Yoko Isassi's Favorite Comfort Food: Trout/Salmon & Ginger Sushi

June 15, 2020

This is a regional sushi we make in late spring by using trout from the river. I grew up in the mountainous area of Gifu, where we wrap the sushi in a big beautiful Japanese magnolia leaf and call it “Hoba sushi”, which literally means magnolia leaf sushi. There are many variations of this sushi from community to community. I’m sharing my grandmother’s recipe with a little tweak. 

I have a memory of my grandmother coming back to the house with piles of fresh leaves picked from the forest behind her house. We washed the leaves together, and once she finished cooking, I helped her by folding leaves and stacking them on top of each other. It’s an old form of sushi that we like to press and rest before eating. The leaf has antibacterial effects, so they are kept at room temperature for the next few days. But we usually finish eating in two days.

Spring is probably the best time to make this sushi as the leaves are young and tender and it is easy to wrap the rice in. Since this type of leaf seems to be unavailable in L.A., I often chiffonade shiso leaves and use it for garnish. I’m sharing this recipe as it requires only a few, easy-to-find ingredients.


  • 4 rice cups of short-grain rice (1 rice cup equals 180ml)
  • 1 block of fresh ginger (For 4 tablespoons of minced ginger or more!)
  • 1/2 lb or 250 grams of trout or salmon (To make 1½ cup of fish flakes after boiling. Use more fish if you like)
  • Sushi vinegar: 1/2 cup rice vinegar, 4 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon salt  

Fish flakes and minced ginger.             Hot rice & trout-ginger vinegar sauce    Mix everything quick!  Don’t over mix!


  1. After washing rice, make sure to cook rice for sushi making. If your rice cooker won't give you the water amount for cooking sushi rice, remove 3-4 tablespoons of water from the regular amount of water. Start cooking rice ahead of time so that you can mix with sushi vinegar and trout when the rice is just finished cooking as you have to season the rice while it’s steaming hot.
  2. Make a pot of boiling water and cook trout/salmon for 3 to 5 minutes depending on size. It doesn’t have to be cooked through but cooked enough to break into pieces by hand after cooling down. Remove skin and bones when you make fish flakes.
  3. Use a spoon to remove the ginger skin roughly and mince. My grandmother didn’t want to mince ginger too small as it’s better to leave it as a flavor accent with ‘bite.’
  4. Use a small pot to make sushi vinegar: Add sugar, salt and rice vinegar. Place it over medium heat. Use a spoon to mix until dissolved. Then add minced ginger and boil it once. 
  5. Add flakes of trout to the sushi-vinegar pot and simmer it for a few minutes. Use a spoon to mix evenly with ginger and trout. Let it sit until the rice is ready.
  6. Once rice is cooked, use your biggest bowl or plate to mix sushi rice. Pour everything in the vinegar pot over the rice and mix everything quickly and evenly. I would suggest leaving some vinegar out. As you mix, taste the rice and decide if you would like to add more or not. 

Note: In the photo above, I cooked only 2 rice cups and left nearly half of the sushi vinegar unused. (I will use it separately for dressing or pickling.) Always add fish flakes and ginger first from the pot and add vinegar gradually. This may not be a beginner-friendly step. However, if you know what you like, you can do it! My grandmother adds probably 50% more sugar, and you will probably like that better if you have a sweet tooth like my family.


Yoko Isassi

Yoko grew up in Japan dining on-and learning from her grandmother’s cooking.  After graduating from college, she transplanted herself to New York City to study and work as an architect, but eventually discovered that her true calling is sharing her passion for Japanese food culture.  She has taught Japanese cooking in Los Angeles for the past 10 years, and regularly conducts culinary tours in Japan.