Gear up for summer with the perfect picnic food—hoba-zushi

Hoba-zushi, a variant of sushi, was traditionally eaten for lunch by rice farmers. Wrapped in large, fragrant hoba leaf, it is a convenient, portable, and hearty meal. Sushi rice, grilled fish, and wild vegetables are the usual ingredients, but sometimes egg is used as well. Today's recipe uses line-caught chargrilled ocean trout from the Nagara Riverwhere ocean meets the mountain stream water of snowy Gifu prefecture!

This is a great summer dish, as the fish can be barbecued on your outdoor grill. My NYC friends, Sean and Noriko Sakamoto, shot a video of me making hoba-zushi right on the rice paddy.With hanami (cherry blossom viewing) just around the corner, learn how to make hoba-zushi to bring to any picnic this spring and summer.  I suggest you watch the video and then get to work!


Serves 8-10


  • 400g Nagara satsukimasu trout (or salmon or ocean trout) deboned fillet with skin
  • 80g warabi (bracken, alternatively julienne cucumber)
  • 200g bamboo shoots (boiled and rinsed)
  • 10 kinome leaves (baby leaves of Japanese pepper tree, you can substitute fresh dill or mint)
  • 10 large fresh hoba leaves (or banana leaf)
  • gari as needed (sliced ginger blanched in salted boiling water and pickled in sweetened vinegar)

     For sushi rice (A) to learn the proper method of washing and draining rice, watch this video!

  • 5 cups Japanese short-grain rice (washed, rinsed, drained)
  • 5 and a half cups water
  • 5g konbu (dried kelp)
  • 1 tablespoon sake

     For sushi vinegar (B)

  • 180ml rice vinegar
  • 120g sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt

     For shiitake (C)

  • 4 sundried shiitake mushrooms (soaked in water overnight or until soft)
  • 1 cup shiitake-soaked water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce


  1. Combine (A) and cook rice in a rice cooker.
  2. Salt fish fillet liberally and grill. Break grilled fish into cherry petal size flakes.
  3. Wash dried shiitake mushrooms in cold water. Soak dried shiitake in water overnight (or until tender), remove stem and discard. Cook shiitake in soaking water (C), skim the froth and add sugar and soy sauce. Keep cooking on medium heat until the water is almost gone. Slice cooked shiitake finely.
  4. Cut bamboo shoots into strips and dice into small bits.
  5. Put chopped bracken and diced bamboo shoots in sushi vinegar (B). When using julienne cucumber, do not soak in sushi vinegar. Place them on sushi rice before wrapping with hoba leaf.
  6. Mix fish flakes, warabi, bamboo shoots and shiitake with the freshly cooked sushi rice and place one serving of mixed sushi rice on a hoba leaf and wrap.
  7. Steam on high heat for about 5 minutes. If eaten immediately, steaming is not necessary.
  8. Unwrap and top with a kinome leaf and pickled ginger slices and serve.

Make sure to check back soon, as next time on the blog I will be sharing the Ozeki's authentic dashi recipes. Dashi, a basic stock, is a staple of Japanese cuisine, and I'll be sharing both ichiban and niban dashi recipes. See you soon! 

copyright © 2013 Shuji Ozeki