Have I ever told you that I lived in Tokyo?! Well, I did..for about eight months, when I first started working post b-school. I enjoyed every minute of it; even during those months of 14 hour workd days and I still did not know enough people to hang out with to make the most of the few days of down time. Eventually, ofcourse, there was a gang, late Friday nights and weekends extended with laughter, travel and exploration of a land whose language we did not speak and where English wasn't common!!
You would wonder how life could be fabulous when it was difficult to communicate. Oh! we managed... with much help from the locals who were so willing to help us and more importantly understand us. I have honestly never experienced better service in any other place I have been to. Such meticulous care is given to everything, even the smallest component; things are made so delicate and subtle; there is beauty in every small item and much pride in making it....
And, the food?! Words alone cannot do justice. I was told that since Japan imports everything, they maintain a very strict quality control. Stores were filled with such fresh produce that one of my favorite pastimes was to go grocery shopping! Even the plastic wrapped 24 hour convenience store buns were so flavorful and good.
Recently, a dear friend visited me from Tokyo and she brought this absolutely fantastic persimmon from there for us; that was the most succulent fruit I have bitten into in 4 years! Even Mr. FSK agreed and decided that my raves, about the place, were credible, after all! :-)
So, when I saw that the Daring Cooks challenge for November was Sushi, it instantly took me on a nostalgia trip and hence that long introduction! Bear with me... I can wax on the topic for eternity (these days my hub tunes out the instant I mention Tokyo! LOL).
The November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to us by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge.
Perhaps the most cliched Japanese dish adopted by the West is the sushi. As it happens, I had a lot of Japanese food in my time in the country but had sushi only once. Goes to show just how much more there is to the cuisine :)
When I first moved to the US, I refused to eat sushi for almost a year because everyone in Tokyo told me that the American sushi does not compare. So, I held on to the fading memory of that bite of sweet rice and fresh fish even in the face of being called snooty and uppity and all those nasty things! (twenty-somethings can be soo hurtful with words, don't you agree?!)
Eventually, I caved... I couldn't find much other ode to the cuisine (that wasn't heftily priced) and I really needed my Japanese fix. It has become one of our favorite things to have and fortunately, there is a great sushi place just next door to us!
Here are a few words from our hostesses about the challenge:
Although sushi in various forms has been around for fourteen centuries, the modern version was invented in Japan in the 1800’s where a 'hand-formed' sliced fresh fish and vinegared rice ball was eaten as a snack food. Nowadays, sushi is made with various seafood, meats and vegetables, raw and cooked.
The challenge is in four parts:-
Part 1: Making proper sushi rice – you will wash, rinse, drain, soak, cook, dress, and cool short grain rice until each grain is sticky enough to hold toppings or bind ingredients. Then you will use the cooked rice to form three types of sushi:
Part 2: Dragon sushi roll – an avocado covered inside-out rice roll with a tasty surprise filling
Part 3: Decorative sushi – a nori-coated rice roll which reveals a decorative pattern when cut
Part 4: Nigiri sushi – hand-shaped rice rolls with toppings
Yep.. I, actually we, made them all. We played good tag team, with me doing the rice and assembling and Mr. FSK bringing in his expert rolling skills. We went with eel and shrimp as the protein item with cucumber and mayo for additional garnish.
The verdict: While it was fun to make it at home and perhaps a good party/group exercise, it does not compare to the restaurant experience. In the time that I took to just make the rice, we could have had a whole meal at the table. Besides, it is definitely more cost effective to eat out...
One day, I want to go back for a visit with Mr. FSK and share with him all that I enjoyed...I would definitely recommend a trip or a long stay in Japan! It is an experience par none. The natural beauty is spectacular and if you are a foodie, you are in for a happy, happy ride...
Please visit the Daring Kitchen for the recipe, tips and tricks to making sushi and see the wonderful creations by other daring cooks!