Every Day is a Sushi Day!
As some of you might know, in January of this year I started a podcast – Miso Hungry Podcast, all about Japanese food! – with Rachael Hutchings of La Fuji Mama. (And if you didn’t know, then you should definitely go listen to one of our 25 (plus 2 mini) episodes! Seriously, go. Now. This post can wait, promise. ^_^)
A couple of months into the podcast, Rachael mentioned that she was planning a trip to Japan with her husband in the summer, as she does every summer. (They lived in Japan for a while a few years back, and his job takes him back to Tokyo for a few weeks every year.)
Half-jokingly, one of us proposed that I should go too, as a “research trip” for the podcast. The more we talked about it, the more it sounded like an awesome idea… and when I mentioned it to Son, he was totally on board.
So what started as a wild, “that would be cool” sort of idea, ended up as a full-fledged trip to Japan. In the middle of June, solidly in typhoon season, six of us (on three different flights) headed off to Japan – Rachael, her husband, and their two daughters, and Son and I.
Son and I booked our flight on Singapore Air. It’s the same airline we flew the first time we went to Japan, and we highly recommend it. Even though we fly economy, they have great service, friendly flight attendants, and food that’s actually pretty good.
To say I’m a bit out of touch with what’s trendy/cool/”in” would be an understatement. Especially when it comes to anything having to do with any sort of alcohol.
The super-sweet flight attendant who took care of our part of the plane recommended that we get a Singapore Sling, on one of the instances when she came by with the drink cart. (I think she thought Son and I were on our honeymoon.)
So we got one to share, which she made super-weak (I’m pretty sure it was practically a virgin cocktail) because neither of us ever drink.
Of course I, the dork that I am, was sitting there thinking, “How cool, they have a cocktail named after their airline! And it’s not half bad, either… actually pretty good, for something with alcohol in it.”
(Remember the part where I said I don’t drink… and I’m waaay out of touch? Yeah…)
Dinner was buta kakuni (Japanese braised pork) with rice, which came with tamago and shrimp on the side, a rice cracker, a roll w/ butter, soba with dipping sauce, and chocolate brownie ice cream. For airplane food, it was damn good.
(Asian airlines always have the best food! I’m told food on the American airlines can’t even compare. Word to the wise – although both options offered by Singapore Air at each meal are pretty decent, the one with Asian food is almost always better.)
After a few hours of “sleeping” – aka Son watching various movies and me reading an entire Robert Jordan book on my Kindle, we got another light meal – this time chicken curry with rice, which came with a roll with butter, seafood salad, and a mocha cake. Again, delicious (although the cake kind of sucked.)
We landed at Narita Airport around 7pm Japan time… which unfortunately was juuust too late to exchange our JR Exchange Order for a JR Pass.
(PRO TIP: if you are going to be staying in one city, without traveling elsewhere much, then the JR Pass may not be worth it for you, since local trains usually aren’t too expensive. However, if you’re planning on using the Shinkansen a lot – we used it to go to Kyoto and Osaka – then it might be worth buying one before your trip to Japan.)
So, since we were too late to get our JR Passes, we ended up spending 2800 yen (about $35) for tickets on the Rapid train to get from the airport (which is about 1 hour away from Tokyo) to Shimbashi station (which is the closest big station to the hotel where we were staying.)
By the time we got to our hotel, we were 100% completely and totally exhausted. Also, kind of lost. (Park Hotel Tokyo, which is where we were staying, is kind of hard to find from the subway station level, and the lobby is on the 20-somthingth floor.)
And by that time, everything was closed. Luckily for us, there was a Family Mart convenience store (aka “combini”) on the subway level of the hotel building, which our bellboy was kind enough to point us to.
Thank goodness for Family Mart. Open 24-hours, always brightly lit, and always with plenty of food… it became our favorite place over the next two weeks. Every morning we would buy a bottle of water there, every night a tuna with mayo onigiri for the next morning’s breakfast… and any time we found ourselves still hungry when most restaurants were already closed (or we were too exhausted to go out), Family Mart was there with plenty of good food.
Seriously. I’m not kidding about it being really freaking good food (um, hello American convenience stores, get your act together please!)
For our first meal back in Japan, we ended up with inari sushi and futomaki, fruit jelly, and a cherry soda. (Sushi was good, Son ate the fruit jelly, and I’m generally not a fan of cherry-flavored things so I didn’t really like the soda, but Son says it was good.) All for about 800 yen (about $10). Only in Japan will I ever advocate getting convenience store sushi! ^_^
Okay, so our “first” day in Japan wasn’t so exciting… hence it being labeled “Day 0″. But the next day included ramen, cream puffs, and more ramen… so stay tuned for the next post!
Over the years, we’ve all seen the American flag cakes, the patriotic fruit kabobs, the everything red, white, and blue for Independence Day. Heck, even Pocky sticks have been decked out in patriotic colors!
So, considering this is a sushi blog (and completely disregarding the fact that I have hardly posted in ages, thankyouverymuch), I’d be awfully remiss if I didn’t make something sushi-style for the Fourth of July.
For the red and white, I used sashimi, of course. (I made this as a chirashi – sashimi on top of a bowl of sushi rice – so there is a layer of sushi rice underneath.) The red is ahi tuna, and the white is made up of bay scallops.
For the blue, I decided I wanted to make something with blueberries. I hemmed and hawed between pickled blueberries, some sort of blue tsukemono (Japanese pickles), or this blueberry salsa. Since it was only a couple of days before the fourth, I ended up not having enough time to make pickles, and no time to go to the Japanese supermarket to search for blue tsukemono. So salsa it was.
(I used red jalapeños instead of green ones, and lemon juice instead of lime – funny story, I thought I had run out of lime juice, then found it in the very back of the fridge several hours later. Oops.)
This recipe can easily be adapted to make however much or little you would like. As written, this makes a 12″ square chirashi “bowl”, which could probably feed 4 people on its own, or a whole lot of people as part of a potluck.
Tataki and Mindshare, bringing sustainable sushi to Los AngelesPosted on March 26th, 2012 · 8 Comments »Other Sushi Randomness
Sustainability is an important food issue these days. But what people don’t always realize, is that it can also be a very delicious issue.
Last week was a perfect example of this. There was an event in Los Angeles – A VIP Mindshare LA Sustainable Sushi Experience with Tataki Sushi at the very cool Project Butterfly Loft that Son, Rachael, and I were lucky enough to get to go to.
Tataki is a sushi bar in San Francisco… actually, three sushi bars in San Francisco. And now they’re looking to open a branch in Los Angeles.
Needless to say, I’m pretty excited about it. A sustainable sushi restaurant in LA? You can bet I’ll be there quite a bit… and I’m going to be doing anything I can to help them do well. Want to help? Email me and I’ll get your info to Casson.
But as much as the dinner was about getting the word out about bringing Tataki to Los Angeles, it was also just as much about the food. And oh boy, was it ever about the food… amazing, delicious, creative food!
The first course was made up of a pumpkin-carrot soup, and a coho salmon salad that had three types of seaweed in it. The soup had the sort of flavor that seems like a new, different flavor, but you just cannot stop eating it. The seaweed in the salad was a new experience for me – more than your typical wakame seaweed that you find in many Japanese applications. It was texturally fascinating, and the salmon, of course, melted in your mouth.
Coho salmon is generally considered a good choice in terms of sustainability, because of how it is fished – especially when it uses trolling methods (a hook-and-line method that tows fishing lines behind or alongside a boat, which is considered an environmentally responsible fishing method.).
The second of nine courses consisted of Canal oysters, topped with tobiko, basil chiffonade, and a Sriracha ponzu sauce. I only recently developed a taste for oysters – three years ago, at the first sustainable sushi dinner I attended at Mashiko. (It’s all coming full circle!) These were delicious. Of course. (There’s a good chance I will be trying to make these at home, soon.)
Oysters are one of the best types of seafood you can eat. They are almost always farmed, and according to the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch, most of these farming operations are very well managed – so as consumers we have little to worry about here.
The third course was a Hawaiian-influenced albacore tuna poke, with nori and endive. I really want more of this. I had never considered endive as a pairing for sashimi, but when you spoon a little of the poke onto it and take a bite, it’s entirely addictive.
Albacore tuna is a great choice, especially when compared to unsustainable options like bluefin tuna. The albacore tuna is much smaller than the bluefin, and something that Casson constantly says is that the smaller the fish, the better option it is. (Sardines are a great option.)
The next course was a vegan tsukune, made of mountain yam, panko, water chestnuts, and bean curd. “But,” I’m sure you’re wondering, “if it’s vegan, then that means there’s no fish. How does this fit into a sustainable sushi dinner?”
Part of what Casson and the chefs at Tataki are trying to show is that sustainability is about more than just eating the right fish – vegetables are a vastly overlooked solution. As you’ll see later (and as I’ve mentioned in the past), vegan sushi can be so good, that even meat-lovers crave it.
That goes for these meatballs two-fold. Tsukune are usually meatballs made of chicken, but I’d claim that this vegan version is even better. You have no idea how much I am still craving them. (Casson, when you guys open a LA branch of Tataki, these had better be on the menu!)
Course number five consisted of arctic char sashimi with dill and capers. Although obviously not a very Japanese dish, it utterly melts in your mouth.
I’ve been talking about arctic char as a sustainable substitution for salmon for quite a while, and for good reason – it’s delicious. And sustainable! Most of the arctic char sold in the US is farmed, and luckily for us, done in closed systems – land-based systems that prevent a lot of the issues that come with open farms.
It wouldn’t be a sustainable sushi dinner without a sashimi course, and Tataki definitely delivered. The course included horse mackerel sashimi with ginger and daikon, kampachi, skipjack tuna with mustard and scallions, and hokkaido scallops layered with lemon slices. The skipjack tuna melted me, and in my opinion you can never go wrong with scallops. The horse mackerel and kampachi? Also amazing.
The seventh course had everyone sighing happily. This course consisted of four nigiri, but Casson had very specific instructions about the order in which you were to eat them. Traditionally, you are supposed to eat sushi in the order from the most delicate to the fattiest/most flavorful, and this was no exception.
We were instructed to start with the suzuki (striped bass) nigiri, that was topped with tobiko.
Then we were to sample the seared albacore belly nigiri – this was when the room lit up with ecstatic groans. (Although everything was amazing, if I had to pick a single favorite bite from the evening, it would have been this.)
Third of the nigiri we were instructed to eat was the saba (mackerel) mackerel with candied kombu.
Lastly, something that I’ve made and posted here in the past – Tataki’s black cod “faux-nagi”. As we know, unagi is a bad choice when it comes to sustainability… the problem is that everybody loves it. So Tataki came up with this black cod-based substitution… try it, and you’ll see that it does quite well in place of unagi.
Then we moved on to the (ura)maki sushi course. Or rather, courses. Although this was billed as a 9-course dinner, it really turned out to be more like 12 courses after all the maki rolls!
Like I mentioned before, they started the maki course with a vegan roll – the Reggae Roll. Filled with asparagus and cucumber, and topped with avocado, cherry tomato, and shaved pumpkin, then served with avocado puree, Sriracha aioli, and Sriracha sauce for dipping… it’s so flavorful, you have no opportunity to miss the fish.
The second of the four rolls was the Golden State Roll – an uramaki filled with scallops, Sriracha, and green apple, and topped with avocado, albacore, masago, and an apple spice reduction. Everyone really liked the use of apple in a sushi roll… and I always, always love anything made with scallops.
Another concept that Casson speaks of often is the idea that using ingredients that are local is more sustainable than using ingredients that have to be shipped from very far away. Every ingredient in the Golden State Roll is local to California. It’s common sense, if you think about it. Local uses fewer resources, and keeps demand for ingredients more spread out (instead of, for example, everyone buying tuna from a single source like Japan).
“When you think about the Rainbow Roll, it’s pretty much carnage on a plate (in terms of sustainability).”
Casson said this as they brought out the Tataki Roll, and it’s true – you often have every sort of popular, unsustainable fish packed on top when you order a Rainbow Roll. So as a sustainable replacement, he offers the Tataki Roll – uramaki filled with avocado, cucumber, and topped with albacore, arctic char, black cod ‘faux-nagi’, and multi-colored tobiko. All sustainable ingredients that we’ve already seen, and entirely delicious.
The last of the sushi roll courses was one that, quite frankly, terrified me. They brought it out, and our entire table just sat and stared at it, no one daring to touch it.
“Why,” you ask? Well, the name tells all. This is known as the Russian Roulette – a roll with asparagus, scallop, crawfish, sriracha, kewpie mayonnaise, and soy-marinated masago. It all sounds innocent enough, until Casson warned us that one of the pieces had been filled with habanero oil… hence the glass of sake included with the plate.
We all stared at the plate warily, as if it held a poisonous snake. Other tables had already started eating the Russian Roulette, piece by piece. You could tell when someone got the loaded piece of sushi – they would go red in the face, and the room would erupt in a ruckus.
Finally, Rachael was the first one at our table daring enough to reach out and take a piece. We all watched her with bated breath… until she smiled and admitted, “I got it.” Not that you could tell – the spice had no effect on her at all. (Have I ever mentioned that she’ll eat anything? I’d even venture to say she can handle spicier foods than Son can, and that’s saying a lot.)
Needless to say we were all relieved, and were able to enjoy the rest of sushi without the sense of dread that had previously haunted us.
Last course was dessert – a shiso and lychee granita with plum wine and yogurt. To me, it tasted like Vietnam – not a bad thing at all. (Son was convinced it had fish mint in it – a Vietnamese herb that apparently tastes quite similar to shiso.)
All in all, the dinner event was a grand success. We met a lot of interesting people, ate great food, and Casson gleefully embarrassed me in front of the entire dinner.
I’m really excited about the future of sustainable dining (seriously – bouncing-off-the-walls, dancing-around-the-room excited), and eagerly anticipating the arrival of Tataki in Los Angeles!
P.S. This is an excellent time to go check out my Miso Hungry Podcast… this week’s episode is all about sushi! We talk about this sushi dinner, and also talk quite a bit about the new documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, that I highly recommend all of you go see.
When I first tried uni, at a little sushi restaurant in Honolulu in the summer of 2008, I was not a fan. Something about the texture, the saltiness, and how exotic it seems just put me off. For the next three years, I was convinced that I just plain didn’t like uni.
In spring of 2011, I was at a fellow food blogger’s house, filming some sustainable sushi videos for a friend with a couple of other friends of mine who are also food bloggers. Among the types of seafood we had to work with was some fresh golden uni.
Since this was my first time meeting Rachael and Greg, and at the time I had only met Cathy and Martin once… I sure as heck wasn’t about to admit that I, a sushi blogger, didn’t like uni. Especially since everyone else was raving about it so much.
So I tried the uni temarizushi that Rachael made… and they were actually pretty good. Then I ventured to try the fresh uni straight from the tray… suffice to say that since then, I’ve become a full-on uni lover.
Lucky for me, uni is pretty sustainable, not to mention good for you as well (and also an aphrodisiac… oh la la! ~_^)
If you want to know more about uni, why not listen to the uni episode of my Miso Hungry Podcast?
A few weeks ago, Rachael gave me a cool little kitchen toy called a Rice Cube. (Disclaimer: I got this as a gift, and Rice Cube also donated several Rice Cubes for us to give away on our podcast.) So when I bought a tray of uni for the uni episode, I wanted to find a way to use the rice cube with it.
I tried compressing the uni into a cube with the rice… but that just looked ugly (though still delicious). So instead I made a cube with the sushi rice, laid a lobe of uni over it, then sprinkled it with paprika and topped it with a sliver of green onion. I actually liked this better than normal nigiri, because not only was it ridiculously easy to make, the ratio of rice to uni was also perfect.
If you want a Rice Cube for yourself, you can buy one through their campaign to fight childhood obesity on IndieGoGo at a discount and have the proceeds go towards fighting childhood obesity. OR… you can head over to the Tako Episode of my podcast, where we’re giving away three of them!
Miso Hungry! (I’ve got an exciting announcement… and a giveaway!)Posted on January 17th, 2012 · 7 Comments »Other Sushi Randomness
Food blogging. It’s mostly written word, complemented by some (hopefully) beautiful photographs of delicious food, with maybe an occasional video or two thrown in the mix. Blogging’s easy. Anyone can do it (lots of people do, and very well at that!)
Then there’s podcasting. Another beast entirely. Wrought with all sorts of challenges and insecurities blogging doesn’t provide. (After all, who doesn’t think it’s really flipping weird, when made to listen to a recording of their own voice?)
Of course, there are also many of the same worries – will anyone show up? Will people like it? Am I just going to sound like an idiot, putting myself out there like this?
So why am I waxing poetic about the differences between blogging and podcasting? Well, I’ve been blogging for five years, two months, and seventeen days. (Not that anyone’s counting.) I’ve gotten that pretty well under my belt, even if we already know that I kind of suck at it (given that I got in… oh, about seven posts last year. Oops.).
But podcasting? Not really something I ever thought I’d do.
Pfft. Who, me? Podcast? Yeah, right. I hate my voice! I suck at talking!
But then I was talking to my friend Greg (who is, himself, a podcaster), and he said, “You know, you should do a podcast. Yeah… you’d have a good subject for a podcast.” I came out of that conversation perplexed (I do? What could he possibly be talking about?)… but also intrigued.
After some serious thought (Son can tell you that I was talking about that conversation the rest of the evening), I decided that if I were to do a podcast, it would have to be about Japanese food. Of course. What else could I possibly talk about that would make a good podcast? (I doubt I could make either programming or dance interesting enough by myself to carry an entire podcast… especially with no previous podcasting experience under my belt.)
This was all hypothetical, of course. It’s not like I was actually considering doing a podcast.
But the seed had been planted. I knew I couldn’t do something like this myself (after all, all of my favorite podcasts feature multiple people – Spilled Milk, The Joy the Baker Podcast, The Table Set…) so just days later I asked Rachael Hutchings if she might be at all interested in doing a podcast with me.
(It was a surprise to me too… I asked her on a whim, completely spontaneously, knowing she was the only person I’d want to do a podcast like this with. But once I asked – and she said yes! – there was no turning back!)
In the span of a weekend, I went from never having even considered ever podcasting to seriously discussing putting together a podcast with my new partner in crime. (I’m still not even sure I believe this is all happening.) Two months later, we’ve already recorded several episodes and are ready to launch!
So without further ado, I bring to you the Miso Hungry Podcast!
Rachael and I have gotten together to bring to you a podcast all about Japanese food! So far we have three episodes ready for your listening pleasure: our Introduction, our first whole episode in which we talk about the Japanese New Year, and Episode 2 which is all about Candy!
You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (and if you feel like it, we definitely appreciate your comments and ratings!)
All you have to do to enter is go over and check out our podcast, then come back here and leave a comment letting me know what you think, and what you’d like to hear us talk about in the future on the podcast! (One entry per person; you can enter until 11:59pm PST on Monday, January 23rd; winner will be chosen using random.org; anyone can enter – I can have it shipped internationally. If you want to leave a comment but don’t want to enter the giveaway, just let me know in your comment!)
And if you don’t win, or want to buy any of the other SUPER CUTE things she has in her store, the coupon code JAN2012 is good for 15% off throughout Etsy!
What about all those insecurities I talked about at the beginning of the post? Well, they’re still there, of course. (It continues to be seriously weird, listening to my own voice when I’m editing our podcasts.)
But one night, while working into the wee hours on our new podcast, I heard an interview that Carson Daly was doing with Chris Hardwick (The Nerdist), and this quote really resonated with me:
“It’s weird when I think about, that most people listen to the podcast than watch most cable channels. But you know, even if they… even if most of those people went away, we’d still keep doing the show. That’s kind of how I know it’s something I should be doing, because I would do it no matter what.”
-Chris Hardwick, nerdist.com
Even though I still worry no one will listen to the podcast (although it’s turning out far better than I had ever hoped it would), I’ll still do the podcast no matter what… because we have so much fun doing it.
I love to cook for others. Like, really, really love making sushi for other people.
In a perfect world, I’d be allowed to experiment and have as much freedom coming up with new rolls as I do here on Sushi Day. But this isn’t a perfect world, and not everyone will eat all the random rolls I put together (and, to be honest, not everything I attempt comes out well…). And I’m okay with that.
These days, there are a lot of things you have to take into account when making sushi for other people, like if you’re going to a potluck. While my Spicy Shrimp Inari is always a crowd pleaser, you know there are always a few picky eaters: “I don’t eat seafood… at all.” (Hence my Man Sushi… trust me, that’ll convince any meat eater that sushi’s actually delicious!)
Then there are those with allergies – gluten-free? Just stay away from tempura. (And bring some wheat-free tamari soy sauce… did you know that most normal soy sauce actually has wheat products in it?) Dairy-free? Okay, no rolls with cream-cheese.
And, of course, you have those with other dietary restrictions, like vegetarians and vegans. At the most recent potluck I went to, I knew we’d have a few vegetarian/vegan attendees. So in addition to the other sushi dishes that I brought, I decided to come up with a vegetarian roll.
Obviously, I was going to use primarily vegetables in the roll. I considered using tofu, but decided against it since I didn’t think there would be a quick, easy way to make tofu taste good in sushi. (I needed something that wouldn’t be too time-consuming, since I was making four dishes that morning for the potluck.) I also couldn’t resort to tempura-frying the veggies, since tempura isn’t vegan – the batter uses egg. For the same reason, no mayonnaise is allowed either.
But it had to be a delicious, somehow interesting roll. It just wouldn’t be right to make delicious rolls for my meat-eating friends, and then bring a boring, “blah” roll for my vegan friends. So I had to come up with something so good even the meat-eaters would love it.
“Asparagus… roasted. Obviously. I love roasted asparagus.”
“Onions… sauteed? Nah, I want a texture contrast. How about fried? Yeah, I’ll need to heat up oil to fry the Arctic Char and Cream Cheese Wontons, so I can just fry up a bunch of thinly-sliced onions before I start the wontons.”
“What else… what would go well with asparagus and onions? Hm. How about carrots? Yeah, carrots would be good. But I don’t want to just roast them. I’m already roasting the asparagus; another plain roasted vegetable would be boring. Oooh, what if I glaze them with a little maple syrup? That would add a nice sweetness that should round out the roll.”
So how did it turn out? According to my veg(etari)an (as well as my omnivorous) friends, this fish-less, meat-less roll was a grand success. So much so, that it has definitely earned a place in my regular potluck menu. ^_^
Question: What do you do when you’re tasked with making sushi for a group of friends, but one of your male friends has never eaten sushi and refuses to try raw fish?
Easy: MAN SUSHI. (Just imagine I’m saying that in a deep, “manly” voice.)
But what on earth is “Man Sushi”?
Well, what sort of food does your stereotypical man love? That’s an easy one: beef, and anything battered and fried. Of course.
All you have to do is put grilled beef teriyaki and tempura-fried vegetables in a sushi roll, (and throw in some spicy mayonnaise for good measure), and you’ll have a roll that your man will not only try, but will still be talking about a year later.
By now, most of us have heard about the 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan, and the devastating tsunami that followed. I’ve been watching the news all night, and my heart hurts seeing all that’s happened over there. Image from Kyodo News I was in Japan about a year ago, and fell in love with the [...]