Book Review: Smiling Sushi Roll by Tama-chan

Smiling Sushi Roll

With Smiling Sushi Roll lunch can resemble great works of art, like Munch’s “The Scream,” and Rodin’s “The Thinker.” In this unique and humorous sushi book, illustrator and maki artist Tama-chan (Takayo Kiyota) shows how basic ingredients like rice, seaweed, pickles, and cucumber can be used like paint and ink to create maki that is so fun to look at, you almost won’t want to eat it.

Mostly art book, part cookbook, Smiling Sushi Roll includes a few of the basics of using condiments, herbs and spices to colourize rice as well as of preparing a sushi roll for some artistic strokes. Tama-chan’s rolls feature original whimsical cartoons of Japanese culture and social commentary, as well as interpretations of famous works. Some of the cartoons even change with each slice of the roll to form a running narrative. The result is a funny, joyous celebration of food preparation and presentation, and a whole new definition of “culinary art.”

Smiling Sushi Roll by Tama-chan is a fun book, but don’t expect anything earth-shattering or educational. The small book is mostly a collection of pictures of Tama-chan’s incredible sushi roll creations, which range from landmarks (Leaning Tower of Pisa) to classic Japanese images (geisha and ninja), reimaginings of famous works of art (The Scream) to naughty erotica (bondage!).

There is one tutorial in the book – how to make ‘The Scream’ – but it was pretty complicated and I decided not to try it this time. Apart from my lack of creative ability, the main thing putting me off having a go was the expense of buying the ingredients. Tiny details such as the eyes are made using pickled burdock root (gobo) and the nostrils are made using squid ink pasta! One day I might try it though…

Let's make 'The Scream' sushi!

Let’s make ‘The Scream’ sushi!

Smiling Sushi Roll is a fun book, and it would make a great gift for someone who is into Japanese food and design and who likes things that are a little bit unusual and quirky.

Buy Smiling Sushi Roll by Tama-chan from and and read more at

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