I first fell in love with sushi when I was in high school. When my mom told me to find a job, the first place I applied to was Samurai Harry’s, our local Sushi joint. I was hired on the spot and worked as a waitress and line chef for four great years. About two years in, Jerry, our master sushi chef taught me how to make all the rolls and I was responsible for making all to-go orders. It was the BEST job I ever had.
Ever since then I have dreamed of going to Japan to learn the traditional techniques from the best of the best. When we went to Tokyo, it was the first thing to do on our list. Chris and I are officially professionals! We attended a class at Tokyo’s professional sushi school. The chefs were learning how to filet and boil eels, then make eel sauce. The recipe for eel sauce is: eel stock (which is the water the eels were boiled in), soy sauce and sugar. Reduce the mixture by 1/2. I don’t know how much of each ingredient to use, I guess that will be something I work on and report back. If Chris ever wants to move to Japan (which has been discussed), you will find me enrolled here. Kazuhide, our instructor, only spoke Japanese. He instructed us in Japanese and demonstrated all the techniques. Toru, our tour guide, translated for us and doubled as our photographer when we made our own sushi.
We started by making sushi rice. Using this recipe: 1 1/2 cups of cooked white rice : 1/4 cup of seasoned vinegar. We used about 5 cups of rice and 1 cup of seasoned vinegar.
Seasoned Vinegar: (1 cup): 1 cup of good quality rice wine vinegar, 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of salt.
First start by pouring the vinegar mixture over the paddle and on to the rice. Use the paddle to “cut” through the rice by using the paddle to stir and flip the rice, this incorporates the vinegar mixture completely. Once the vinegar is incorporated, use a hand held fan to cool the temperature, this also give it the glossy appearance. I use my fancy fan I bought at Senso-ji Temple. Flip the rice and fan the opposite side. Sushi rice should be served warm at a temperature close to 97 degrees. Once the sushi rice is completed, it is placed in a warm rice pot. The second thing we learned how to make was Tamago or traditional egg sushi. Tamago is used in the Japanese version of a California roll (which is significantly different from the California roll I know and love). I am not going to lie, I hated the Japanese version that we learned, but I will show you how we made it below. You will probably enjoy it, but for me it all comes back to stupid eggs and how I absolutely HATE them. I remember liking Tamago and eggs once upon a time in my earlier life… in college things got bad between us; I’ve never been the same. The good thing about sushi is, you can put whatever you want in and on it.
Tamago recipe: 10 Eggs, 1/2 cup of stock (I should have asked what kind, but I assume chicken or vegetable), 1/4 cup of sugar, pinch of salt (1/4 teaspoon), 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of sake, 1 teaspoon of sweet sake.We used a very heavy Tamago skillet to make the Tamago omelette. You want to make sure the skillet is HOT before you begin to cook, that is the case anytime you cook anything on the stove top. Heat the pan first, then oil/butter etc, then the item you want to cook.As Kazuhide poured the omelette mixture into the hot skillet and popped any bubbles with chop sticks.Kazuhide then used the chop sticks to lift the omelette as he flipped the skillet with his hand. This caused the omelette to fold over into thirds. These two steps were repeated several times to create a layered omelette. The existing omelette was pushed to one side of the pan, then Kazuhide would pour the omelette mixture underneath the previous cooked layer of the omelette, pop the bubbles and flip the omelette into thirds again until all the egg mixture is gone. The skillet literally weighed 40 pounds. It was NOT easy for me to flip the egg. Chris was much better at flipping, he used the chop sticks to easily flip the egg and fold it into the classic rectangle shape. After we finished the Tamago, Kazuhide taught us how to make a Japanese style California roll. The basic principles apply to ALL types of rolls. You can choose your own ingredients and roll it using this technique.
Japanese California Roll Ingredients: Sushi Nori, Sushi Rice, Sesame Seeds, Tobiko (Flying Fish Roe), Tamago, Crab, Avocado, Lettuce, Mayonaise and Cucumber.
Start by placing the sushi nori glossy side down on the cutting board. You want the rough side of the nori facing up, this is the side you will spread the sushi rice on. Spread the rice evenly from corner to corner. If you were plastic gloves, it makes the rice easy to smooth on the nori without it sticking to your hands. Add a small amount of tobiko and sesame seeds on top of the rice. Flip the roll over, rice side down and place your filling ingredients on the inside. Roll the ingredients inside, by lifting the filling corner and rolling until completely rolled. Place saran wrap over the roll and using a sushi roller, press the roll firmly together. Do not press the top of the roll, press the sides of the roll.Leave the saran wrap on the roll and using a very sharp knife cut your roll in 4 or 8 pieces depending on the type of roll and which direction you rolled the sushi nori. In this case we rolled it up on the shortest side, so our roll was 4 evenly cut pieces. If you rolled from the longest side, you could cut 8 pieces. Next up: classic sushi nigiri. In our course we used freshly filleted mackerel, tuna, salmon, shrimp, squid, scallop, and salt water eel.
We started by learning how to filet a mackerel. You can follow this technique for filleting any type of round fish like salmon or tuna. Round fish is the fish you typically think of which swims forward by moving its tail back and forth. Flat fish like halibut, usually lies flat on the ocean floor and swims by waving its body and tail up and down. Fresh whole fish usually comes with the scales still on. It is easiest to remove the scales with the head on, by scraping your knife against the grain of the scales.
Chop the head off behind the pectoral fins, just behind the head. When the head is removed, remove the internal organs and cut off the black-red strip of flesh out. Rinse out completely and wipe dry. Cut the fish from the belly to the backbone. Make a skin deep cut along the back of the fish to the tail, they same way you cut the belly. Then using more pressure make one fluid slice. Hold the tail and cut the flesh of the filet away from the bone. Do this on the opposite side of the fish and you will have two perfect filets of mackerel. Clean up the filets but cutting off the belly bones at the bottom of the filet. Remove the bones from both filets by using bone tweezers. You can feel the bones by running your finger along the filet.Remove the mackerel skin, by separating a piece at the top of the filet. Once you have a bit of skin hanging from the filet, hold the skin with your hand and take the BACK of your knife and push it between the skin and the filet while holding the skin. Once you have separated half of the skin from the filet, peel the skin off by hand. Slice the filet into two or three pieces depending on how large the filet is. Tuna and salmon are much bigger filets, you could get a lot of sushi pieces. Slice the pieces so they will fit on top of the sushi rice, about 1/4 inch thick. This will be the same for the rest of the fish used in nigiri. Once the fish is prepped, we can start making sushi nigri by using the same sushi rice we used for the Japanese California Roll. Start by taking the fish piece in your left hand (I am right handed) and place it on your finger tips. With your right hand, put a finger tip amount of wasabi on the fish. (Chris HATES wasabi so he skipped this step). Grab a small handful of sushi rice in your right hand and mold into a small oval ball. Place the rice on the fish in your left hand and roll fingers towards the palm and begin to shape. Start by pressing the edges of the rice between the index finger and the thumb. Press the top of the rice gently. Open the left hand and let the sushi roll upside down so the fish is on top and the rice is in your closed fingers. Open the left hand flatly and hold between index finger and thumb of your right hand. Curl your fingers in and press the top of the fish. Don’t squeeze the fish and rice in your finger tips, but press firmly with your right fingers. Do once or twice to shape and allow the fish to stick to the rice. Repeat the steps for all pieces of fish. Arrange beautifully on your wooden sushi board. Now for the BEST part, eating!!YUM MY FAVORITE!
Hope you get a chance to try to make your own sushi! Domo-arigato!