Sushi for Beginners
Sushi is one of my favorite Japanese foods.
Prior to my first visit to Japan in 2012, I had eaten sushi only a handful of times with friends who were in a sushi-eating craze. While I found the food to be decent, I could not understand why they were so enamored with it and would go crazy when they found a new and amazing sushi restaurant in the city.
During my first trip to Japan, I visited the seaside towns of Fukuoka and Nagasaki. While visiting Nagasaki, I went to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant called Kaiten Sushi Wakatakemaru (若竹丸), and my life was forever changed; I finally understood why my friends were hooked on sushi.
My first experience with conveyor belt sushi at Kaiten Sushi Wakatakemaru in Nagasaki, Japan
Fast forward three years to the spring of 2015 when I visited Japan for the second time and ventured to the city of Tokyo. Not only was my goal in Japan to eat everything that I could (including unlimited amounts of sushi), but I also wanted to learn how to make sushi.
Shino, the sushi master
After taking a trip to the Tsukiji Fish Market, our guide Yasuko brought us to Shino’s traditional Japanese home. After welcoming us and showing us around her house, Shino sat us down at her kitchen table and told us that we were going to be making three different kinds of sushi that day: rolled sushi (Makizushi– 巻き寿司), hand-pressed sushi (Nigirizushi — 握り寿司), and a warship roll (Gunkanmaki — 軍艦巻).
After a quick lesson on how to grate fresh wasabi, it was time to make sushi. The first type of sushi that we learned how to make was Makizushi. The initial step involved laying a piece of seaweed (nori — 海苔) on top of a sushi rolling mat with the shiny side facing up. Next, we were taught how to properly lay the rice, fish, and vegetables on top of the seaweed to ensure that none of the ingredients fell out while we were rolling.
Hard at work rolling makizushi
Once we had completed rolling the maki rolls, we set them aside and headed to the kitchen for a lesson on how to properly cut fish. Using the tunafish that we had purchased at Tsukiji, Shino gave us a demonstration on the proper way to slice the expensive fish with high quality Japanese knives. She made the slicing seem simple as she effortlessly slid the tip of the knife through the tuna, which seemed to separate around the blade like butter.
Shino effortlessly slicing the tunafish
Next, we were all given the opportunity to slice the fish that we would use for the Nigirizushi. What appeared to be extremely easy turned out to be a little bit challenging. Slicing nice thin strips of tunafish definitely requires a lot of skill, patience, and attention to detail.
Concentrating on carefully slicing the tunafish
The finished product of our hard work — not too shabby!
Next on the sushi-making schedule was learning the process of making Nigirizushi. I found the nigirizushi to be the most labor intensive (in fact, I was concentrating so much on making them that I forgot to take pictures; luckily I was able to find this great tutorial video for you on AllRecipes.com).
Making this type of sushi involves a number of steps. To begin, you have to take a small handful of rice, roll it into a small rectangular circle and keep it in one hand, pick up a slice of fish, and then place a small dab of wasabi on the bottom of the fish before gently placing your rice on top of it. The more challenging part happens when you have to flip over the rectangular-rice with fish attached into the space between your thumb and pointer finger, place a small hole into the bottom of the rectangular-rice without breaking it, and then flip the rice back over and place it on the plate (the video can help make it a little bit easier to understand).
The final type of sushi that we learned how to make was Gunkanmaki, which was a lot easier to make, and a type of sushi where we got to let our creative juices flow while making each piece.
Making gunkanmaki involved taking a piece of rectangular rice (which Shino formed for us using a special rice molder), placing seaweed (nori) around the perimeter of it, and then adding different toppings to the top of the rice. In a fun but competitive spirit, we each worked to design the most beautiful gunkanmaki.
I think it is pretty safe to say that my partner Anna and I had some pretty spectacular looking gunkanmaki
Although everyone in my sushi making class was salivating by the end of making the third type of sushi, our work was not fully complete. Shino reminded us that we still had to cut the makizushi that we had made in the beginning of the class into pieces. Pulling out her extremely sharp Japanese chef knife again, Shino showed us how to slice the roll to make it decorative and presentable. In Japanese cuisine, it is not enough for the food to taste good, it must also look good.
Finally, after setting out the different dishes and preparing our place settings, it was time to eat!
One thing I really love about the EatWith program is the ability to connect with other travelers and food lovers from around the world. Through EatWith, I was able to learn not only how to make sushi, but about Japanese culture while talking with people from Dubai, England, and Ireland.
EatWith provides a number of different immersive experiences that involve hands-on learning, like this class, or simply joining in on a meal at someone’s home. Currently, the company operates on four continents in over 100 different cities.
Interested in participating in an EatWith experience or dinner? Here is a booking code to save $10 off of your first event*!
A special thank you to Eat With for having me as a guest at Shino’s house in Tokyo. As always on this blog- all opinions are my own. Please note, the asterisk (*) denotes a referral code, if you use the coupon, we will both earn a $10 credit. Happy eating!
Originally published at www.culturalxplorer.com on April 20, 2015.