Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Homemade Sushi

My friends found it hard to believe, but it’s actually been almost four years since I made sushi at home.

Four long years filled with many restaurant-going experiences, during which time I grew and learned even more about the fascinating food and art that is sushi. It is an ongoing pursuit, a continuous exploration; even after all the Japanese eateries I’ve visited, there is still more to discover, so much about which I remain ignorant.

I creak open my kitchen cabinet to survey its contents, and I see that the bamboo sushi rolling mat needs to be rewrapped in brand-new plastic wrap (the better to make those inside-out rolls); the old sauces need to be tossed; the plastic squeeze-bottles need to be replaced. Ditching the old plastic bowl I once used, I go out and purchase an official hangiri (a round, flat-bottom wooden tub used to hold the cooked sushi rice), which of course came with a spatula and mini fan (used for cooling the rice).

At the Japanese supermarket, I buy a few blocks of tuna and salmon sashimi, along with a small tray of minced tuna (instant spicy tuna: just add spicy mayonnaise, smelt fish eggs, green onions and voila!).

It helps when you love it spicy and so do all of those in the party of 10 you’re catering. Knowing ahead of time that not a single person is averse to the hot stuff, I load up on the jalapenos, chili powder, freeze-dried chopped chilis, chili oil, Sri Racha hot sauce, and chili garlic hot sauce.

Sushi purists may argue: true sushi doesn’t consist of spicy mayonnaise, shrimp tempura, or imitation crab sticks; the real thing isn’t about Sushi Pizza (an old favorite among my posse, and rather easy and fun to make, or shall I say bake), or rolls that have gone tropical with mango slices paired with salmon and avocado. These Americanized, fusion creations that are relatively inexpensive to make at home, however, are in fact inspired by dishes I’ve experienced at various sushi bars all around, and I’m aware it’s not something as authentic as say, sweet shrimp nigiri or halibut fin served gunkan-style. (Although perhaps with more researching, I can eventually find my own personal fish dealer so I can attempt the more traditional stuff at home.)

Later, with the help of a designated fry-cook, I cranked out rolls filled with spicy tuna, salmon and mango, and even a shrimp tempura roll laden with spicy scallops and then baked. And of course, the toasted-to-a-crisp, seaweed-and-rice-based sushi pizza, smothered with the ever-popular spicy mayonnaise that I suppose visually represents the cheese on an actual pizza. Substitute the pepperoni slices and sausage with shrimp and crab sticks, and add some jalapeno slices in place of what would normally be green bell peppers and you’ve got some serious Sushi Pizza.