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not so special

Recipe: not so special roll

When Jeremy and I moved in together after I graduated from college, I cooked a lot… but I didn’t cook. There wasn’t much need to because we lived within spitting distance of more authentic ethnic dining establishments than I could shake a stick at. We were spoiled rotten. And all of the ethnic grocery stores in LA made it just as easy to get some of the homestyle goodies to take home and heat up. Very nice.

sushi rice

special nori from japan, courtesy of joyce

It was our move to Ithaca, New York that began my quest for “homemade”. Baking wasn’t the issue, it was the cooking. Despite the fact that most people I know gush about Ithaca, it was not my favorite place to live because the food was seriously… white. Some of it was really good (Aladdin’s, Maxie’s, Madeline’s, Collegetown Bagels, Four Seasons), but there wasn’t any authentic Chinese food, Mexican food, and the sushi – well, I thought it was outrageously priced and mediocre at its best.

10 count fresh dry scallops

maguro (tuna)

Most of my friends who love Ithaca know that I don’t. We’ll chalk that up to graduate school, which was a most stressful time in my life. I would wake up each morning for 6 years with my jaw clenched and aching. Cooking and baking were my stress relievers and it is no exaggeration when I say I baked thousands of cookies in my time at Cornell (I gave them away – because my workout regimen includes making everyone else fatter…). I also made an effort to reproduce dishes we used to get in Pasadena that we’d never find in Ithaca.

green onions, mayonnaise, sriracha, masago (fish roe)

That is when I began to research and experiment with recipes and expand my cooking repertoire. The only place in Ithaca I would purchase fish from was Wegmans. They had sashimi grade tuna! We used to go out for sushi at least once a week and sometimes as much as three times a week back in Southern California. When we had sashimi or sushi for dinner at home, it was simple – but it was a treat.

chopped scallop with mayo and masago

spicy scallop

Imagine our joy when we moved back to Southern California. We frequented our regular sushi joint in South Pasadena (Ai). I know the service is slooooow, but we always sit at the bar and we are tight with the chef. We’ve known him for well over a decade. One of the more elaborate cut rolls on the menu is the Special Roll. It has spicy scallop and spicy tuna with avocado and masago inside, rolled in nori and rice then wrapped in halibut. It is to die for. It is also incredibly filling. I began to ask Fumito for that roll, but without the halibut – we called it the Not So Special Roll.

removing the silver sheets

I paid closer attention to how Fumito prepared our sushi after we decided to move to Colorado. We had asked Fumito to consider moving Ai to Boulder, but we knew he’d freeze his butt off in the Centennial state.

tuna, green onions, mayonnaise

a little sriracha makes it spicy

Even though Boulder has a great selection of sushi bars, we still like to make our own sushi from time to time. It is always cheaper and a lot of fun to make. Jeremy seasons the rice while I chop and prep the rest of the components.

seasoning the rice

ripe avocado slices

I purchase my seafood from the Whole Foods in Boulder. They receive fresh shipments almost daily and their seafood has never let me down. It never smells fishy. It smells like the sea, the way it is suppose to. I’m picky about the fish or shellfish I select. Rather than being annoyed, the boys who work the counter are delighted – even running into the back to bring out a better selection for me to choose from. Love those guys.

pressing the rice onto the nori

ready to roll

One of the reasons we enjoy this roll so much is because of the smooth and creamy mouthfeel when you eat a piece. Another reason is probably because we can consistently get good maguro and scallops at Whole Foods.

plastic wrap keeps the rice from sticking to the rest of the universe

firm up the roll with the help of the bamboo mat

I’m sure we could easily request this roll at Sushi Tora, but there is a sense of satisfaction to be able to make a restaurant style meal at home for a fraction of the price. Now when we crave a particular dish, I can just put it on our menu instead of bemoaning the fact that we’d have to fly to California to get decent x, y, or z.

not so special, but so very delicious

Not So Special Roll
[print recipe]

2 cups sushi rice (uncooked)
2 cups water
3 tbsps rice vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsps sugar
1 package of sheet nori
1/2 lb. maguro (tuna)
1/2 lb. large fresh dry scallops (dry = no water injected)
6 tbsps masago (flying fish roe)
1/4 cup green onions, minced
3 tbsps mayonnaise
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced
Sriracha hot sauce (optional)
sesame seeds
soy sauce
gari (pickled ginger)

*bamboo mat

Rice: I use a rice cooker. Combine the water and rice and cook per the instructions on your rice cooker. If you don’t have a rice cooker, you can try these instructions (I’ve not done them myself): Wash, drain, and soak the rice in water for at least 30 minutes, then drain. Combine the rice and measured water in a saucepan and cover. Place the pan over moderately high heat. When the water boils, reduce the heat and cook for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the rice to steam undisturbed for at least 10 minutes (don’t remove the lid or you’ll ruin it).

Dressing: Combine the vinegar, salt, and sugar in a bowl and stir until salt and sugar are dissolved.

Sushi Rice: Wet a mixing bowl large enough for the rice. Wipe off excess water. Wet the tub a second time with vinegared water (1 cup water + 2-3 tablespoons vinegar). Wipe off any excess. Heap the cooked rice in center. Allow rice to cool in the tub for 10 minutes. Pour the dressing over the rice and mix the dressing evenly with a large spoon or rice paddle. While mixing, fan the rice to cool it. The rice is ready to use when it reaches body temperature.

Spicy Tuna: With a spoon or knife, scrape the tuna meat from the silvery lining. Discard the silver lining. Roughly chop the tuna and mix with 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise and the green onions. Add a little Sriracha hot sauce to taste.

Spicy Scallop: With a spoon or knife, roughly chop the scallops into pieces. Mix in 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise and 2 tablespoons of masago. Add Sriracha hot sauce to taste.

Assembly: On a sheet of plastic wrap, set down one sheet of nori. With wet hands, grab a handful of sushi rice and evenly spread across the top 3/5 of the nori sheet, pressing the rice down to ensure it sticks to the seaweed. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the rice. Flip the nori over so that the rice faces down onto the plastic wrap. At the non-rice end of the nori, lay out a thin line of the spicy tuna leaving a little room on either end. On top of that, repeat with a line of spicy scallop. Layer avocado and masago and extra Sriracha if you want more kick. While it is tempting, don’t overfill the roll. Roll the fillings up from the non-rice end of the nori (like a carpet) and continue to roll tightly, but not too tightly until the rice encompasses the entire outer part of the roll. Use the plastic wrap to help maintain shape without letting the roll stick to you. Use the bamboo mat to firm up the shape and compact the roll. Remove the bamboo mat and the plastic wrap from the roll. Dip a very sharp knife in water and cut the roll in half. Repeat until you have 8 pieces. Serve with wasabi, gari (pickled ginger), and soy sauce.

This makes at least 4 cut rolls. We usually make some hand rolls too, so it probably yields around 6-8 cut rolls in total.

52 nibbles at “not so special”

  1. Judy (Judy's Gross Eats) says:

    I wish I could take one right off the screen. Yum! I love scallops and tuna. Is that toro or something close to it? Perhaps I should make a trek to the nearest Whole Foods and see what I can find.

  2. kamaile says:

    Oh man! This sounds salivatingly fantastic. The photos are beautiful as usual, but I love the one of the tuna all by itself. I’ll take a chunk of that!

  3. Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy says:

    Holy crap! That roll looks pretty darn special to me! And those photos! I’ve never seen simple, unadorned seafood look so spectacular!

    I have made my own sushi at home a few times, and it is a lot of fun. I took a sushi class last year with Jaden and she showed me how to make maki rolls and hand rolls. My efforts are nowhere as pretty as yours, though.

    The chef at our fave sushi hangout makes a similar roll for us with the spicy tuna. We get the spicy scallops Gunkan-maki style. He calls them “special scallops”. It is my favorite of all!

    Now, I need to dust off my bamboo mat and find some dry scallops! ;)

  4. sharon says:

    We make sushi all the time at home but it’s never looked this special! :) Great job and deliciously fresh looking seafood!

  5. Manggy says:

    The rolls are totally special, even without the halibut (a fish I’m actually kind of meh about cooked, which might sound sacrilegious to you!). I feel the same way about being able to prepare food at home, but it’s more about the price than anything, since I don’t think I’m well-traveled enough to have experienced the best of anything. Desserts, usually, are overpriced and the ones being sold out do not excite me at all :)

  6. Kitt says:

    Wow, gorgeous. I confess, I’m a late appreciator of sushi, and it’s still not my favorite thing. But it looks so good that I keep going back to it, and gradually have come to like certain kinds (octopus is my favorite). I’ll bet I’d like yours.

  7. peabody says:

    It’s pretty and I can’t eat it. :(

  8. zoe / puku says:

    oh, man, now I have SERIOUS sushi cravings! I’ve never attempted the riceside-out rolls at home, only noriside-out ones, which seem safer (in terms of not loosing it/falling apart with our substandard rolling skills). will have to give it a go!

  9. Maja says:

    I have only once in my life eaten a great sushi, so i know it exists, everything else i have had since then was below the mediocre bar and it makes me resentful towards sushi. But you make it sound delicious again and i’m thinking about those wonderful sushi rolls i had 7 years ago (yeah, really!) … if i could only get my hands on sriracha sauce and masago here, but the chances are so slim it makes me cry … i guess i could order the sauce online and would just have to do without masago … oh, it would be a start! Thanks for making me want to go the sushi road again, my sister will thank you, too, she’s been asking me to make sushi for a year now!

  10. Erin says:

    That looks delicious… even at 7 AM. I miss good, affordable, sushi!

  11. Rosa says:

    Really pretty! Those sushi look great! I’m hungry now ;-P…



  12. Sherry says:

    No Kewpie mayo? T_T

  13. Fiona says:

    Love it. We made sushi here once, but it had to be veggie sushi because I just don’t trust the fish.

    It was great fun, though, and I’d definitely do it again. Yours looks great – many of my favorite things (avocado, masago, scallops…). I’m more a salmon girl than a mackerel girl, but I’d eat mackarel every sushi meal if it meant good sushi.

    Funny how few people make it at home, since it’s not hard. Lots of prep, then zip, zip, zip. Maybe not so perfect as at a good place (we never went to Ai, but went to a strip mall place out near Hastings Ranch), but pretty good.

  14. rose says:

    jen: thanks for revealing us the secret! i suspect that they put some hot sauce, just wasn’t sure which. now i know. before i thought it’s the korean hot pepper powder or some sort. oh kaweah’s cute little face make me want to take another puppy. it’s the cutest little black lab close-up!
    i definitely want to try this roll.

  15. Brian says:

    Really nice looking rolls. Never thought those silver sheets would come off so easy. Are you just pulling it or is there some knife work to get the sheet to come off so nice? Thank you for sharing.

  16. Cate says:

    Amazing! You make it look so easy!

  17. Jamie in Las Vegas says:


    Thanks for posting this, I’ve been dying to add one more roll into my sushi-at-home repertoire. About those scallops – when buying them, do I need to ask for “sushi grade” as I do with tuna or hamachi? Or will any scallop do?

    I have an AWESOME spicy tuna roll recipe, if you want it, let me know. It’s simple and really good.

  18. Rebecca says:

    yum! that looks so good. and i’m having the same problem with gtown – in order to get to any authentic restaurants, i have to take the metro to md, usually at least 40 minutes away. it’s disappointing.

  19. Jesse says:

    Excuse me, but that roll looks super special to me. I would gladly shell out the money for a bite of that… and you’re right of course, once you’ve lived in California, you’re pretty much spoiled for the rest of your life. I’m getting sushi withdrawals here in Oxford, and I’ve only been here for two months. =( But thank you for the food porn and the recipe! Now I just have to go scouting for fresh fish… grrrr.

  20. chez us says:

    Great post! You just reminded me that it has been about a year since I made sushi, hmmm, may have to break out our gear and give it a shot sometime soon. Your rolls look fantastic and I love the combination of fish. Thanks for the great recipe!

  21. maybelles mom (feeding maybelle) says:

    I have the same workout regime–most of my baked goods go to work for others.

  22. Lisa says:

    What on earth do you mean, “not so special”? Are ya nuts? That looks fantabulous and I want it NOW! :)

  23. Louise says:

    WOW that looks so good. I have tried making sushi at home but the seaweed always turn soft by the time I eat it. This recipe will work best because the seaweed is inside and it will get soft anyway. Thanks for this great recipe!

  24. Lori says:

    Your “not so special” looks pretty special. I have made sushi but not the kind with the rice on the outside. I need to make some again. I just love it. Sow ish I could bite into one of those, or two, or three…

  25. Mrs Ergül says:

    It gotta be very very satisfying bring able to replicate restaurant dishes at home! And doing it so well! You guys rock!

  26. Wandering Chopsticks says:

    My sushi doesn’t look nearly that good. And I was lazy. So after seeing this post, I ran out and bought some instead. :) Thankfully, your blog’s suggestive powers leaned toward healthy food today.

  27. Steph says:

    My sushi craving just acted up. I definitely took sushi for granted when I worked as a waitress at a sushi bar.. ahh. Yours looks absolutely gorgeous.

  28. Tony says:

    I visited Ithaca last weekend and made an obligatory pit stop at wegs!! so many memories there! I have NO idea where to find sashimi grade anything now that I live in DC :( I had this tuna tartar recipe that I would swear by in college and now I have squat. I did bring back with me grape leaves and cured Spanish chorizo, which I have trouble finding here, too.
    I agree with you in that the food scene, or lack there of, was a disappointment in Ithaca; but I sure miss the place. Especially the colorful foliage in the fall, sledding down libe slope in the winter (on a cafeteria tray, naturally), and swimming in the gorges come summer time.
    Your roll looks wonderful, Jen! the tuna alone looks gorgeous!

  29. Tartelette says:

    For a not so special roll that is more than I will ever do in that department! You are invited to cook not so special meals at our house whenever you feel like it!! Mouth watering!

  30. Nate says:

    That’s a pretty looking inside out roll. And spicy maguro! Color me impressed.

    Your exercise regimen includes making other people fatter LOL!

  31. Melissa says:

    Even my husband, who doesn’t like sushi, walked by when I read this post and said “those look awesome, she did a great job.” He has no idea who “she” is but the sentiment was cute. ;)

    And he’s right. GREAT JOB! I would love that in a hand roll, as I prefer them over cut rolls. Either way, yum.

  32. Het says:

    Oh my delicious! I have been unsuccessful at making sushi at home – so when I gave up I started making rice balls instead. This gives me the inspiration (and some of the tips of the trade) to maybe give sushi at home another try!


  33. Cynthia says:

    Yowza! You can sushi chef in the Ginza!

  34. Mollie says:

    That looks so perfect! All of my favorite sushi flavors and textures. Yum!!! I so hear you on the mouthfeel thing… that’s one of my favorite part. So, you’re gonna make that for me when I come over for dinner sometime in the next 20 minutes or so, right? :)

  35. jenyu says:

    Judy – oh, it’s just maguro. Toro is fatty tuna and they DON’T carry that in our Whole Foods :( I wish they did!

    Kamaile – thanks :)

    Susan – you’re sweet ;) OMG, you took a sushi class from Jaden? *jealous*!! I think scallops are the bees knees, babe!

    Sharon – thank you!

    Mark – I think this is a problem that plagues most good cooks. We get all excited to dine out and be wowed, but I think more and more we are disappointed because it’s not as good as we could make ourselves.

    Kitt – I love octopus too. I think my greatest dilemma is figuring out what to order since I can’t possibly fit ALL of it in my tumtum.

    Peabody – I’m sorry, hon :(

    Zoe – the inside out rolls aren’t all that hard if you have the right stuff (plastic wrap more than anything).

    Maja – I know masago isn’t easy to substitute for, but you could mince cucumber very fine for a similar crunchy texture?

    Erin – I miss the affordable part, for sure.

    Rosa – thanks!

    Sherry – I’ve never purchased Kewpie mayo, but see it in Asian grocery stores all the time.

    Fiona – I enjoy veggie sushi too. Futomaki is one of my favorites, but I have trouble getting the pickled gourd that I love so much. I’ll have to be more diligent about finding it here.

    Rose – It’s great if you can find fresh fish.

    Brian – it does require a little knife work, but once you have enough to grip with your hands (it’s slippery) you can peel it off.

    Cate – not me! It’s Jeremy rolling the sushi here :)

    Jamie – well, that’s something I am not sure about. I usually look for the large “dry” scallops (no water injected) and if it’s Whole Foods, then I trust them. I don’t think there is a sushi grade scallop. Don’t use the little frozen ones though – plaugh. You want the big fat gorgeous ones from a trusted fish monger. Would love the spicy tuna roll recipe! I have one (this one in the post), but I’m open to ideas!

    Rebecca – oh, 40 minutes doesn’t sound so bad. I have to fly 2 hours! ;)

    Jesse – oh, you poor thing!

    Chez Us – thanks :)

    Maybelles Mom – it’s all relative, right? ;)

    Lisa – :)

    Louise – yeah, I can’t make sushi fast enough except in handrolls to keep the nori crisp. *sigh*

    Lori – they’re awesome. I think sushi is so pretty too.

    Mrs. E – you’re such a sweetie. xxoo

    WC – pshaw! I’m sure your sushi looks great!

    Steph – lucky! That’s something I wouldn’t have minded… working at a sushi bar ;)

    Tony – you’re kidding?! DC should have some great places, no? Ithaca had some beautiful scenery, that is for sure. It was a lovely place to be in summer and fall especially.

    Tartelette – hmmm hmmm! Maybe I shall! :)

    Nate – hee hee.

    Melissa – that is hilarious ;) I like handrolls too – they are faster, easier. But cut rolls are good for sharing!

    Het – good luck, I hope you try it and meet with success.

    Cynthia – ;)

    Mollie – yes, hell yes! Come on over. Kaweah will be waiting at the door for ya.

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  37. Paula Pereira says:


    Thank you so much for the recipe, I really am going to make this soon. I just have a couple questions, I got confused in the part before adding the vinegar mixture to the rice. Are you saying to pour water and vinegar to clean out the bowl and then dump out the water and wipe the bowl clean? If you could just explain that to me, thanks so much!

    everything looks great, yummy, I love sushi:) You ever watch Shota no sushi, google it and watch the videos, it is really fun!

  38. jenyu says:

    Paula – I think you want to “wet” the bowl, but you don’t want a standing puddle in the bowl. It helps to keep the rice from sticking too much to the bowl.

  39. Dana Zia says:

    Holy Fisheggs Batman! I will follow you anywhere and drool while I’m doing it! Yum yum. Thank you for this great recipe on one of my favorite rolls!

  40. Dani says:

    Thanks for the recipe! Pictures look great!

  41. Dave says:

    Awesome!!! Question, though. When you deal with the scallop portion of the roll, do you cook the scallop? If so, by what means? Bake, boil, sear? Thanks for the inmsight– can’t wait to try it!

  42. jenyu says:

    Dave – nope, it’s raw.

  43. Sara Christiann says:

    This looks too good to be true… Another scallop question: I live in Austin, TX home of the Wholefoods Flagship store. Can I just walk up to the seafood case, ask for fresh bay scallops and then take them home and eat them raw? It’s such a novel idea I almost don’t believe it…

  44. jenyu says:

    Sara – well, I’m guessing yes because that is what I do. However, it’s best to check with your fish monger at WF first to just make sure it’s cool! :) I have never had problems so far, but best to be safe. xo

  45. Meghan H says:

    Where do you find your masago?

  46. jenyu says:

    Meghan – you can usually find it in the frozen section of an Asian grocery store.

  47. Corina says:

    “because my workout regimen includes making everyone else fatter” Is officially my favorite quote of the day . Thank you so much for all of the great recipes.

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