Raw like sushi
Healthy, delicious and surprisingly cheap, sushi is widely available and popular in European cities, but not in Scotland. Hannah Robinson gets around the problem by making her own and, for those with an adventurous
appetite, shares the secrets . . expensrve restaurant.
of how it’s done.
Sushi. delicate Japanese ﬁngers of subtly seasoned white rice. wrapped in a thin layer of crispy seaweed or topped with perfectly cut pieces of raw fish. seemed the yuppie status food of 80s London. Front Mick Jagger to Nick Kershaw. anyone with any star rating. in their interview with Rolling Stone or Smash Hits. was desperate to include the fact that sushi was their favourite food. It implied one was exotic. erotic. and. most importantly. loaded.
Now it seems. sushi’s days are over. No longer is it necessary to pay a fortune for the privilege of tasting it. no
90 The List 7—20 October 1994
longer are sushi bars exclusive and rare. at least not in London. Now you can buy plastic Benn) boxes in Piccadilly tube station for £3 and munch a small selection of sushi while enduring your crowded commuter train. Not so in Scotland. There are no Japanese restaurants in Glasgow and Edinburgh boasts only one. Yumi. which charges £25 per head. The only other Japanese restaurant in Scotland is further north in Aberdeen. But what about the cheap. excellent sushi bars found in London or New York? In America. as in Japan. you can sit at a cedar wood bar drinking warm Saki and watch the sushi chefs perform their artistry using ingredients of your choice. from the chilled cabinet before you. I'm sure many more people would
be persuaded to try this unknown food ifthey could just purchase one or two
pieces for only a few quid. in a less formal environment than a darkly lit.
The answer is to make sushi yourself. It‘s really very easy. and although you might not create the artistic masterpieces Japanese chefs with ten years training are capable of. you will,
with a little effort. be able to create ‘ something very beautiful. unusual and
delicious. You need only five main Japanese ingredients. Once you have them. they should last several sushi sessions.
First you need Japanese short grain rice — if you can‘t get hold of it. try
? pudding rice — and rice vinegar. 3 available in some supermarkets. You
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can buy sushi seasoning. a vinegar ready mixed with seasonings, but as
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long as you use rice vinegar, it is easy to make the mixture yourself. It is important to use Japanese soy sauce. not Chinese. as shoyu sauce has an entirely different ﬂavour. This is used as a dip for the sushi. after being mixed with wasabi paste — Japanese horseradish paste available in tubes or in powdered form. and is bright green and very hot. Use it sparingly or you might bring tears to people‘s eyes — however unintentionally. Shredded pink pickled ginger. or gari . eaten between pieces of sushi as a palate cleanser. is available in vacuum packs orjars from Chinese supermarkets.
The other important. but not so exotic ingredient is raw fish. Don't be nervous. fresh raw fish is very good for you. (Sushi is one of the world‘s most healthy foods. but I'm not going to talk niacin or B vitamins right now). Go to your fishmonger and say you’re going to eat the fish raw that night. They won't sell you anything which is not fresh. lest you come back violently ill. The rest of Europe knows we have some of the best fish in the world swimming in our waters — they import it in vast quantities.
Ask your fishmonger to skin and fillet the fish to save time and effort. unless you’re particularly fond ofthis stage. If available. raw tuna is the best and most traditional fish to use. Raw salmon is also a good bet. it is nearly always available fresh. Squid is frequently available. but try small. more delicate ones. and again. get your fishmonger to prepare them. However, most fish is good raw. Ask your ﬁshmonger to recommend the best of the catch. taking into consideration colour and shape.
Once you have these ingredients. you are ready to begin. Take a measuring jug and fill it with 3/4pt or leI oz of rice. Wash the rice. soak it for an hour to get rid of the starch. then drain. Pour lpt or 20fl oz of water into a heavy- bottomed pan with a tight-fitting lid. Add the rice, and if possible. a small strip of kombu seaweed. fringed using scissors. Bring the rice to the boil over a high heat. Take out the kombu. cover the rice with the tightly-fitting lid and turn the heat down to the lowest setting. If you have an electric cooker. transfer the pan to another ring. preheated to mark 2. as the first ring won't cool down fast enough. Leave the rice for 12—15 minutes. Do not take off the lid as it won't maintain its temperature. Then, when the rice is soft and quite
llramaltl: Inside-out Roll
sticky transfer it to a large bowl.
Now season the rice and cool it as fast as possible. Have your bottle of sushi seasoning ready. Either buy pre- prepared. or make as follows: In a small pan. orjug if you have a microwave. mix 5 tblsps (5H 07.) of rice vinegar with 4 tblsps (4H 07.) of sugar and 4 tsps of salt. Heat gently until the grains dissolve. Pour a little of the seasoning onto the rice and fold it in. Keep on adding until you can just taste the seasoning. subtly and evenly throughout the rice. The rice should remain dry and sticky, not soupy. If you have a helpful slave. get them to fan the rice while you do this to help it cool quickly.
Have your different toppings ready. Two or three should do — perhaps some white fish, some pink fish and some prawns. Cut the fish into small rectangles about 1 cm thick. lfyou freeze the fish for half an hour first it is easier to cut precisely. Large prawns are traditional on sushi. and these you cook before serving. Buy them fresh and stick a tooth pick through them lengthwise before dropping them for a minute into a pan of boiling water. The toothpick stops them curling up. Shell them. remove any digestive cord with the tooth pick and slice them almost in half lengthways to create a butterfly shape. Another topping is thick slices ofomelette. seasoned with salt and sugar before cooking. Fans of cucumber or avocado can also be used.
Once the rice is cooled. you are almost there. Take a small handful of rice and squeeze it gently in your hand to form a patty. Take a piece of one of your toppings and brush it with a little wasabi paste. Put it on top of your rice patty and gently press together. Place on a tray. Repeat. Try and make all the sushi pieces as uniform in size and shape as possible. When you have an array of different types of sushi. serve them immediately. Have a little saucer of shoyu sauce mixed with wasabi and another saucer of pickled ginger shreds. Dip the sushi fish first into the shoyu and then eat it in one go. (Bear this in mind when you are judging the size of your n'ce patties.) Then eat a piece of pickled ginger.
A more informal way of eating sushi with friends is to prepare a tray with all the different constituents and let your guests prepare their own. If you can get some norl seaweed. toast each sheet under the grill for a few seconds until it