Sushi – Uramaki and Gunkanmaki

Sushi is probably the most widely recognised national food of Japan and it was said to be one of the healthiest food in the world. Originated in Southeast Asia, sushi was spread to southern China before settled down in Japan. Until about 400 years ago, the sushi cuisine disappeared totally in Chinese cuisine and cooking books but remained active and popular in Japan. The are many varieties of sushi dishes but today I’ll be talking about the two I love the most, Uramaki and Gunkanmaki.


Uramaki – Uramaki is the kind of sushi that has the rice on the outside or we can call it “inside-out role”. It normally has two fillings wrapped inside a nori/seaweed sheet with a layer of sushi rice on the outside. Some of them have toppings on the outside of the rice.

Grilled eel uramaki

Gunkanmaki – Gunkimaki is the type of sushi we normally see in Japanese restaurants as “XX ship” or we can call it “warship roll”. This type of sushi consists of sushi rice, nori wrap and all sorts of toppings such as roe, oyster and seaweed.

Seaweed gunkanmaki


What’s essential in making sushi is the sushi rice. I use Kokubo sushi rice as it has a mild taste and strong aroma. 

Ingredients for preparing sushi rice

2 cup rice

3 tbsp Japanese rice wine vinegar

3 tbsp sugar

Cooking Advice for sushi rice

After the rice is cooked, add the above amount of rice wine vinegar and sugar to the rice while it is hot. Make sure you keep stirring the rice until it cools to room temperature. A secret here is to add sugar with vinegar because this can create slight sweetness in the rice while maintaining the amount of sourness. I learnt this from a multi award winning sushi chef from Japan many years ago.

Once the rice is settled, you are pretty much ready to be on the road of making good sushi dishes.

Steps for making Uramaki

1. Cut the rectangular seaweed nori sheet into 2 halves. Each half will be adequate to make 1 sushi roll.

2. Warp your bamboo mat with cling wrap and hence you don’t have to clean the mat after making a mess. :P. Place the halved nori sheet on the end of the bamboo mat near you as shown below.


3. Place a handful amount of rice on to the nori sheet.


4. Spread the rice evenly with your hand. You can have a bowl of water on the side in case that the rice is very sticky.


5. Flip the nori sheet so that the nori part is facing towards you.


6. At the end near you, about 1/4 length of the nori sheet, squeeze in a line of Kewpie Japanese mayonnaise.


7. On top of the mayo, place and evenly spread several pieces of fresh salmon. In this post, I am using raw salmon as an example. You can use any filling you like, such as smoked salmon, avocado and so on.


8. Roll the bamboo mat around to fully cover the first half of the nori sheet tightly and then roll again to make a tightly enclosed sushi role. If you are precise enough, your roll should appear somewhere near the center of the



9. Now you have finished making a basic uramaki roll. The next step is to add that extra outside layer. There are several options. You can just dip the outside with some sushi seasonings. This type is easy as after dipping, you can cut the sushi roll into sushi pieces and enjoy straight away.




10. Or if you want the harder option, you can top the uramaki roll with sliced eel or avocado pieces.



11. Now, the key step is to cover the roll with cling wrap and slice through the cling wrap to cut the sushi into pieces. In this way, you are avoiding heaps of messing around and can get perfect shaped uramaki.


12. Then, you can add herring roe to the avocado uramaki and top with Japanese mayo or add the takoyaki sauce to the grilled eel uramaki

Grilled eel uramaki

Avocado uramaki



Now, once you know how to make uramaki, the gunkanmaki is easy to make.


Steps for making Gunkanmaki

1. Cut 1 nori sheet into 4 equal strips. Each strip is adequate to make 1 piece of gunkanmaki. Cut 1/4 off each strip so that the rest 3/4 of the strip can fit the rice in.

2. Wet your hand with water. Grab a half hand amount of sushi rice and reshape it to a cuboid shape.








3. Wrap the rice in step 2 with the nori strip make in step 1.





4. To fully enclose the nori strip, add two pieces of sushi rice near the top and the bottom of the nori closure.





5. Now, you can add your favourite topping to the “ship” and enjoy. The followings are some of the ones I added before.


Herring roe gunkanmaki



Seasoned seaweed gunkanmaki



Kangaroo Island purple sea urchin roe gunkanmaki




Next coming up in the Basic Japanese food guide is Japanese light cheesecake! Stay tuned!


17 thoughts on “Sushi – Uramaki and Gunkanmaki

      1. Thanks! These sushi are not hard to make and are delicious and tasty. I am thinking to experiment salmon and tuna belly sushi at the moment. Just need to find the tuna belly.


  1. I have been wanting to learn about making sushi for ages! Thanks. will go to the market today and try tonight! Cheers~


  2. what a fabulous write up 🙂

    I love spicy raw tuna, salmon as my main go-to’s
    my concern when buying it, is that the rice is very sweet. I think this can be easily make with better taste.

    if making with nori … do you have a particular brand?
    PS – Kewpie Mayo is so addictive!


    1. For Nori, I use the one from Coles. Can’t remember which brand it was. Definitely not Pandaroo. I hate that brand! The ones in Little Tokyo in central market were good too~~

      The rice, if you only add vinegar with no sugar, would give a refreshing feeling too, just without the sweetness. ~_~


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