Is Leftover Sushi Okay?
Thoughts on sushi leftovers
How long can I keep my sushi? This question, along with several variations (can I keep sushi in the refrigerator like they do in grocery stores; what can I do with leftover sushi rice) is something that I am often asked. Before I give my answer, please keep in mind that although some sushi may contain raw seafood, sushi does not mean raw fish. Sushi is a word that refers to a dish made with vinegar dressed rice. Sometimes the seafood for sushi is cooked, sometimes it is not. Sometimes there is no seafood at all. With those things in mind, my short answer is that sushi containing vegetables or fully cooked seafood is just as safe as any other form of fully cooked leftovers. But…
Sushi, regardless what form it comes in, is best consumed within minutes of being made. If the sushi happens to contain nori, serving within this time frame prevents the nori from becoming tough and chewy. Also, the longer sushi rice sets, the more it begins to dry out and stiffen. Placing sushi rice in a refrigerator accelerates this process and after just a few short hours, the texture of the rice is often completely changed for the worst. For these reasons, sushi is best ordered and consumed a few pieces at a time. If still hungry, you can always order more. This is the proper way to order sushi in a sushi bar and it is much easier to eliminate the question of leftovers when you order this way. But…
Sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs and we accidentally order or make more sushi than we can consume in one sitting. So when this is the case, can sushi be successfully saved as leftovers? Yes. It would be a shame as well as uneconomical to waste these items. Though the texture will slightly change, there are ways to save leftovers from your favorite sushi bar or those delicious rolls you toiled over at home. Please don’t purposely over order or over make sushi for the sake of having leftovers. The following tips are intended for rare occasions when leftovers cannot be avoided.
Save Only What’s Fresh. It should go without saying that any sushi you’re currently eating should be fresh. By fresh, I’m referring to freshly made sushi rice as well as any vegetable or seafood fillings (cooked or raw). Do not eat or save any items that are not fresh. When in doubt, throw it out.
Live by the One Day Rule. Sushi that was fresh to begin with can be successfully saved for 24 hours without sacrificing safety. (Raw items may be saved if refrigerated in a timely manner.) Keeping leftover sushi beyond this point greatly sacrifices the quality. (You may have noticed that prepackaged grocery store sushi has a 2-3 day shelf life. Rice for these rolls is oversaturated with sushi rice dressing to compensate for the inevitable drying out of the rice. Extra preservatives and corn syrup are often also added to the rice.)
Within Half An Hour. If you’re out on the town and have leftover sushi, it should be okay to save if you can get it refrigerated within half an hour. Sooner is always better. If you’re not headed straight home, you may want to reconsider taking your leftovers with you, especially if you have sushi items that contain raw seafood. Or if you’re making sushi at home, pack any leftovers to save as soon as you’re done.
Utilize Damp Cloths. To keep sushi rice from drying out too much, wet a couple of clean lint free kitchen towels with cool water. Squeeze out excess water. Spread one towel flat on a plate. Place pieces of sushi to be saved on top of towel. Cover sushi with the other towel. Wrap towel covered sushi tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Though this will help keep rice from drying out, it will not help with the texture of the nori. This technique works best for inside out sushi rolls and nigiri.
To save leftover sushi rice, line a non-metal bowl with a damp, lint free kitchen towel. Place rice in bowl. Cover with another damp, lint free kitchen towel. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Because of the texture change, day old sushi rice is best when used in applications where the final product is cooked further such as fried rice or stirred into soups.
Ways to Use Day Old Sushi Rice