Tuesday, August 14, 2012

For The Love of Sushi...Pt 2

Welcome back to the Makisu (the rolling mat for those who may have forgotten) for Sushi Part 2!!  I have known for many years how to make Sushi and only recently have I tried to really learn about the history, the ingredients and artistry that goes into it. I can say now without any hesitation that not only do I have much to learn, I have also just begun to actually understand what it takes to truly master this incredible art form. The best part of learning about Sushi, at least for me is the appreciation I now have for just how complex its world really is.

A Sushi Chef must train for years to become a true master and an apprentice can begin training at the age of 15. This same apprentice may spend up to 2 years in the beginning of their training learning how to make Sushi Rice!! The art of Sushi has evolved considerably over time and was originally used as a way to actually preserve fish. Layers of Carp, a native fish, were placed in layers inside of a jar along with rice. A lid was placed on top and it was left to ferment for up to a year at a time. The fish would then be eaten while the rice was discarded. As time continued to move forward, newer methods of preservation were discovered that allowed the fish and rice to both be eaten.

In the 1800's a man, Yohei Hanaya began what might be described as the beginnings of modern day Sushi. Hanaya would serve Sashimi along with Sushi Rice out of a Yattai or street stall. The fish was packed in ice and customers would select the different types of fish they wanted to eat. This custom of choosing fish and watching it prepared is still evident with modern Sushi restaurants today. A second tradition of dipping fingers into the large cup of tea at the end of a meal is still practiced as well. These days, we use a finger bowl of warm water or hot towels at the end of a meal. The same Yattai's which were around during the time of Hanaya, all had curtains hanging from the counters or shelf tops where customers would gather around.The busiest vendors always had the dirtiest curtains. The thinking was that the a stall with dirty curtains meant more customers and therefor better food. After eating, patrons would dip their fingers and then wipe them on the curtain.

Cleaner by far now than it used to be, the traditions of Sushi still endure. In order for you to become the best at-home Sushi Chef possible, you will need the tools I spoke about in part one, which if you need a refresher can be found here (just click the link). As I continue writing, the assumption is that you have a rolling mat and the ingredients/products along side of you in the kitchen. I was able to locate what I think is a pretty good photo of someone rolling Sushi with what appears to be the recipe I have for you. Typing the steps has proven to be a little tricky, so as always...if you have a question or need help just give me a call or drop me a note over at info@teachingyoutocook.com.

So, are you ready to give it a roll?

California Roll
(Futomaki Sushi)
4 Rolls, which will make 32 pieces

As the name implies, this particular Sushi was indeed invented in California

4 Sheets of Nori
3 Cups Sushi Rice, click the link here for the rice recipe
1 or 2 Cucumbers, Cut into long thin strips. Try for about 2 inches long and around 1/4 inch in thickness
8 Jumbo Shrimp, Cooked and with all tails and shells removed
1 or 2 Avocados, Peeled and pitted. Cut into strips slightly thicker then the cucumbers

~ Steps ~

1.  Lay out a sheet of Nori onto your Makisu

2.  Place 3/4 cup of rice onto the Nori, spread it evenly towards both sides. In the back, leave about 3/4 of an inch bare. Allow the rice to form a ledge/mound at the back end of the Nori. This mound should run the width of the Nori sheet.

3.  Lay 2 of the shrimp across the center of the rice. They can be cut if needed lengthwise. When laying them down be sure to go from right/left and not up/down. 

4.  Lay the strips of cucumber down along the center as well. Next to the shrimp.

5.  Lay the strips of avocado down in the same manner as the shrimp and cucumber

6.  Roll the mat over once, pressing as you go with both hands to keep it firm. The roll needs to go all the way back to the edge of the rice. Leaving the small strip of rice free Nori out. See the second picture to judge how far back you are rolling.

7. While keeping the firm pressure on the mat, gently allow it to be peeled back just enough to so that when you roll it forward the small strip of Nori connects to the roll. Use your fingers to ensure the roll is tightly packed and in the shape desired. Allow the mat to unroll.

8. Each roll should be handled carefully. Cut the roll in half with a very sharp knife. Try not to pressure the knife through the roll as that will make it collapse. Each half should the be cut in half again. Each quarter piece can be cut in half. Arrange on a plate with your choice of condiments, like Soy Sauce or Wasabi.

Remember, practice makes perfect and if you don't succeed on the first attempt it's OK...even now I still have trouble rolling the Sushi and getting it perfect sometimes.

Well that does it for Sushi. While I know that the choices for ingredients is vast, making your own choices for flavor is what makes it fun. Any ingredient can be used and don't hesitate to try out different combinations. If you want some ideas on what might work, please let me know. I can put a page up with a dozen or so recipes or I can email you back with ideas.

Coming up later this week...Free Form Wednesday, where we visit a bunch of recipes from Mexico minus all the chatter of me typing/talking and on Friday I want to take a trip along the Mediterranean for some more exotic flavors. Have a great day everyone and enjoy the read. As always please feel free to comment.

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