Smelt and Shiso Rolls

Siblings can be so similar and yet so different. This is true also of maki (sushi rolls). You have met Futomaki, the fat younger brother. Today, you will get to meet the thinner elder brother, Hosomaki. They both have the same nori (seaweed) wrapping on the outside and a layer of vinegared rice on the inside but one is plump and juicy while the other is slim and willowy.

Futomaki can be showy with several types of filling surrounded by a generous band of pearly white rice. As such you cannot have too many on your plate. Hosomaki, on the other hand has strength in numbers as they are usually clustered together. They stand tall and elegant with a single distinct filling.

Smelt and Shiso Rolls

However, do not underestimated Hosomaki as its seeming simplicity is a delight in itself. One really gets to taste and savor that single filling. The thin layer of rice is sufficient to complement and not over-power the filling. Furthermore, a piece of hosomaki is just the right size for a mouthful without having to compromise one’s lady-like poise by having to contort the mouth to accomodate Futo-Chang and earn an “enduring” scowl from the otherwise zen-like sushi chef.

Smelt and Shiso Rolls

Smelt is a late spring and summer fish. Fortunately, I get to buy dressed smelt (without heads) at my local grocery store at this time of the year. They are slim salt water fishes about six inches in length and are usually fried or grilled and eaten whole. The Japanese variety can be found year round in the frozen section of the Korean markets here in the Twin Cities. Korean markets fill the niche for Japanese products since there are no Japanese markets here.

Perilla or shiso has a slightly spicy and minty taste. It combines really well with smelt. When rolled around the smelt, it provides a nice contrast with the white sushi rice. The Korean sesame leaves have a similar flavor and may be used in place of shiso.

Smelt and Shiso Rolls

Recipes with kombu usually have it added to the vinegar while being heated to melt the sugar and salt. I prefer to add the kombu to the rice while it is being cooked as the vinegar tends to over-power the kombu’s subtle taste. I do not heat my vinegar as stirring it is sufficient to melt the sugar and salt.

Hosomaki uses only half a sheet of nori (seaweed). The layer of sushi rice should be thin and even and the filling slim and neat.

Hosomaki – Thin Sushi Rolls

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 8 thin rolls

Hosomaki – Thin Sushi Rolls


  • 8 smelt or shishamo, dressed
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 4 sheets of nori, cut into half
  • 16 perilla, shiso, or wild sesame leaves
  • Soy sauce
  • Wasabi (optional)
  • Pickled ginger (optional)
  • Sushi Rice
  • 2 rice cooker cups* or 1½ cups (300g) medium grain rice
  • 1 piece 2-in x 2-in kombu, wiped with damp paper towel
  • Vinegar Mixture
  • 4 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2½ tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt


Rinse and pat dry smelt with paper towels. Lightly sprinkle with some salt. Add oil to a non-stick pan and fry smelt about 4 minutes on each side until cooked. Alternatively, place smelt on a parchment lined pan. Drizzle with oil and broil in a toaster oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Time may vary depending on the oven.

When smelt is cool enough to handle, split fish into half lengthwise. Remove center bone. Set aside.

Wash and drain rice 4 to 5 times in rice cooker pot insert. Cover washed rice with water and allow it to soak for 20 minutes. Drain rice.

Pour water into rice cooker insert until it reaches the 2 cups level or approximately 1¾ cups (420ml) water. Wipe the outside of the pot insert dry and place into cooker. Drop in the kombu and press the cook button. Just as water is about to boil, remove kombu. Place the lid back on and allow rice to continue cooking. When rice is cooked, unplug the cooker and allow rice to sit for 10 minutes before handling.

Combine vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Stir until sugar and salt dissolve.

Transfer rice to a moistened sushi barrel or large shallow bowl. Pour vinegar mixture evenly over the rice. Gently mix in the vinegar mixture with a rice paddle in a cutting motion. Do not mash.

Turn the rice with the paddle and fan as you go along. This will help the rice absorb the vinegar and give it a glossy look.

Place a sushi mat on your work surface. Then place half sheet nori with shiny side down onto mat, lining with the edge of the mat closest to you. Moistened your hands and spread a thin layer of vinegared rice with the help of the rice paddle onto nori, leaving about 1 inch of nori at the far end. Create a thin ridge at the far end to prevent filling from spilling forward when rolled.

Place 2 shiso leaves overlapping each other on work surface. Place 2 halves of smelt on the leaves. Roll the leaves tightly over the fish. If smelt is too thick, you may have to trim it down a little.

Line up fish and shiso roll in the center of the rice.

Holding down the filling with your fingers, lift the mat with your thumbs, rolling forward until the edge of the mat touches the top of the ridge. Firmly squeeze the mat and continue rolling forward while retracting the mat backwards so that the seam of the nori is at the bottom.

Finally, place the top portion of the mat firmly over the roll, curl fingers and squeeze mat to compact the roll. Repeat until all rice is used up.

Moistenend knife and slice each sushi roll into 5 thick slices.

Serve with soy sauce, a small dollop of wasabi, and pickled ginger.


1 rice cooker cup is equivalent to ¾ regular cup.

Smelt and Shiso Rolls

I was able to make eight rolls with the amount of rice cooked. I kept one roll (uncut) wrapped in plastic shrink wrap for Ro-Ri San’s bento. Not shown here were the instant miso soup and dessert.

Hosomaki Bento

Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day! 8-)