Monday, April 4, 2011

They See Me Rollin', They Hatin'

We interrupt these time-sensitive posts about our week-old vacation with this important news update: yesterday, I won the chef-awarded title of "Most Beautiful Platter" at the FIS sushi-rolling class at the Sushi Den. Oh, yes. Marvel at the sight.

The sushi-rolling class was arranged by the fabulous school culture committee, purveyors of lantern viewing and karaoke nights, among other most excellent enterprises. We've been making sushi a lot at home now, but completely incorrectly. For starters, we don't make the rice right. Sushi rice is distinguished from regular white rice in that it has vinegar, sugar, and salt in it, but the only recipe we found online had like forty steps and looked like it would take forever, so we gave up. At Sushi Den, he just poured a quarter-cup of liquid into a big bowl of rice, which looked much easier. Maybe we'll try that from now on.

The other thing we don't do is raw fish, going for smoked salmon and cooked shrimp instead. I know, that sort of defeats the main idea of sushi, but I don't trust myself to identify, buy, or store it correctly. I will eat anything. I drink expired milk. I cut the bad parts off of fruit and cheese and go to town on the remainder. I once threw up an M&M that I found in the bottom of a suitcase. I am not to be trusted with raw fish.

(Side note: I juts tried to type "smoked" with an L in it about six times. Why not? You don't pronounce the "l" in "salmon." Smolked salmon... I like it. It reminds me of a sushi restaurant Justin and I used to go to in New Haven that accidentally had "smorked salmon" on the menu. Now that sounds delicious!)

We made two rolls each and three nigiri, or fish slices on rice. First you had to get your hands wet, so the rice wouldn't stick, and then make a big ball of rice:

Yes, that is a Steelers coat in the background, worn by our landlord's son Max. No, he didn't know what it meant. It was on sale when he bought it in Taiwan. Justin enlightened him and welcomed him to the mishpacha.

Then you spread the rice on top of a slice of seaweed about the size of a paperback book. It was critical to get the rice all the way out to the edges - not for flavor, but if you want the sort of sushi beauty that wins at pageants. Trust me, I'm an expert. Dig these beauties:

They provided cucumber, tuna, crab salad, and avocado for the rolls. I went no-cucumber since I hate cucumber. Justin put in everything because he likes everything. They didn't let us slice the rolls ourselves, which is probably a good thing, since that's where I always mangle everything when we make rolls at home. Maybe the secret is their knives, which apparently clock in around $500 each. For that kind of money, I'll mangle.

Nigiri is harder. You have to make the little rice ball, about the size of an eraser but thicker, and swipe some wasabi on the fish, then get this slippery piece of fish to sit firmly on top of the rice without squishing and ruining it. Justin thought his came out a little fat, which is why they have no future in modeling.

And then came the arranging part, which they did not tell us at the time would be judged. I remember spending an inordinate amount of time rotating the tuna rolls so the avocado would be in the same place on each slice.

Behold the majesty!

Behold, by contrast, Justin's effort. David Bowie to my Iman.

To be honest, I just tried to imitate what I saw on my plates at sushi restaurants. Everybody else was getting all creative - the pre-K teacher made a flower, the K teacher made a fish (out of fish!), the math teacher made a Pi sign - yet victory went to my shamelessly derivative opus. Who says life's not fair?

We all sat down to eat our spoils, which were freaking delicious, and partway through the meal they came out from the back with a framed photo of me and my victorious sushi platter. Since at that point, my chopsticks and I had gone through said platter like Sherman through Georgia, it was a truly bittersweet moment. A reminder of the ephemeral, transient nature of sushi beauty; nigh on a memento mori. Remember, you too, shall be devoured by ravenous expats. Or, in the words of the immortal Bard, as Henry IV quoth to the French upon the battlefields of Agincourt:



  1. I may in fact have zoomed in on every photo in this post. Getting to take classes like this must be why you guys moved to Japan!!! love it.

    Also, Justin's most top-left roll = very concerning!

  2. these DO look delicious! mmmmm salmon.

    also don't worry about the recipes, just make was tastes good. =P rice vinegar is pretty key though.

    might have to get sushi tonight.