away with using minimal heat in the kitchen (and if you cook the rice in a rice cooker, it hardly counts as using heat).

Contrary to the common image in the West, sushi does not require raw fish to be sushi. Actually, it doesn’t require fish at all. One of my absoluuuutely favorite sushi is nigiri topped with fried eggplant garnished with a bit of miso and chopped shiso leaf. And sushi comes in lots more forms than the finger-pressed nigiri. Besides the well-known nigiri-zushi, there’s maki-zushi, temaki-zushi, oshi-zushi, hako-zushi, chirashi-zushi, chimaki-zushi, and today’s topic: bou-zushi. (note: as a suffix, sushi becomes zushi.)

Bouzushi (literally “rod sushi”) starts out as a roughly tube-shaped length of pressed rice without filling and without a seaweed wrapper. I lay the seasoned rice out in the center of a piece of plastic wrap about a foot long, and alternately juggle and press gently down on the wrap till I get about a ten-inch rod of rice of even thickness, pressed just enough to make it keep its shape. Cookbooks may show you how to shape makizushi and bouzushi with a bamboo rolling mat, but I don’t usually bother. Plastic wrap is fine with me. Bouzushi doesn’t have to be round like maki-zushi, or as firm as box-packed hako-zushi, so you needn’t roll it too tight.

Basic ingredients:

cold-smoked sashimi-grade herring, 2 halves filleted
rice, seasoned for sushi (recipe follows)
green shiso leaves, 10~12

sushi rice:
Short-grained rice, 2 cups raw, cooked with a little less water than directions call for.
Commercially available sushi vinegar, starting with 2 Tablespoons and increasing as necessary (if sushi vinegar is not sold near you, simmer 3 &1/2 Tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 Tablespoon sugar, and 1&1/2 teaspoon salt together in small saucepan, then cool to room temp). If making your own sushi vinegar, it’s a good idea to cook your rice with a segment of dried kelp for added flavor.


Turn the cooked rice out into a large clean bowl. (Unvarnished wood is best, but glass or stainless steel is ok. Not anything that reacts to vinegar, though.) While lifting & turning the rice with a rice paddle or spatula, drizzle some of the vinegar mixture in a little at a time. Don’t use all the vinegar mixture. The lifting&turning motion of the spatula helps excess liquid to evaporate. Taste-test as you go, so you add only enough vinegar mixture to suit your taste. When the rice has cooled to room temp, construct the bouzushi. The longer the rice sits, the more clumpy it will become. If you must let it sit for a while, cover the bowl with a damp cloth.

If the herring fillets are very large or very thick, you may want to slice them lengthwise (at an angle) to make two even pieces out of one fillet. I had to do this with one of my two fillets, and ended up with three long pieces of fish.  So I laid 1/3 of the rice down the center of a large piece of plastic wrap and juggled and pressed it till the “rod” of rice was firm enough to keep its shape. Then I laid 1/3 of my shiso leaves across the top of the “rod” of rice. Over the shiso leaves I laid one of the herring fillets. Then I wrapped it all firmly in the plastic wrap. I repeated this with the remaining ingredients.



I let the wrapped bouzushi sit for a while until it was settled and firm enough to slice into bite-sized segments with a sharp knife. If the room is warm, you may want to put the bouzushi in the refrigerator for up to an hour. This will make it easier to slice.



4 Responses to “Cold-Smoked Herring Bouzushi”

  1. Your Blog’s RSS feed does not work properly in my own browser (google chrome) how can i correct it?

  2. Yikes, I’m as browser ignorant as they come. I’m sorry I don’t know the answer to your question, but I’ll ask around. I hope it gets corrected. I sure do appreciate your interest in this blog! 😀

  3. Woh. I think I could maybe manage this! Great!

  4. I learn something everyday! This sushi style is so interesting. So glad that I “met” you on twitter.

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