If you knew sushi…

Our new favourite lunch is more than just rice and a slice, finds Tif­fany Han­cock

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Food & Drink -

Al­ready more pop­u­lar than egg-and-cress sand­wiches, sushi is fast be­com­ing the na­tion’s favourite lunch. So it seems sur­pris­ing that so few peo­ple know how to make it. It hardly looks com­pli­cated: boil a bit of rice and slap some raw fish on top. But a two-and-a-half-hour class in sushi-mak­ing at the Ja­pan Cen­tre in Lon­don showed me oth­er­wise.

Perched just off Pic­cadilly Cir­cus, the Cen­tre is a homage to all things Ja­panese, with a base­ment shop that sells ev­ery­thing from rice and noo­dles to soy sauce and sea­weed. Up­stairs is the restau­rant and prob­a­bly some of the best Ja­panese food in the coun­try. This is where the owner of Nobu comes to dine with his man­ager. Both restau­rants use the same fish sup­plier, al­though the sushi here costs a frac­tion of the price at Nobu.

Apart from the qual­ity of in­gre­di­ents, the real dis­tinc­tion is in the de­tail. The rice used is all milled on site and it is boiled in wa­ter that has been fil­tered twice. An elec­tric rod is used to ionise the wa­ter and change it from be­ing acid to al­ka­line to im­prove the taste.

It might sound overly per­fec­tion­ist but, as Tak Toku­mine, the owner, em­pha­sises as we be­gin the class, get­ting the rice right is cru­cial. First off, don’t even think about us­ing any­thing other than Ja­panese sushi rice, prefer­ably from a Ja­panese food store.

Toku­mine’s dis­dain for the Ja­panese pro­duce on of­fer in Bri­tish su­per­mar­kets turns out to be a re­cur­ring theme. He ex­plains that the rice is usu­ally just stan­dard rice that can only be called sushi rice once sushi vine­gar has been sprin­kled on to it af­ter it’s cooked. “The re­al­ity is that it’s very poor qual­ity,’’ he says. ‘‘In Ja­pan the name of the brand of the rice is how we judge qual­ity. Koshi­hikari and Ta­man­ishiki are good names.”

Toku­mine also ad­vises against buy­ing fish in su­per­mar­kets. The tuna, he warns, is of­ten “gassed” to make it look pink and fresh. Sushi en­thu­si­asts should head in­stead to their lo­cal fish mar­ket or or­der from a Ja­panese fish­mon­ger. “The Bri­tish are a meat na­tion, while Ja­pan is a fish na­tion,’’ he says. ‘‘Your meat is bet­ter but our fish is su­pe­rior”.

When I taste my first piece of ho­so­maki, a tiny cylin­dri­cal roll filled with salmon, I re­alise that Itsu and Yo! Sushi will never have the same ap­peal again. This rice is soft and sticky with a gen­tle kick of vine­gar while the melt-in-your­mouth salmon is full of flavour and has a silky tex­ture. It’s like com­par­ing the very best beef fil­let with a McDon­ald’s burger.

I can’t take all the credit: the rice has been pre­pared in ad­vance so the class can fo­cus on tech­nique and pre­sen­ta­tion. Recre­at­ing rice of this qual­ity might take some prac­tice, al­though we’re given de­tailed in­struc­tions on when to ad­just the heat and add the sushi vine­gar.

Af­ter pre­par­ing our first ho­so­maki, the class of eight moves on to dif­fer­ent types of roll. The man next to me, a fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sor in his mid-50s, ex­pe­ri­ences a Da­m­a­scene mo­ment with his tiny cone-shaped temaki roll. Hav­ing strug­gled, and failed, re­peat­edly at home with sushi cook­books, the guid­ance and ex­tra ad­vice (there is roughly one chef to ev­ery two stu­dents) make all the dif­fer­ence.

We’re also given ad­vice on how best to eat the end prod­uct: tuck­ing in ap­pears to be a mine­field of bad man­ners. For starters, al­ways be sure to dip the fish rather than rice into your soy sauce. If you drop lots of rice into your sauce, you risk be­com­ing a so­cial pariah. As Toku­mine says: “It’s ugly and not proper. Ev­ery­thing in Ja­pan must be neat and straight.”

The same couldn’t be said of all the sushi I make, but as far as I’m con­cerned it’s the taste that counts. As for aes­thet­ics, prac­tice will hope­fully make per­fect.

A sashimi or sushi course at the JC Sushi Academy in the Ja­pan Cen­tre costs £140 and takes place on the sec­ond Tues­day of ev­ery month. The Ja­pan Cen­tre is at 212 Pic­cadilly, Lon­don W1 (020 7255 8255; www.sushi-cour­ses.co.uk). The price in­cludes in­gre­di­ents to take away. See www.hot­courses.com for de­tails of other sushi cour­ses na­tion­wide.

On a roll: Tif­fany Han­cock learns the finer points of sushi with chef Kaori Ku­ni­take

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.