Japan is responsible for many things, giant men stamping around in nappies for one. It has also brought to the world’s attention many a great and industrious food. When rice cultivation in Japan began (a couple of thousand years ago), wrapping fish in vinegary rice protected to meat inside. By burrying the package and digging it up later, the rice could be ditched over the nearest fence, revealing nicely preserved flesh.
One genius eventually realised that if you were going to eat years old fermented fish anyway, munching a bit of the surrounding rice surely wouldn’t make it taste any worse. Ta da! Pop some seaweed around that little baby and call it lunch. Thank you anonymous genius for putting down you nappy and picking up sushi for all the world to enjoy. Add some small kawaii cats in to the picture and there we have it, Japan!
Sushi as an Art Form
Sushi really is a way to get creative and make art from food so don’t worry about getting it perfect, just give it a good crack and everything will be delicious….
Unless you’re striving to become a sushi master in which case training can take up to 20 years. Only after 5 years of an apprenticeship will the task of preparing the sushi rice be allowed (under strict instructions). If you succeed in this task it is then that you may be promoted to stand near (not in front of) the chopping board to observe and perhaps try your hand at preparing the fish and vegetables. To acquire the title of itamae-san (an honoured Japanese chef) it is said that you should be able to prepare sushi with all the grains of rice facing the same way.
Preparing your Sushi Station
This is a very basic guide to rolling three types of sushi or zushi; nori maki, sashimi and temaki (hand-roll).
Traditionally a small pearly rice grain commonly known as sushi rice is used as it’s high starch content means it gains a stickiness when cooked. I like to use a mix of brown and sushi rice, wild rice or even quinoa mixed with a little tahini to give it the stick you need.
Once the rice is cooked it should be cooled down (use of a bamboo hand fan is ideal, make sure to dance in an Oriental fashion as you do so). Sprinkling over rice vinegar gives the sushi a tangy touch and helps with handling.
For the fillings the best way to go is to cut up a selection of raw or cooked veggie sticks, some protein, fresh herbs and some japanese pickled goods and then choose some tasty combinations.
Some favourites toppings of mine to have laid out are…
- Raw carrot, cucumber, capsicum sticks,
- Slices of avocado,
- Pickled radish
- Thinly sliced tofu strips (marinated and fried or baked)
- Chopped mint or coriander
- Freshly grated or pickled ginger
- Roasted pumpkin cut into thick sticks,
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Edemame beans
- Rolled omelette
Use a bamboo sushi mat to roll your maki, ensuring the nori (seaweed sheet) has the shiny side down facing the mat.
Wet hands make handling the sticky rice at least 4 million times easier.
Put on a Japanese playlist for ultimate zen.
Arrange it nicely, prepare some dishes of soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi, get your chopsticks out and tuck in.
Only a few more years and you’ll be a master of the kitty sushi.