Lannae's Food and Travel

I hope you like my food and travel blog.

February 13, 2008

Roll Roll Roll your Sushi

There is a local school that offers night classes in the spring semester to the community at a cost. The price of admission per class is for the scholarship fund. What a great idea! The school probably offers over 150 classes at $40/class and about 10 people per class, that got a lot of cash to offer to students who need it. I am all about giving money to offer scholarships to a really great school. One class I signed up for was How to Make Sushi! That is a coincidence because one food blogger, Nicole Sauce, that I read, she has just done a 3 part series on making sushi right after I signed up for the sushi class. I was amazed at Nicole's sushi rice because she worked to understand the tradition of the sushi rice. There is an art to the sushi rice. There are people who go to sushi school and spend years on learning how to fan sushi rice before they are even allowed to cook the rice, let alone learning how cut fish. So many people all around the world take sushi rice for granted, but if one variable is wrong with the rice, there is no sushi.

some of my rolls

After I read Nicole's blog about sushi rice, I went to my sushi class. It was taught by a culinary teacher who teaches in the the western tradition, not eastern. He has never been to Japan, and has not studied the intricate nature of Japanese food. I have been reading Obachan's blog for a couple of years now, and reading her trials and tribulations of her Japanese cooking. She works a at a restaurant as some sort of apprentice, and Obachan practices creating perfect and beautiful Japanese artistic foods. Anyway, the teacher made the rice that we were using to learn how to roll sushi. The rice was short grain sushi rice, it was under cooked, over watered, too sticky, and not paddled nor fanned. For the learning purposes, it was ok, but it would not pass the muster for sushi.

smelt roe

I grew up with sushi rolls. When I lived in Los Angeles as a child, we would probably go to the old town Chinatown once or twice per month for Sunday lunch or dinner. We would walk around Chinatown, so my mom could pick up food supplies for the week, and see what she could see. On one edge of old town Chinatown is Japantown, where we would walk and get takeout sushi, Hawaiian shaved ice with hot red bean paste, or beautifully made bite sized treats. I must have been in pre-school or kindergarten when I had my first bite of sushi. It was like no other flavor I have ever tasted, and it was so pretty. There were yellow, red, green, and white inside the dark black circle of seaweed. I thought the colors reminded me of the colorful lights you see on trees during the holiday time, and the colors made a face of some sort.

horseradish wasabi on dried seaweed

I think that the sushi I ate when I was so young is my first memory of what it is to have artistry, function, flavor, aroma and texture all in food. That sushi when I was 4 or 5 was unlike any food I had memory of. Most of the food I had at that point was family style that my mother or grandmother made, or family style served in Chinese restaurants. That sushi was the first piece of edible art, that wasn't dessert, I have had.

start of my roll

I had attempted to make sushi about 20 years ago, and it didn't come out too well. I added too much vinegar to the rice, and the rice was not sticky enough. As Nicole says, rice has to be in that happy place between too dry and too wet to give the right stick, yet not sticky. The flavor of the rice was a little to vinegary and aromatic. I also did not know how to roll the sushi either. There is a fine line of molding and pressure for rolling sushi rolls, and I did not have the touch back then. After days, and years of watching the sushi chefs, I learned nothing about how to roll.

rolled up with sesame and smelt roe

Nearly 20 years ago, attempting to make sushi, I had declared that all sushi was going to be nigiri sushi for the day. I thought it was much easier to plop some veggie or fish on top of a rice ball - sort of. Do you know how hard it is to make uniform rice balls that need to be pressed together with that magic level of pressure without breaking or compressing the rice, and with enough pressure to keep the rice fluffy but connected to other grains of rice? Well, it is harder than it looks.

veggie and smelt roe roll

So, this day in sushi rolling class, with rice that was way too watery and sticky, I rolled fairly decent looking rolls, with too much rice, and not enough filling. I made them pretty though, or at least I thought they were pretty. I love the vibrant color of the smelt row. It was such a treat to smear some smelt roe on the outside of my sushi roll.

my perfect presentation dish

The teacher asked us at the end to pick the very best 2 pieces and make a display on a cute little plate. So I did. Come on folks, aren't they good looking? These 2 pieces I thought were awesome.

the kids candy sushi made with Twizzlers, fruit rolls, and rice crispy treats - Delicious!

There was a lot of laughter in the kitchen over at the kids' work station. They made these beautiful candy sushi. Cute huh?

sous chefs' desserts - chestnut, green tea cake, moochi strawberry

As a treat for the class, the teacher's sous chefs created desserts for us. I really liked the chestnut cookie with chestnut red bean paste inside. I also like the little butterfly on my cake.

Anyway, after rolling some decent looking rolls in class, and knowing the fundamentals in making a nigiri rice ball, I may attempt to make sushi at home again. The only thing standing in my way is the rice. There is the flavoring, cooking, the paddling and fanning that I am not sure how to do. If the rice is not right, there is no point in making sushi.


At 2/13/08, 10:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice work!! I haven't done part four where we actually roll some... Yours looks fabulicious.

At 2/14/08, 8:59 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Thank Nicole Sauce. As you say, it is all about the rice. I can't wait for your part 4!


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