There are many forms of genius, and by that we mean there are infinite crust-sauce-toppings combinations. We sure intend to explore them all. But pizza is more than genius by design—it's sheer flavor brilliance.
What can compare to the harmony of savory tomato sauce, salty pepperoni, and creamy, melty mozzarella? Nothing, that's what. And we're just as keen on taking pizza's flavors to new dimensions. We’ve already taken the maki sushi roll and flattened it to a scrumptious sushi pizza, but now it’s time to roll up a pizza, sushi-style…Thus, grab your chopsticks and venture with us into the sushi dimension for a PIZZA SUSHI ROLL!
We've taken classic nori sheets, topped it with our own pizza-inspired sushi rice, and rolled it up full of classic pizza fare. Is it true sushi? Not quite. Is it delicious? Decide for yourself. If you’re so brave, give our Pizza Sushi recipe a try! But first, learn the truth about sushi and all the weird kinds of sushi out in the world. (Yes, even weirder than pizza sushi.)
Think You Know Sushi?
If you’ve checked out our sushi pizza blog, you already know a thing or two about the basics of sushi. But we’ll do a quick refresher. The word “sushi” doesn’t actually have anything to do with fish—it’s the short-grain sticky rice that’s seasoned with vinegar and accompanies the fish. And (brace yourself), the cream-cheese-stuffed rolls we know and love aren’t so traditional in the sushi realm... Traditional sushi is generally eaten like nigiri. the little mounds of rice topped with a thin slice of raw fish. Now here’s the kicker: nigiri isn’t meant to be eaten with chopsticks, but with your hands!
Mind blown? We’re just getting started. Those iconic sushi rolls we eat by the boatful are known as maki, or nori-maki-sushi. It’s especially popular in the U.S. because you can roll up just about anything inside of nori-maki—even pepperonis and mozzarella. (If you think about it, the maki roll and pizza are kindred spirits, with endless delicious variations.) But, the California roll with its imitation crab and avocado, or the Philadelphia roll with smoked salmon and cream cheese…these are clearly American inventions that have strayed from the Japanese sushi tradition.
Think Again. The TRUTH About Sushi
It’s time to forget what you thought you knew about sushi:
- Salmon and tuna are NOT traditionally used in sushi making! Both of these fatty fish are beloved sushi favorites in the States, but they spoil too fast to be a sound choice for a true shokunin (traditional master sushi chef). Instead, whitefish like halibut or snapper, clams, or raw octopus are more traditional choices!
- The fresh catch isn’t the best catch when it comes to sushi. Good sushi fish is generally a few days old at least! Why? The fish has to “age” to develop the umami (savory) flavor that’s so distinct in Japanese cuisine. Enzymes in the fish start breaking down muscle after it dies, which creates smaller flavor molecules that our tongue can detect more readily!
- You’re not supposed to use soy sauce. Whoops! Good nigiri should be brushed with nikiri, a sweet soy sauce glaze, and shouldn’t need any additional sauce or seasoning on our part. (That goes for wasabi, too! True sushi has some wasabi between the fish and rice, and adding more only takes away from the natural flavors.) At a legit sushi restaurant, you’d only use the sauce that the chef provides with your plate.
- The plastic grass in a take-out sushi box used to be real leaves! Not only did they divide the sushi pieces, but the leaves had antibacterial properties that helped the fish stay fresh longer.
- Pickled ginger isn’t pink. Naturally, it’s actually a pale yellow color. The bright pink pickled ginger we see served with our sushi has generally been dyed with either artificial colors or beet juice!
- Sushi used to be fast food in Japan. In the 1800s and early 1900s, sushi was popular in Japan as a street food, served from sushi stalls as a quick, on-the-go snack. It wasn’t until the mid 1900s that most stalls had turned into dine-in restaurants, after the destruction caused by the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake and then WWII.
And, spoiler alert: Pizza Sushi is not considered traditional Japanese cuisine. But it sure is a cool and weird idea!
Pizza Sushi Isn't the Weirdest
Pepperoni-and-cheese-stuffed sushi sounds pretty strange, but it’s only the tip of the weird, Americanized sushi iceberg. There are plenty more Japanese sushi dishes that will challenge even the most adventurous eaters:
- Namako: a dish of sliced sea cucumber tossed in ponzu sauce (plus, a natural remedy to help heal wounds and ease joint pain!)
- Shiokara: raw squid served with salted squid guts
- Kanimiso: crabmeat served with none other than crab brains!
- Fugu: the legendary blowfish nigiri, famous for its potential to be fatal if the fish isn’t sliced properly because blowfish organs contain a poison called tetrodotoxin, which is 1,000 times more deadly than cyanide! (Even when sliced properly, most people still get some fun numbness in tingling in the mouth after eating )
- Shirako: translates literally to “white children,” also known as “cod milt” on sushi menus, which is really just a nicer way of saying creamy, milky cod sperm…
- Giant Sushi: pretty self-explanatory, a newer trend of sushi roll that weighs 6 kg (over 13 pounds), is wrapped in 2 meters (over 6½ feet) of rice and seaweed, and is made with 20 different types of fish and veggies! Perfect if you and your friends are looking for a 15,000-yen feast and make a reservation 2 days in advance.
For a serious sampling of adventurous sushi, your best bet is to check out the kaiten “sushi trains” in Japan. Yes, conveyor-belt sushi is a very real thing. Grab a seat around the moving sushi train and grab whatever catches your eye. You might find a few strange sushi fusions, like “cheese hamburger nigiri” with a mini burger patty on top of sushi rice, or “salmon cheese nigiri” topped with with half-melted cheese and basil pesto. Or, you could encounter more daring dishes, like the deadly fugu or some raw horse meat and made nigiri…
When All Else Fails: Pizza Sushi Roll
We’re big believers in thrills of the taste buds. There are so many exciting foods and flavor experiences to be had across the world. And, who knows, maybe even raw squid or cod sperm would taste great on a pizza! If you’re curious to find out, both of these are actual pizza toppings you can find in Japan.
But, if you’re more hesitant, there are always the comfortable, cream-cheese-stuffed, Americanized sushi rolls that you can find almost anywhere across the U.S. And if raw fish isn’t your thing, not even the imitation crab meat of the California roll, we’ve got you covered. When all else fails, there’s always pizza—and in today’s case, pizza sushi. Give it a whirl!
Tomato-Flavored Sushi Rice
- 2 cups uncooked sushi rice
- 1½ cups water
- ½ cup tomato sauce
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
A big thank you to Alton Brown for inspiring this sushi rice recipe!
Pizza Sushi Roll Assembly
- nori sheets
- tomato-flavored sushi rice
- basil leaves
- shredded mozzarella cheese
- green bell pepper strips
- grated Parmesan cheese
And thanks to Allrecipes.com for teaching us how to roll sushi!
To make your tomato-flavored sushi rice:
- Place the rice into a mixing bowl and cover with cool water. Swirl the rice in the water, pour off the water, and repeat process 2 to 3 times or until the water is clear.
- Place the rinsed rice, 1½ cups of water, and ½ cup tomato sauce into a medium saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, uncovered.
- Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cover. Cook for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.
- Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Heat in the microwave on high for 30 to 45 seconds.
- Transfer the tomato-flavored rice into a large wooden or glass mixing bowl and add the vinegar mixture. Fold thoroughly to combine and coat each grain of rice with the mixture. Allow to cool to room temperature before using to make sushi or sashimi.
To assemble your Pizza Sushi Rolls:
- Place a sheet of nori on a bamboo sushi mat, a.k.a. makisu. (Gently fold/curl your nori to see which way it bends most naturally, then place it down that you will roll your sushi in the same direction that your nori naturally bends.)
- Layer 1 cup (you may need less) of your tomato-flavored rice on a sheet of nori. Spread rice out into an even layer across nori, leaving about ½ an inch border of nori on all sides.
- Near one edge of your nori sheet (the edge where you will start rolling your sushi), layer on your pizza sushi fillings: whole basil leaves, pepperoni slices, mozzarella cheese, green bell pepper strips, more pepperoni slices, and grated Parmesan.
- Using your sushi mat, begin to roll over the edge of your nori that’s closest to your pizza fillings. Let the edge of your nori roll into the center and gradually pull back your sushi mat as you roll. Continue rolling, making your roll as tight as possible, until you’ve reached the other edge of your nori and the roll is sealed.
- Cut your sushi roll into pieces using a serrated knife.
- Serve with chopsticks and tomato sauce for dipping, then EAT THAT PIZZA SUSHI!
Yields as many Pizza Sushi Rolls as you can roll.