I have a fondness for Japan which dates back to my two years at the United World College of the Atlantic (94-96) and it is high up on my list of places I would like to visit. I was fortunate to share my dorm for the two years with Asuka, from Japan, who introduced me to Japanese cuisine and seeded my interest in the food from Japan. I used to look forward to the parcels of food her mum sent over as much as she did and by the end of the 2 years I even got my own parcel from Japan containing packets of Miso Soup and snacks like Senbei and other delicious savoury bites. Asuka cooked me my first tempura and my first Japanese Curry, but as far as I can remember, we never had Sushi.
Many people believe that eating Sushi involves eating raw fish. It often does, but doesn’t have to. It essentially consists of seasoned rice, nori seaweed and neta – a variety of toppings/fillings. The Wikipedia page on Sushi is a very comprehensive account of the origins, variations, adaptations and westernisations of Sushi. It’s too much for me to write here, so hop over there to fill the gaps in your knowledge…see you in a mo!
Got it? Good…now on with my Sushi course. For Christmas last year, I asked for a Sushi course and was really pleased to finally cash in my voucher for a Master Chef Sushi Class with Your Sushi in London a couple of weeks ago. The class was run by the very charismatic Chefs Kiyoko and Klepson and had a great balance of history, information, instruction on how to cook the rice (weigh it, rinse it at least 6 times, weigh it again, add the correct amount of water, cook for 17 minutes on low heat, turn heat off and leave for 17 minutes, add sushi vinegar and gently coat it all then allow to cool before using), demonstrations on how to roll the sushi using the bamboo mat and tesco bashing – their Sushi rice is very dry apparently! Most importantly we got a chance to make loads of our own Sushi to take home from a range of different ingredients.
Here’s what I made – see if you can label the photos:
Makizushi (thin rolls with nori on the outside) – some filled with daikon, cucumber and wasabi, others with red pepper, avocado and wasabi and one French style sushi with roquefort and dried fig.
Futomaki, which are the fatter rolls with nori on the outside – these I filled with wasabi, avocado, crabstick, red pepper, cucumber and carrot (I was surprised how much could go into them).
Urimake – an inside out makizushi in effect where the rice is on the outside and the nori on the inside. Kiyoko explained that this is a western development of sushi as some westerners didn’t think the black seaweed on the outside looked very attractive so they put it on the inside! My first Urimake contained wasabi, smoked mackerel, cucumber, carrot and daikon and my second batch was made with wasabi, daikon, avocado, carrot and a chopped crabstick, mayonnaise and coriander mix.
Temaki – a cone shaped hand-rolled sushi.
Nigirizushi which is a hand shaped cylinder of rice topped with wasabi and draped with a neta – in my case raw salmon. The salmon was farmed Scottish salmon – Sushi chefs have very good relations with fishmongers as they need to know exactly how the fish they buy was processed to be sure that they are using the best available fish in their sushi. Did you know that Asda and Harrods use the same Salmon supplier, but charge totally different prices for it?
Sushi chefs are renowned for being very proud of their work…understandably so…it’s like art on a plate. Many stories were told of Sushi chefs taking offence at customers not respecting their creations by not observing Sushi eating etiquette and dunking the whole thing in soy sauce for example…you are just meant to dip the edge lightly in soy sauce before consuming or risk incurring the wrath of the Sushi chef!
I thoroughly enjoyed the course and the 3 1/2 hours went by incredibly quickly. I would recommend it to anybody that likes Sushi or just creating things with food. I’d say that getting the rice cooked correctly is probably the hardest thing to master. I have tried twice since the course to emulate the stickiness and texture of the rice we used on the course and followed Kiyoko’s instructions to the tee, but even though it’s almost there, I still haven’t got it quite right. I will persevere!