jeudi 15 juillet 2010

Temaki-zushi (home sushi party)

Temaki-zushi literally means handmade sushi; that is, sushi that is do-it-yourself instead of bought and served at a restaurant.

Sushi in western countries is generally thought of as trendy in-crowd food, the kind of restaurant you take a date to and try to impress by explaining the menu before the waiter can. It’s expensive and exotic. In Japan, however, people often make a much more casual kind of sushi at home and for parties. The sushi is not prepared beforehand; instead the rice, nori wrap, sauce, fish, and other fillings are laid out buffet-style for the guest to fashion her own roll.

The advantages to this are numerous: it’s quick and easy to prepare, it’s much less expensive, and it pleases everyone’s tastes. You lose out on impressing your date by how much money you blow and how many urchins you can eat at one meal—but who wants to date someone who’s impressed by that anyhow?

If you really want to impress your date, first know what sushi actually means: the word sushi refers not to “raw fish” (this is sashimi) but the kind of rice used (short-grain rice flavored with rice vinegar). That means that, contrary to popular belief, anything at all served on the sushi rice is legitimate sushi, including avocado and cream cheese (this is popular in Japan), eggplant, eggs, canned tuna, or corn and mayonnaise (also a favorite in Japan).

Maki is sushi in a roll, wrapped in the nori (seaweed) paper and sliced into sections. Nigiri is the individual ball of sushi with topping. While maki is much more commonly eaten in the U.S., a combination of different nigiri is the popular way to go in Japan. I find that sushi in the U.S. differs from sushi eaten in Japan not in terms of quality, but in style. I enjoy both kinds. In restaurants, Japanese sushi highlights the quality and the freshness of the rice and the fish; raw tuna, salmon or other fish are considered the cream of the crop sushi. As a result strong flavors are never added to the sushi, apart from a quick dip in the sushi dipping sauce (similar to soy sauce) mixed with wasabi. Americans, however, prefer not to consume raw fish or much seafood; because of this the sushi in the U.S. often contains cooked fish, tempura-fried seafood, or other raw vegetables. These flavors being more robust and less delicate (and because Americans are suckers for salty-sweet flavor explosions), sweet sauces are drizzled over the rolls, salty fish roe added on top, or potato chip crumbs sprinkled in for texture. It’s a far reach from the simplicity of flavor and form that highlights Japanese cuisine, but it’s good in its own way.

Back to the sushi party: The essentials are the prepared sushi rice, wraps (nori sheets or lettuce leaves), sushi or soy sauce and wasabi (ginger optional), and various bowls of toppings. Here I will give suggestions for a buffet of Japanese sushi fillings that is faithful to what is eaten in Japan while still being accessible to the Western home-cook. I am not including raw cuts of fish in the spread, but don’t worry—the disappointment of your guests at not seeing “real sushi” will quickly be forgotten once they start to eat.

Temaki-zushi buffet

1. Cook sushi rice in a covered pot (a rice cooker is better, of course, if you have one), measuring equal parts rice and water. When the rice is tender drain any excess liquid and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Immediately pour rice vinegar over the sushi and mix well, enough to wet the entire batch but not to leave it soaking. Leave the rice to absorb the vinegar, adding more vinegar as the rice dries out. When the rice has absorbed enough vinegar to stay moist after half and hour, transfer the bowl to the refrigerator and let cool.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the dishes. Set out a plate of nori wrap and/or large lettuce leaves. Toppings can include:

• Canned tuna with chopped onion or spring onion
• Corn and mayonnaise
• Surimi and cream cheese
• Avocado slices
• Raw cucumber, carrot, or bell pepper slices
• Kim chi
• Grilled eggplant or mushroom, sliced
• Omelet or boiled eggs, sliced
• Cooked shrimp

3. Take out the cooled rice just before serving. Serve with sushi sauce or soy sauce, wasabi, and ginger. The sauce should be mixed in individual bowls with a dab of wasabi to taste (start small!). Ginger is eaten between rolls to clean the palate.

4.To roll the sushi, don’t fuss. Grab a half sheet of nori or a lettuce leaf, lay a spoon of rice on top, and add the toppings. Roll into a cone for less mess and more style.

1 commentaire:

  1. Great review for someone new to Japanese food!
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