Gunkan Maki is a Japanese sushi type that is essentially vinegared rice topped with seafood or vegetable and wrapped with a strip of nori seaweed. The word “gunkan” means “battleship” in Japanese, owing to the boat shape of this dish.
If you’ve ever had sushi, surely you are familiar with this dish. It is among the most popular types served in Japanese restaurants. However, you do not need to rely solely on a Japanese chef to enjoy this dish. You can prepare this dish at home using the gunkan maki recipe we share in this article.
Popular Sushi Types
Sushi is the iconic food whenever you think of Japan. Versatile, simple and delicious. The basic dish is made of three essential ingredients: vinegared rice, raw fish or seafood and nori seaweed. In addition, it is usually served and eaten with a side of soy sauce, wasabi paste and pickled ginger.
Before we start learning how to make the dish, we have to know that there are different types and how each one of them differs from the other. There are many variations to this culturally important dish - hosomaki, temaki, nigiri, gunkan maki.
- A very common sushi type that is cylinder-shaped.
- The words “hoso” and “maki” mean “thin roll”, which refers to small cylindrical pieces of this dish.
- Suitable for any beginners who want to make homemade sushi.
- Made by rolling seaweed nori, vinegared rice and topping ingredients with a bamboo mat.
- Casual, usually not served in very formal Japanese restaurants. Hence, it is a popular entry in sushi parties.
- Made by hand-rolling seaweed nori, vinegared rice and ingredients into a cone-shaped resembling a flower bouquet.
- The words “te” and “maki” mean “hand roll”, which points to how this treat is usually eaten using hands. This is because the shape makes it awkward for it to be eaten using chopsticks.
- Boat-shaped cube of rice with seaweed nori wrapped at the side and ingredients at the top.
- Popular in Japanese restaurants and one of the must-haves for soft toppings.
- The vinegared rice is hand-formed as a container and seaweed are wrapped at the side. The toppings are spooned in.
- A very common type that can be found in many Japanese eateries.
- Oval shaped with a slice of ingredients on top.
- Vinegared rice is moulded by hand and the topping is pressed by hand on top.
- The word “nigiri” means “to grab, hold or squeeze” which refers to the hand motion of the chef moulding the sushi into its shape using his fingers.
The legend has it that gunkan maki was invented in Ginza Kyubey restaurant in Japan back in 1941.
In essence, it’s purely a hand-formed clump of rice wrapped in seaweed topped with soft toppings - fish roe, tuna, or even oysters. This allowed the chefs to reduce wastage and make use of the soft toppings which would not be suitable for other types of sushi dishes.
Aptly translated as “Battleship Sushi”, this iconic Japanese dish is one not to be missed when eating out.
This dish has many health benefits if you are wondering.
Nori seaweed nori is with EPA, a type of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce the risk of heart disease. One single sheet of seaweed nori contains more EPA than a cup of chopped avocados.
Furthermore, the ingredients topped on the gunkan maki would add to its overall health benefits.
For example, if you add raw tuna chunks, the tuna fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids which healthy for your heart and brain. Moreover, it also contains minerals such as iron, potassium, B vitamins which are essential for a healthy body.
We would also recommend not consuming too much soy sauce with the meal to reduce your sodium intake.
How To Prepare
Did you know you can make this piece of heaven all on your own? The gunkan maki recipe is fairly simple and straightforward.
However, there’s a different level of how it can be prepared. It differs from the other types by:
- How it looks; and
- Type of toppings used
The signature boat shape is used to hold all the soft, loose ingredients that would otherwise be difficult to be included in types such as the nigiri-zushi which require whole ingredient cuts. Common types of ingredients used are fish roe, chunks of fish, squids, shellfish and even bits of corn.
The taste differs depending on the toppings. However, you’ll definitely get the umami flavouring of seaweed nori along with the freshness of vinegared rice with every bite.
Where To Buy Ingredients?
It is also not that difficult to get gunkan maki ingredients if you know where to look.
Ideally, you would have to source the toppings locally. This is because, fresh seafood is always the go-to choice compared to frozen goods. You can get the dry ingredients - sushi rice and seaweed at the nearest Asian supermarket or just order it online via Amazon.
Nishiki Medium Grain Rice, Sushi-expert choice
Kimnori Nori Seaweed Sheets
Gunkan Maki Recipe
- 1 cup sushi rice
- 1⅓ tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon Ikura (salmon roe)
- 1 tablespoon Tobiko (Flying fish roe)
- 1 tablespoon Salmon sashimi
- 1 tablespoon Avocado slices
- 1 tablespoon Corn
- 1 tablespoon Mayonaisse
- 1 tablespoon Wasabi optional
Preparing The Rice
- First, you have to wash the rice. Rinse it thoroughly.
- Add 1 cup of the washed rice to the pot and then add 1 and a half cups of water.
- Use a rice cooker and set it to cook.
- Let the cooked rice cool in the fridge after taking it out.
- While waiting for the rice to cool down, mix the salt, sugar and vinegar in a bowl. Stir to dissolve well.
- Take out the rice from the fridge and pour the vinegar mix evenly to it. Mix thoroughly but be careful not to crush the rice for the gunkan maki.
- Let the rice rest and cool down.
Preparing The Nori
- Measure the nori seaweed sheets to a height of 3.3 cm and cut. Make sure it’s long enough to wrap the rice horizontally.
Completing The Gunkan Maki
- Clean the cutting board with a dampened cloth to avoid the nori or the sushi rice sticking.
- Wet your hands with some diluted vinegar and take around 25 grams of the rice.
- Shape the rice into an oval.
- Wrap the side of the rice with strips of nori.
- Use a grain of rice as glue to stick the ends of nori together to seal the "battleship".
- Carefully fill the battleship with your desired toppings using a fork or spoon.
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
You can also refer to Umami Dream’s video guide on how to make this delicious dish at home.
Can You Store To Eat Later?
Gunkan Maki has to be prepared fresh and cannot be stored in the fridge. After a short amount of time, seaweed nori will get soggy and may ruin your eating experience as the topping may fall off.
Many conventional ingredients used for the toppings are also usually best served and eaten fresh. Hence, we do not recommend you to store it for future consumption.
I found garnishing some of the tuna or salmon gunkan with a bit of scallions really add to the flavour
Heres a tip - mix normal tuna with spicy tuna (from cans) as toppings; great combo for anyone wanting a spicy version