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Futomaki is a large colorful sushi roll which are made by Japanese families with many variations and styles for parties and bento boxes.  Below is the recipe that we have used for the Sebastopol World Friends’ Friendship Dinner over the past years with guidance of Julene Leach, a yonsei (4th generation) Japanese American, who learn the recipe from her mother Dorothy Shimizu. 

For the Friendship Dinner making Futomaki is an all hands on deck production as we make about 60 rolls cut into 8 pieces each or 480 pieces. We start assembling the rolls about 3 hours before the dinner but the rice and other ingredients are prepared earlier in the day or the day before. All ingredients including rice must be cooled before assembly.  We are thankful that Enmanji Buddhist Temple allows us to use their super big restaurant size rice cookers for the Friendship Dinner.

The portions below should make about 6-10 rolls.

Sushi Rice

  • Cook 3 cups short grained Japanese rice with a 4-inch square of kombu (dried kelp, optional).
  • Make a vinegar solution with ½ cup white vinegar, ½ cup sugar, 2 Teaspoon. salt (Alternatively you can use powdered vinegar as picture below)
  • Turn rice out into a large bowl (Japanese traditionally use a hangiri, wooden bowl)
  • Sprinkle the vinegar solution over the rice and mix slowly with a cutting motion (do not stir or rice becomes mushy). To make rice shine, fan the rice while mixing (this usually requires two people).
  • Taste the rice periodically to determine if more vinegar mixture is required.
  • Rice must be totally cool before assembling sushi rolls.

Futomaki Fillings

The Futomaki we make for the Friendship Dinner uses the following ingredients:

  • Carrots (simmered)
  • Cucumber strips (fresh)
  • Tamagoyaki strips
  • Marinated Shiitake mushrooms, and surimi (imitation crab sticks)

Other traditional fillings are:

  • Shrimp
  • Cod roe
  • Kanpyo (gourd strips)
  • Sakura denbu (seasoned codfish flakes)
  • Atsu age (deep fried tofu)
  • Shiso
  • Spinach
  • Takuwan (pickled daikon)
  • Sashimi

The selection of fillings should consider having a variety of:

  1. Color (ex.: yellow-egg, orange-carrot, red -crab, green-cucumber)
  2. Taste (sweet, sour, and salty)
  3. Texture (soft egg and crunchy cucumber)

Tamagoyaki (Egg omelet) strips

Making tamagoyaki is a skill many Japanese children learn at a young age and one I seem to have a problem mastering.  It takes skill to learn how to flip a thin egg crepe with chopsticks.  An alternative version of tamagoyaki involves making a thick omelet in a rectangular pan and then cutting up the omelet into strips.


  • 7-8 eggs
  • 2/3 cup dashi*
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sake
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 teaspoon salt

* Tsuyu, a concentrated Japanese soup base which contains fish dashi, bonito flakes, soy sauce and mirin is an easy cheat to Japanese cooking taught to me by one of my students years ago.  It may take some experimenting to get the proportions of sweet (mirin or sugar) and salty (tsuyu) to your required taste.


  • Mix all ingredients together until there are no signs of egg whites.
  • Lightly oil a frying pan (cooking spray is a good cheat).
  • Pour in ¼ of egg mixture to make a very thin egg crepe.
  • Flip the crepe gingerly when bubbles come to the top. (Challenge: do this with chopsticks, it takes practice 😉)
  • Make crepes with the remaining mixture oiling the pan as necessary.
  • Stack the crepes, allow to cool and cut into thin ¼ inch strips.

Marinated Shiitake Mushrooms

Traditionally made from dried mushrooms but equally delicious from fresh Shiitake if available.


  • 8 dry Shiitake mushrooms
  • 3 cups hot water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons mirin
  • 4 tablespoons sake


  • Wash the shitake and soak in hot water until soft (~30 minutes)
  • Cut off hard stems
  • Pour off mushroom water
  • Simmer the rehydrated mushrooms in soy sauce, mirin, sake and sugar* until most liquid has evaporated.
  • Let cool then cut into ½ inch slices
  • * Tsuyu can also be used in this recipe but add mirin or sugar to get a sweeter taste.

Simmered Carrots

Cut carrots lengthwise into ½ thick slices then into long thin strips. Simmer in water* until soft but not mushy (5 minutes).  Drain and cool be for using. * For more flavor use left over water from soaking the mushrooms or tsuyu.

Cucumber Strips

Japanese cucumber are long and have a thin skin. If you can’t find a Japanese cucumber, English or Persian cucumber are better than a standard American cucumber. If using an American cucumber remove the seeds and it will make the cucumber less watery.

Cut Cucumber in to ¼ inch thick long strips.


Each roll requires about 1 cup cooked rice, a sheet of Nori, your choice of fillings and a bamboo sushi rolling mat. The nori packet usually contain 10 sheets and it is almost impossible to keep the sheets crispy once the package is opened so commit to making 10 rolls at a time.

Place bamboo mat on a hard surface. Have a bowl of water for your hands and wetting the nori to close. Place nori on center of the mat, shiny side down (yes there are two sides to the nori!).  Spread rice gently and evenly over about 80% of the Nori. Leave about ½ -inch at the top. (See photo below.)

Place the fillings on rice 1 inch from the bottom. Start rolling the nori and mat together.  Lift the edge of the mat closest to you with both hands using your fingers to hold the fillings in place and rolling from behind with your thumbs. Bring the bottom rice together with the upper rice strip while pressing the fillings into the rice. Stop when the mat touches straight down leaving a small tab of nori at the top. Tighten up the roll by moving bottom of the mat away from the roll. Dab water on the upper tab of nori to glue the nori into place.  Roll on the mat to seal the roll.


The key to cutting a sushi roll is a sharp clean knife.  Use a cloth to continuously keep your knife clean.  Cut the roll in half.  Place two halves side by side then cut into 4 equal pieces (about 1-inch thick).

A perfect rolled sushi requires practice.  All the sushi fillings should be in the center of the roll and the rice to filling ratio should be about equal in cross section. Like making a burrito don’t over stuff the fillings or the roll will fall apart. If the nori pinwheels around the roll just know that it will taste the same as a perfect roll.

Many thanks to Julene Leach for sharing the Shimizu family recipes and helping us in the kitchen every year. Also endless gratitude to Enmanji Buddhist Temple and the Japanese American Citizens League of Sonoma County for letting us use the kitchen at Enmanji Temple for our Annual Friendship Dinner. 

Beth Lamb