Learning to cook sushi!

I have a confession to make. Sushi scares me. I never eat it and thus, have never ordered a Japanese dish for myself in a restaurant. I have no idea where this completely irrational fear comes from. I love seafood. I like rice. Vegetables are friends rather than foes where I am concerned. But somehow, when it’s all put together in little parcels (that do actually remind me of eyes); I get a bit nervous about it.

So when I was offered a chance to attend JC Sushi Academy at the Japan Centre in Westfield Stratford City for a lesson with Kim Yukawa, I decided it was time to see if sushi and I could make a go of things.

In the busy shopping centre in East London on a bustling Saturday evening, shoppers looked on as Kim demonstrated sushi basics in the showcase kitchen. Fuelled by a little sake (a rice-based alcoholic drink), I became less and less fearful as the seconds went by.

Within two hours Kim had taught me how to make a selection of different types of roll sushi, including hosomaki (that’s thinly rolled sushi with the seaweed on the outside) and uramaki (an inside-out roll, where the rice is on the outside – tricky little blighters, it must be said). I even managed (with a couple of false starts) to concoct some heartshaped rolls.

Thinking it best not to run before I could walk, I stuck to the tamer side of my plate of ingredients. So lobster, crabstick, cucumber and cress all made an appearance in my sushi rolls. Eel, rather unsurprisingly, did not. But this
is one of the delights of roll sushi. You can make them as adventurous (or not) as you chose.

The main advice I can give, should you attempt the recipes at home, is to have a bowl of clean water next to you (the rice – if cooked correctly – is exceptionally sticky. It will get everywhere). A sharp knife will ensure your lovingly rolled sushi doesn’t end up misshapen when you cut it into portions. Oh, and wipe the knife after every slice. It really does make life so much easier.

Taking my sushi home in a bento box, I found myself tempted to tuck in – well before I’d even got through the front door.

My sushi-phobia is definitely cured. I only wish someone had warned me about the wasabi. It looks as harmless as mushy peas but this Japanese horseradish nearly blew my head off…

Japanese rice and sushi rice

Serves 1

320g Japanese rice

Add the rice to a saucepan and fill with water. Mix with your hand to clean, rinse and drain the water. Repeat at least four times.

Once cleaned, add enough water to cover your hand when you place it flat on the rice, 360ml in this instance. Place on a medium-high heat and bring to a gentle boil.

As soon as the water boils, turn the heat down to a simmer and place the lid on tightly. Cook for 10-13 minutes, but do not remove the lid.

Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 10 minutes (you have not lifted the lid at all yet).

Serve using a wet rice paddle or go on to create sushi rice.

How to turn your rice into sushi rice

80ml sushi vinegar

Mix 80ml (12% of total cooked rice weight) of sushi vinegar to the rice. Do this when the rice is still warm by sprinkling the vinegar and folding the rice with a paddle or spoon. Use a fan to cool the rice as you mix to make it glossy and shiny.

Inside-out Alaska rolls

Serves 1

80g sushi rice
½ sheet nori
1 strip of cucumber
1 tbsp cream cheese
1 sheet smoked salmon
1 tbsp ikura (salmon caviar)
soy sauce and wasabi, to serve

Cook Japanese sushi rice as per rice recipe.

On a sushi rolling mat covered with clingfilm, place ½ sheet of nori and cover it with sushi rice until it’s about 1cm high. Flip it over so that the rice is face down on the surface of clingfilm, and the strip of nori seaweed facing upwards.

Place cucumber and cream cheese in the middle of the nori sheet.

Now for the fun bit. Start rolling up the ingredients while keeping the roll tight. Once you’ve rolled it up initially, use the rolling mat to press the roll so that it stays sealed together.

Take the sheet of smoked salmon and cover the sushi roll with it by moulding it with the rolling mat.

With a wet knife, cut your roll of sushi into six or eight even pieces.

Garnish with ikura (salmon caviar). Serve with soy sauce and wasabi.

Hosomaki

Serves 1

65g sushi rice
½ sheet nori
1 strip of cucumber
soy sauce and wasabi, to serve

Cook Japanese sushi rice as per rice recipe .

On a sushi rolling mat covered with clingfilm, place ½ sheet of nori and cover two-thirds of it with sushi rice until it’s about 1cm high. Place cucumber in the middle of the nori sheet.

Start rolling up the ingredients while keeping the roll tight, pressing forward to shape the sushi roll into a complete cylinder.

With a wet knife, cut your roll of sushi into six or eight even pieces.

Serve with soy sauce and wasabi.

Cucumber hosomaki is called kappamaki in Japanese. If you are using other ingredients, make sure you use only one item for this thin sushi roll.

Baffled by Japanese menus? Here’s how to decipher them

Good for sharing

Selection of soft-shell crab tempura, edamame and yakitori: tempura means deepfried. It tastes light, crispy and fluffy; edamame means soya beans served in the pod; yakitori is skewered meat, chicken mostly and very popular.

Filling main course (meat)

Chicken katsu curry: very hearty, yet also healthy.

Light main course (fish)

Tuna/salmon donburi or ‘don’: donburi literally means bowl. Fish is simmered and served in a big bowl.

Good veggie option (traditional Japanese)

Tofu, soba or ramen: tofu is bean curd; soba and ramen are both noodle-based dishes.

Something for the adventurous foodie

Ocean don contains uni, ikura and octopus: ikura is fish roe (like caviar); uni is sea urchin.

Something for a light lunch

Sushi set… in a bento box: sushi is vinegared rice served with fish, meat or vegetables; nori is seaweed and is used to hold sushi together; bento is a packaged Japanese lunch.

Something for Atkins diet lovers

Sashimi: raw meat or fish with no rice. Great as a light lunch or starter.

Dessert

Green tea ice cream. Or you could try the popular dorayaki – a red bean-paste pancake with a sweet filling, often custard or red bean curd cream.

Classes are held by Kim Yukawa at Japan Centre’s deli, Umai. To book classes: www.sushi-courses.co.uk

For recipe inspiration and where to buy the ingredients, visit www.japancentre.com

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