Fish roe sushi temaki

Proper Way to Eat a Hand Roll (Temaki)

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Sushi is a Japanese dish that is made from a variety of ingredients (including seafood, vegetables and eggs) wrapped in vinegar-flavored, cold cooked rice and seaweed. It is widely favored in the East and gaining popularity at a rapid rate in the West.

What is the proper way to eat a hand-rolled Temaki? The best way to eat Temaki is immediately. The chef will place the Temaki into your hand or a hand roll rack. Do not put it on your plate or attempt to use chopsticks. It is meant to be eaten by hand in one piece right away, otherwise, the nori (seaweed) will lose its crispness, become soggy and be hard to eat.

There are so many varieties of sushi available on the market today. In this article, we will discuss one type in particular, Temaki, and the best way to eat it.


History of Sushi

Sushi was first invented around the year 1336. However, the classic version of what is considered sushi today was created by Hanaya Yohei, somewhere between 1818 and 1858 in Japan.  Wanting to serve sushi quickly to the busy EDO workers, he developed the ‘nigiri-zushi’ method. Sliced raw fish was salted and placed directly on top of a hand-formed ball of vinegar-flavored rice before being squeezed together. This was then served and eaten on-the-go!

It is believed he sold this revised version of sushi from a box that he carried on his back. As its popularity grew, he moved his operation to a stand before eventually opening a restaurant called Yohei Zushi in 1932 in what is now Tokyo.  If only Yohei knew then how popular and well-liked his creation would become in the modern world…

What is Temaki Sushi?

The word ‘Temaki’ is Japanese, from the root words ‘te’ meaning hand and ‘maki’ meaning roll. At first glance, it does not look like traditional sushi, as it is rolled into the shape of a cone (think ice cream). It is made of toasted ‘nori’, which is seaweed, and filled with slices of raw fish, cooked meat, egg roulade and vegetables.

The most popular fish used in Temaki include tuna, salmon, eel, crab, shrimp, and scallops. Common vegetables found in this sushi-type are cucumbers, green onions, carrots, radish sprouts, snow peas, avocados, shiso leaves, kaiware sprouts, bell peppers, and Japanese mountain yam. It is then typically served with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger, on the side.

For those who do not like the taste of raw fish in their Temaki, cooked meat can be used instead.  These include (but are not limited to) cooked chicken, grilled unagi (freshwater eel) and shrimp tempura. Other variations include using tropical fruits with (or instead of) the typical vegetable choices as well adding some Kewpie mayonnaise for flavor.

What is the Difference Between Temaki and Maki Sushi?

As mentioned above, Temaki is a type of sushi that is hand-formed into a cone shape with fish, rice and other ingredients wrapped inside seaweed. Unlike Maki, Temaki does not involve the use of a makisu bamboo rolling mat to create. It is a popular at-home version of sushi as it does not require any special tools or rolling techniques to make.

Maki is a type of sushi that also uses seaweed as a wrap for fish, rice and other ingredients. However, instead of being shaped into a cone it is shaped into a cylinder using a makisu bamboo rolling mat.  Once made, Maki is cut into six or eight pieces and then served. Unlike Temaki, a special rolling technique and a special sushi knife are required. For more information about maki, click here

How to Prepare Temaki Sushi

Preparing Temaki at home is easier than you may think. It is a fun food to make, alone or with friends. Below is a simple, twelve-step outline on how to prepare your own Temaki.

  • Wash and dry hands thoroughly. It is important to have very dry hands so that the nori (seaweed) does not get soggy during preparation.
  • Cook the rice and let it cool completely, you can have a look at my step-by-step guide here.
  • Chop the nori (seaweed) into large pieces using a knife to cut the sheet in half lengthwise.
  • Choose your vegetables and cut them into long, thin pieces.
  • Place the seaweed (shiny side up) in the palm of your hand.
  • Lightly moisten the other hand with water and place a thin layer or rice on one half of the seaweed
  • Sprinkle sesame seeds on top of the rice.  This is optional, but if done, will add extra flavor.
  • Lay a piece of raw fish in the middle of the rice
  • Put a piece of vegetable next to the fish
  • Roll the Temaki by squeezing your hand so that it starts to fold in on itself
  • Tuck the one end in and roll into a cone shape to finish
  • Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi and a side of soy sauce (for dipping)

Want to learn more about making your own Temaki roll? Then check out this article on Easy Homemade Sushi.

How to Eat Temaki Sushi

For traditional Temaki, the best way to eat it is by hand, immediately upon serving. The reason for this is to keep the nori fresh and crisp.  It is not cut into pieces, like other types of sushi. Therefore, it cannot be eaten on a plate with chopsticks, as it is just too large.

It is important not to overuse soy sauce as this will make the Temaki soggy and difficult to eat. Instead of pouring soy sauce over top, it is best to dip the Temaki into the shoyu and then eat it.  It is too large to consume in one big mouthful so it best to ‘dip and bite’, repeating this pattern until the entire Temaki is completely eaten.

Think of eating Temaki sushi the same way you would eat a taco.  Hold it in your hand and take bites until it is fully consumed.  Do not transfer the sushi from your hand to your plate as the ingredients (like a taco) can ‘fall out’ of the open end, leaving more food on your plate than in the roll!

Related Article: How To Eat Sushi In Japan (Sushi Eating Etiquette)

Related Questions

What is the difference between a hand roll and cut roll (maki)?

A hand roll (Temaki) is served and eaten in one piece whereas the cut roll (maki) is sliced into six or eight pieces and usually eaten with chopsticks. Temaki is served with the soy sauce (shoyu) on the side instead of poured over the top, like traditional sushi.

How is Tamaki like the taco party of Japan?

It has been said that Temaki is the equivalent of a taco party in Japan, “Family and friends come over and build their own.” Because of its unique open-ended cone shape, it is best to be held and eaten like a taco!

Is it considered rude to eat sushi with your hands?

It is OK to eat sushi with your hands. Sushi initially started out as a form of finger-food! Temaki sushi, for example, should be eaten with your hands.


As you now know from reading this article, there are different types of sushi and different ways to eat each type.  Many different ingredients are used to make sushi (such as Temaki) with the most common of these being seaweed, rice, raw fish and vegetables.

It can be just as much fun to make Temaki sushi as it is to eat it! Don’t be afraid to experiment. Try new fillings in your Temaki and you’ll likely be pleased with the results. Contrasting tastes and textures will excite the pallet, so go wild! Now, ‘Itadakimasu’, which essentially means ‘bon appetit’ in Japanese!

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