The Japanese nigiri is a men’s cooking
VineTimes authentic Sushi lesson with Yuko
Did you know that women do not prepare nigiri sushi– the famous sushi cubes with the raw fish on the top. Men’s hands and body has a constant lower temperature, which affect the quality of modelling and shaping the sushi blocks. Women’s temperature fluctuates, because of the fertility periods and affects the taste buds.
I have invited my friend Yuko to show me how to cook one of our family favourites. We went shopping, bought the special rice, the vinegar, the fish, the wasabi and when we were just about to start the exotic for me process Yuko said – No.
I was amazed, “but why not?” – I’ve asked … “because women don’t do nigiri…we make maki sushi”.
I wasn’t aware that there is sometimes a fundamental difference between the rolls, the blocks and other types of sushi.
It turned out that the actual rice is prepared in many variations and every one of them taste very distinct and individual.
Yuko notices my confusion and tries to bring some clarity: “There are so many different kinds of Sushi, the style as we know as SUSHI here, was born in Tokyo in and it was a casual street food. But the Japanese attention to details took Sushi to the skill and dining of art today”.
Most sushi restaurants in Japan often don’t have prices on the menu. It’s just written 時価 (means- seasonal price). Using seasonal ingredients is something very important in Japanese cuisine and eating fresh Sushi has always been very expensive dining.
But what do you traditionally pair the sushi with, outside Japan the world compliments it with white wines. We are much more familiar with the Japanese beer… what do you normally do, I have asked Yuko?
“When I was going to my local Sushi restaurant, I’d normally start with a beer, and then go on to drinking sake – the rice white wine, this is the best match. We drink cold sake in the summer and hot in winter. Always finishing sushi with a cup of strong green tea, type of tea typical to drink at the end of sushi in a big cylinder cup, decorated with full of kanji characters names of fish. I used to play with my brother competing how many fish names we know in Kanji at the end of eating at the Sushi restaurant.” – these memories brought laughter in my kitchen, very Japanese style, very charismatic laughter.
Yuko looks like Madam Butterfly, she has a generous smile, generous sense of humour, big voice and huge food knowledge. She worked in the famous Nobu restaurant in London. She is popular in Londons’ East End with her amazing food, serving at the charming local bar called “Printers and Stationers” and her boutique catering for special occasions.
Food wasn’t always Yuko’s passion -“I’ve started training as an ice figure skater, inspired by a gold medallist from East Germany in 1984. Dreaming to be an Olympic skater, I was training 5 hours a day for 5 years. This didn’t work for me and I was far from mastering my skating. I loved dancing, singing, loved music and became a lead singer in a punk band and later on tried jazz music and I ended up performing in trendy jazz clubs across Tokyo.
When I came to London I met and married to Jean-Louis. Here we have opened a charming vintage shop “le Grenier” next to the famous Brick Lane. Now we no longer keep the shop, as this trade is mostly online and when I don’t cook I explore another passion of mine – dealing with antiques, exporting to Japan”
You are so lucky to know how to cook sushi, how long it takes, do you do it often –I am asking Yuko:
“If not for catering, we don’t do it, it takes too long and we just go to restaurant to eat sushi. In fact the nigari sushi, we only eat out, as women should not cook it, it is a very good excuse not to cook” – Yuko is raising her long eyebrows…going back to where we started this wasabi hot, rolled like a maki, conversation.
How to make Maki:
1kg of rice enough for a starter for 8-10 people.
80-100 grams of Japanese sushi vinegar (you can buy form Asian shops)
300 grams of raw fresh fish – salmon or tuna
Wrapping seaweed sheets
Boil the rice for 15 minutes
The proportion to water is strange: you need to have one inch or about 3 cm water above the rice.
Once ready you leave it for quick cool down -5 minutes and then mix gently with the Japanese vinegar. This is sweet vinegar, which gives taste and shine of the rice.
This is not to be used if you do the nigiri cubes.
Cut the fish into strips.
Cut the avocado into long strips.
Once the rice is well mixed with the vinegar then leave to set for 5 min.
Cut finely spring onions.
Prepare you mat and place the seaweed sheet, then gently cover with rice, followed by the salmon, avocado and spring onions. Spread some wasabi on it.
Leave 1 cm gap at the bottom of the seaweed sheet and 2 cm on the top.
Use water to brush only the top edge and go rolling.
Hold the mat tightly and release after one minute. Be careful not to squash the rice.
Remove the mat and then leave a few minutes before cutting into 1cm rolls.
Serve with Japanese soya sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi.
I would complement this wonderful healthy food with aromatic Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.