Why Your Sushi Falls Apart and What to Do About It

Sushi is a dish made by forming rice into either a roll or a small block, but what happens if it keeps falling apart?

Why won’t sushi rice stick together? The most obvious answer is that you are not using real sushi rice. If you were, it would not be falling apart at all. Another reason could be that you have washed the grains too many times and this caused them to lose their starchiness. It could also have to do with your knife, your tools, or your method.

Making sushi is a delicate procedure that careless actions can easily degrade. This is why it is always a good idea to learn about its process and its ingredients first.

What Causes Sushi to Fall Apart?

There are a lot of factors that go into why sushi may fall apart and it doesn’t just have to do with the rice itself. Too many amateur sushi makers make the mistake of assuming that they can just get by without the right tools and information. However, this is just not the case.

As to some of the most common reasons why your sushi keeps falling apart, you can take a look at the following:

·         Wrong rice

·         Stale rice

·         Too much washing

·         Wrong process

·         Wrong equipment

·         Bad methods

It’s also worth noting that when it comes to rice, not all of them are the same. The table below should provide you with a good idea as to what the difference is between the different types of rice:

Long grain riceThe most commonly used type. Long, thin grains. Used for pairing with Asian or Mexican dishes. Low in starch.
Short grain riceShort, stubby grains. High starch content. Higher adhesive qualities.
High-starch riceShort and incredibly white. It contains highest starch content. Used only for delicacies and desserts that require high stickiness. Also called sticky rice.
Wild riceRice found in mountainous regions in Asia. It comes in different colors. It contains more nutty taste and aroma.

As you might have noticed there, the short grain rice is definitely the most suitable for making sushi because it falls right in the middle between long grain rice and high-starch rice. This means that you can reasonably use it for everyday meals while still being able to retain its shape when molded.

This brings is to the points made already. Basically, when you buy long-grain rice, you are dealing with grains that have much lower starch content than necessary. This does not automatically mean that the sushi will fall apart, but the chances of it happening go up.

It’s also possible that the rice has become stale. When this happens, it is no longer capable of absorbing as much water, which means that it has less capacity for gelatinization. With this being the case, the grains won’t stick to each other, as much.

Washing the rice too many times can also be an issue. A common misconception that a lot of people have is that rice water needs to be completely clear before it can be cooked. This is just not the case. The purpose of washing the rice is to just get rid of the more obvious dirt and debris, and when you wash it too many times, it will lose a lot of its surface starch.

Then there are the wrong slicing methods, dull knives, and substitute sushi rolling mats that you might be using. These can all cause issues with regards to making sushi.

How Does Sushi Rice Stick Together?

As already discussed, high starch content is what basically makes rice stick together. However, it’s not just that when it comes to making sushi. Temperature is also really important in this matter because even if the rice initially sticks together, they can still fall apart later on.

Perhaps it’s best to start this particular discussion by talking about how rice cooks, in the first place. Simply put, when the heat is introduced, the starch molecules in the rice are activated so that they become more amenable to absorbing moisture. When you put water in the pot, the rice grains will then begin to sponge up that water to double in size, as well as to soften up.

This process is basically what activates the adhesive properties of the rice. This is why rice made with too much water becomes akin to glue. As such, the key to making good sushi rice is to control your water content.

Once the rice is cooked, it’s very important to add the flavoring to the rice while it is still steaming. This is to encourage the absorption of the flavor while still maintaining stickiness. When you add the flavoring when the rice is already cold, it will interfere with the adhesion, thus making the rice fall apart.

How to Choose the Right Sushi Rice?

If you want to make sure that you are working with the rice sushi rice, the easiest thing to do is to read the package carefully. It must not just read “rice.” Ideally, it should read “Japanese sushi rice.” If it just reads “sushi rice,” that is fine too, but you are not getting the best quality.

The importance of making this a priority when shopping for rice is because too many rice out there is coming from different places other than Japan. The Japanese rice farmers put a lot of emphasis on breeding the right qualities in their grains, so when it says “Japanese sushi rice,” it is rice made exactly for the purpose of making sushi.

With this being the case, you won’t have to worry as much about messing up during the cooking process. It is worth pointing out that long-grain rice has been used to make low quality sushi in poorer places. However, the resulting structure is just too loose for any true sushi aficionado to appreciate. This can even put you at risk of inhaling the rice grains and that is never pleasant.

Related Questions

How Do You Make Sushi Stick Together?

First, you need to get the right type of rice for making sushi, which should ideally have the words “sushi rice” on the label. Then, you need to cook the rice the right way so that the grains absorb just enough water to completely puff up but not too much that they become inseparable.

Which Side Goes Up On a Nori Sheet?

When making sushi roll where the nori is outside, the shiny side should be facing outward while you place the rice on the less shiny side. If you are making sushi where the rice is on the outside after being rolled, you do the opposite and spread the rice on the shiny side.

How to Properly Prepare Sushi

If you are going to prepare sushi in a way that will make sure it doesn’t fall apart, you want to start with the rice choice in rice. That has already been discussed above. You will also want to cook it with the right amount of water. In most cases, the ration will be 1:1.5. This means that for every one cup of rice, you put in one and a half cup of water.

Once the rice is done cooking, you will then transfer the steaming grains into a glass bowl and then add the flavorings while it is still hot. Make sure to mix thoroughly and then leave it alone to cool down. Once at room temperature, you can start working with the rice or you can cover it with clear film and then put it in the refrigerator.

If you are going to start making the sushi, make sure that the rice is at room temperature. The colder the rice gets, the less sticky it becomes due to moisture. With that being the case, you will want to work fast when you are spreading the rice on the nori sheet and then rolling it.

The more time it takes to finish the process, the higher the chance that the rice will fall apart. You should also make sure to spread the rice evenly throughout the sheet and that you are not putting too much or too little. You might need to practice a few times to get this right.

Finally, you need to use an exceptionally sharp knife to slice the sushi rolls. There is no getting around this. If your knife is too dull, don’t even bother making rolls.

Why Speed in Sushi Making is Important

Speed is incredibly important in making sushi for a few reasons, but the main ones have to do with freshness and structure. The faster you work, the fresher the sushi will be when consumed by you or anyone else. This preserves the flavor, texture, and appearance.

The second reason is simply making sure that the rice actually sticks together. The slower you are, the more the moisture will set with the nori and the rice. This takes away some of the stickiness and can even cause your nori to become too soggy to roll properly. 

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