Skip to main content

The Origins of the Sushi Burrito: Q&A with the Inventor

You may have heard of a sushi burrito or seen a coworker eating one at their desk. Or maybe you even enjoy a sushi burrito on a regular basis. But if you’re unfamiliar with this delicious portable meal, now is the time to get acquainted.

A sushi burrito is pretty much exactly what it sounds like — delicious sushi ingredients, including raw fish, rice, and veggies, wrapped up nice and neat into a burrito-shaped roll. Typically, they are assembled just like sushi rolls with the protein and other fillings in the middle, followed by a layer of rice, then wrapped tightly with sheets of nori, aka seaweed. The sushi burrito has blown up in recent years and can be found at all types of fast-casual restaurants and food halls that serve hungry lunchtime crowds and folks looking to grab a quick, filling, fairly healthy meal.

sushi burrito sushirrito
Sushirrito

By now, we’ve already seen a lot of places slinging the delicacy come and go. But the home of the original sushi burrito, Sushirrito, is still going strong. So we caught up with Sushirrito founder Peter Yen to learn about how the sushi burrito first came to life and how they come up with different flavor combinations to keep things delicious and interesting.

The Manual: What sparked the idea for the sushi burrito?

Peter Yen: In 2004 … I was working in downtown San Francisco and got bored with the usual lunch options. I started wondering why there weren’t more choices other than the typical sandwich, soup, and salad options.

“What would happen if you made a really large sushi roll, operationalized it for speed, and also modernized it by infusing Latin flavors?”

I particularly liked sushi, but there were only two possibilities at the time. One was pre-made grocery sushi which was fast and convenient, but of lower quality and not a great value. The other was full-service sit-down sushi restaurants which were slow and pricey. I realized quickly that sushi’s form had a lot of limitations for fast throughput, so I asked, “What would happen if you made a really large sushi roll, operationalized it for speed, and also modernized it by infusing Latin flavors?” That seemed intriguing, but I didn’t really take the business idea seriously until I was in business school in 2008.

TM: Was there an original “formula” or ingredient list for the first sushi burrito? How have you decided on new types of fish or fillings to add to your menu?

PY: When I first met my executive chef and co-founder Ty Mahler in 2010, I asked him to create different rolls using tuna, hamachi, salmon, chicken, and one that was vegetarian. His first question was, “You want to put chicken into a sushi roll?” He was skeptical of what I was trying to create. But he quickly adapted and started creating so many different recipes. I remember our first tasting was of about 30 sauces and nothing else. He was very disciplined in getting that right, then moved onto the proper type of sushi rice and seasoning, different proteins, vegetable combinations, and then the operations. He always focused not only on balanced flavors but also on great textures in every roll. From there, it was just lots and lots of “R&D” (aka eating!).

TM: If someone was ordering a sushi burrito for the first time, what would you recommend they fill it with?

PY: Unlike a lot of recent fast-casual concepts, we actually don’t allow for full customizability with our menu. Each sushi burrito was designed with a different palate in mind, so each provides varying amounts of texture and flavor (saltiness, sweetness, tanginess, nuttiness, spiciness). So, it really depends on your personal preference. The best thing is to see what appeals to you first from a protein standpoint and then go from there.

TM: As the founder and CER (chief executive roller), what is your go-to Sushirrito order?

PY: I get that question a lot actually, and it’s a tough one to answer. It really depends what I’m in the mood for. But typically, if I want raw fish, I’ll go for the Satori (hamachi, cucumber, pickled onion, ginger guac). If I want something cooked, I usually go for the Salmon Samba or the Fiery Chicken. I’m not vegetarian, but I also really enjoy the Buddha Belly (Japanese eggplant, mushrooms, cabbage, carrots, ginger guac, kale, fried shallots). But as you can imagine, I’ve eaten the entire menu many, many times over, and I do enjoy them all — otherwise, we would adjust or remove the roll. We are also constantly testing out new items as well, so I’m usually eating. Not too shabby of a job to have I’d say!

Editors' Recommendations

Amanda Gabriele
Amanda Gabriele is a food and travel writer at The Manual and the former senior editor at Supercall. She can’t live without…
Drinks 101: What’s a brand ambassador (and are any worth paying attention to)?
What's a brand ambassador? Here's what
Pouring alcohol. Barman working at night and wearing uniform pouring alcohol into glass with ice

First there were influencers, now the brand ambassadors. These important figures -- equal parts drinks personalities and marketing muscle -- personify the companies they work for. And in an era of close consumer scrutiny and cherishing brand character substance as much as product turnout, brand ambassadors are more important than ever.

What's a brand ambassador? Fair question. The title has been a bit muddled as of late, especially with celebrities entering the fray. And while on the surface it can feel just like marketing 101, there's a unique component in the drinks industry that makes it all the more appealing.

Read more
Dogfish Head and Northern Monk are collabing for a trans-Atlantic rye IPA
dogfish head northern monk collab screenshot 2024 06 10 184512

Iconic U.S. craft brewery Dogfish Head is collaborating with hip British brewery Northern Monk to create a rye session IPA that brings together the best of each brewery. The collaboration is the first in a series from Northern Monk, working with a group of friends called Endless Hum, aiming to celebrate bands and artists beloved by the brewers and to create the perfect beer for watching your favorite musicians live.

The rye session IPA is citrusy with orange and resin, plus juniper, sage, and other spices and features a hint of tropical fruit.  "Monk and Dogfish Head came up with the concept over two shared ideas; firstly, we both have enjoyed playing with small percentages of rye in the grist of session beers for that extra depth of flavor and mouthfeel it can bring, and secondly, we both enjoyed the white sage twist we added to last year's Hop City collaborative release," Northern Monk writes.

Read more
These new whiskies from Chivas Brothers can only be found in duty free
Pick up a bottle the next time you travel
Scotch drams

Two new whisky collections from Chivas Brothers are on their way to release, but if you want to pick up a bottle from either, then you'll need to check your airport next time you're flying. The new releases are exclusive to "global travel retail" -- or duty-free to you and me.
Royal Salute Small Batch Collection
The first of the pair comes from Royal Salute, which is debuting its Small Batch collection. The idea is to showcase rare and unusual whiskies that have been aged for several decades in various casks. Eight whiskies are in the collection, all presented in distinctive purple packaging and each aged between 25 and 28 years. Some of the casks used include rye, French oak, and Pedro Ximénez sherry, and the bottles will sell for between $450 and $750.

“Each of the eight whiskies available in this Small Batch collection were matured in special casks which I have personally selected on my travels around the world," said Sandy Hyslop, master blender at Chivas Brothers. "This is a truly unique collection, with each individual whisky having a unique flavor profile, providing an array of choice to suit different preferences and open up new tasting experiences.”
Ballantine's Golden Hour
The second release is from Ballantine's, which is introducing a 23-year-old Golden Hour series. The series features blended Scotches aged for 23 years, with the first release aged in Cognac casks. This 40% abv bottle will be released first in travel retail in the Asia Pacific region, selling for $279.

Read more