Friday, September 16, 2011

Calories in Sushi

There is a lot of crap out there about how many calories are in a piece of sushi. There are a million kinds of sushi and trying to say "A piece of sushi is 70 calories" which is just okay, but not very accurate.

Sushi is one of my favorite foods. If I am down I can get a buzz eating a few pieces of Hotate. I have spent $80 bucks on lunch just for myself which is not much.

I typically tip 30% to 50% at a sushi restaurant Figure my highest sushi bill is about $60. A piece of nigiri runs $3 to $8 bucks depending on what you eat so 20 pieces of Yellow Fin could run $60 bucks easily. 10 pieces of giant clam or giant scallop could run over $60.

My favorite sushi place has a special on $1 nigiri and I have no idea how they stay in business selling that cheap. I typically tip 100% there.

I watch my calories so I had to learn how to estimate sushi calories in order to eat one of my favorite foods.

Lets tackle Sashimi Sushi first.

Sashimi Sushi is a slice of fish that weighs about 14 grams or about a half ounce.

Suppose you look up how many calories are in a serving of Yellow Fin Tuna Sashimi Sushi. At we find there are 112 calories in a serving of Yellow Fin Sashimi Sushi. WOW.

Wrong. The serving size listed is 112 grams which is 8 pieces of Sashimi Sushi each weighing 14 grams. That means each piece of fish is only 14 calories.

Now suppose you have some Yellow Tail Sashimi Sushi (Hamachi) which has more fat than Yellow Fin. The calories are 165 for 112 grams, 8 pieces. How many calories is that? Divide 165 by 8 and we get 21.

Mackerel runs about 20 calories a serving. Sea Bass about 14. Salmon is really fatty and runs about 24 calories per piece of Sashimi Sushi.

How about Nigiri Sushi?

Nigiri Sushi is a ball of rice with a piece of Sashimi Sushi on top of it.

The ball of rice weighs about 1 ounce and according to there are 37 calories in a one ounce ball of sushi rice. lists sushi rice as being about 32 calories per ounce. 169 calories divided by 146 grams times 28 grams in a dry ounce. I cup of sushi rice weighs about 5 ounces.

I like rounding things to their nearest 5 when estimating.

You may not round, You may want more exact numbers. Use a scale. Weigh things out. The guides do not publish the standard deviation of caloric energy per weight of food so drive your self nuts trying to be exact without information on the variability.

If we use 40 for a rice ball and 20 to 25 calories for a piece of nigiri we are probably pretty close. We could use 35 and 20 and would be just as close.

I typically use 60-65 calories for a piece of nigiri depending on what kind it is. My usual 10 pieces of nigiri runs about 600 calories.

Hotate-gai is my favorite. Raw giant scallop. One piece of Sashimi Sushi runs about 13 calories. A ball of rice 35-40 calories so Scallop Nigiri runs between 48 and 53 calories. calls it 56 calories per piece.

How about Maki Rolls?

Now there is a kick in the pants. Rolls are all different sizes and have different stuff in them.

The only way to know is to get some of your favorite rolls and weigh them on a scale.

Typically a roll weighs in at about 6 to 8 ounces or between 168 grams and 224 grams. Most of that is rice.

1 sheet of Nori, the pressed seaweed used to make sushi, runs 10 calories. Typically you get about 1 ounce or 28 grams of fish. The vegetables like cucumber and carrot are probably around the same. Avacado, cream cheese and mayonnaise used in "California" and spicy rolls can add a lot of calories and truthfully calories between different brands of mayonnaise vary so much it can be hard to determine the actual amount of calories as well as the amount of mayonnaise used by the individual sushi chef.

I use 300 calories for a "roll" which can be 6 or 8 pieces about 1 1/4" (30mm) in diameter and around 224 grams or 8 ounces in weight. Then I estimate based on my experience with my scale. I typically use about 35 calories per ounce for rolls. You can use 40 or 30 and be pretty close.

If you surf the web you will find calories for California rolls varying from 200 to 400 per roll because the variation in rolls is so great.

California rolls are made with cooked, pressed fish that is colored and flavored to seem like crab. Some restaurants will serve "fake crab" California rolls and "real" crab California rolls. Some of thee may actually serve real crab. Most don't.

I had the surprise of my life about 10 years ago watching a sushi chef at one of my favorite places make "real" crab sushi mix with fake crab. The chef explained that 99.9% of the people couldn't tell the difference and the work involved with purchasing and breaking down fresh crab would increase the cost to about 5 times that of fake crab sushi rolls. the chef has to get the crabs, break them apart extracting the meat and then mix the crab salad or just chop up the fake crab salad.

Whole crab runs 3-4 bucks a pound and the chef has anywhere from a 10% to a 25% yield. Crab meat can run between $15 and $50 bucks depending on what the chef purchases and do you really want to think about eating the cheapest crab meat there is in sushi? Maybe you do.

Just the 1 ounce of real crab costs a minimum of $1 and a maximum of about $5 an ounce (non-salad Fresh Alaskan King crab from the legs, $20 a pound, 25% yield).

1 ounce of imitation crab runs about 20 cents.

Prep time for the salad runs about 15 minutes and sushi chefs make between 40K and 80K. $5 bucks an hour is $10K a year so between $20 and $40 an hour so it costs $5 to $10 bucks to make the salad. Maybe we get 8 rolls from a pound of salad. If the chef mixes up 5 pounds and uses 2.5 pounds of crab and 2.5 pounds of other stuff and estimating two ounces per roll we divide the $5 in time by 40 we get about $0.12 dollars or 12.0 cents per roll.

The salad costs a minimum of about $50 bucks and a maximum of $140 so about $1.25 a serving to $3.50 a serving.

If we figure 3 minutes to make a roll it costs about $1-$2 just for the roll.

Lets figure $0.50 dollars or 50 cents for any other ingredients like the Nori and vegetables.

A sushi restaurant runs about $250,000.00 average and could cost a million so lets figure $3 just to cover overhead. Maybe $2 for a small cheap place, less than a buck for supermarket sushi.

None of this is profit.

yes, I eat supermarket sushi sometimes. No I am not some elitist. Supermarket sushi beats fastfood hands down 7 days a week and twice on Sunday. If I want sushi for lunch a good sushi restaurant can take 45 minutes when busy. Supermarket sushi takes 10. How busy am I? Do I have the cash to tip the sushi chef?

Okay so a fake crab salad California roll at a cheap restaurant runs about $5 bucks just to make a roll and should run about $6 bucks when we add some profit. Suddenly fake crab California rolls running $3-$4 are really cheap huh?

It costs $0.40 dollars or 40 cents for solid imitation crab and a minimum of $2 and max of about $10 for solid real crab.

The minimum a real crab sushi roll can cost in a normal restaurant is $8 if they use the cheapest crab and around $11 bucks if they use good crab. If we add in primary location and good sushi chef's and the retail cost runs closer to $20 a roll which people in the US won't pay.

The moral is that if anyone is selling you "real" crab sushi rolls and it is in a salad it is probably BS for moronic elitists that can't tell the difference and should know that a good real crab sushi roll runs about $15 bucks.

If you eat California salad roll sushi in the states you are eating fake crab 99% of the time no matter what the menu, the waiter or the chef tells you.

Breaking down the calories so we can estimate.

The fake crab runs 20 calories an ounce. An ounce of mayo runs 200 calories. The salad probably 220 calories for the two ounce in 6-8 rolls, Spicy stuff can use wasabi mayonnaise and that runs about the same calories. A roll ends up being about the same 300 calories.

However, this is an estimation based on many more variables. It is estimate on top of estimate on top of estimate and 6 California style Maki Rolls could have as much as 500 calories. depending on size and what is in them.

One ounce of avocado is 50 calories. One ounce of carrots or cucumber is about 4 calories.

One ounce of cream cheese in a Philadelphia style Maki Roll is 90 calories.

3 ounces of rice, 2 ounces of fish, 2 ounces of other stuff and we have a 7 ounce Maki Roll. Add or subtract about an ounce from that, we are assuming 7 ounce average.

105 to 120 calories of rice. 40 to 300 calories of "fish" or "fish salad". 10 calories of Nori. Between 10 and 200 calories of "other stuff", vegetables, cream cheese, etc.

Minimum of about 165 calories and a maximum of 700 calories for 6 or 8 pieces of a 7 ounce Maki Roll. Ouch.

Go to your favorite sushi restaurant. Buy your favorite rolls for take out. Go home, break out the scale and figure out the calories. Do this a couple of times and you will have a good estimation of what you are eating.

Stick to the fish and vegetable maki-rolls. Stay away from spider crab and tempura maki rolls which push the carbs up because they are fried. Stay away from "Hot Rolls", the calories go out the window.

"Hot Rolls" are when the sushi chef dips an entire roll (or individual pieces) in Tempura batter and fries it like a snickers bar or ice cream. This started because people in the states deep fry everything.

Couple of other basic cultural rules I find a lot of people do not know or understand why or which cultural rules are important.

Do not rub your chop sticks together unless it is a very cheap restaurant. Very rude and it insults the restaurant. People rubbing sticks together is saying "you care nothing for me and have purchased very cheap chop sticks".

If your server presents your check with both hands you can respond by giving them your credit card with both hands or with one hand. Giving with one hand indicates the giver is superior. Giving with two hands indicates equality. In the States this is not a big deal, just something to know. Most people in the states won't care, a very few may.

Yes you can eat nigiri sushi and maki rolls with your hands. Most people in the States use chop sticks. Most people in the States like deep fried everything too.

If you can use chop sticks great. If you use them badly judgmental morons may think poorly of you. If you use your hands judgmental morons may think poorly of you.

If you rub them together you insult the restaurant.

What's the difference?

A long time ago a friend and I were talking about how people treated us when we wore our leather jackets. It used to bug me when people treated me badly because they were afraid and intimidated by my size and my clothes. He told me that the leather jacket was a useful tool for identifying bigoted, frightened morons that you should stay away from.

Later his friendship almost got me killed and that made me angry at him, it shouldn't have. Back then I still associated with people who saw being gay as a weakness to be exploited. Having him as a friend put me in a situation where someone thought they could threaten me with a gun. I didn't even know people thought he swung both ways. I received a good chunk of income from these associates and I could afford to place that in danger or take the chance on being killed or killing someone so I got angry at my friend. Stupid. He is a good guy.


How you use chopsticks or not does the same thing. It will identify the bigoted and judgmental people around you if you use them poorly. It does not insult the restaurant, although it may make some people uncomfortable.

The cultural key here is that some behaviors insult other people and some behavior can encourage morons to judge.

Avoid behavior that insults others. Avoid people who are judgmental.

If I had followed these rules in my 20's I would still have a friend instead of some former business associates.


Anonymous said...

Wow. Comprehensive. I'm impressed. I found this post when I was googling to see how many calories in the nigiri sushi I'm about to eat. People eat sushi with abandon thinking it's "healthy" but damn, it packs in the calories.

Lynn Thomas said...

Very helpful! Thanks for posting this information.

JYJ n Kumi said...

This is amazing.

Thank you for really breaking it down, because reading the calorie values online never made sense, since I know the calories in fish and in rice.