A Table Talk with a difference this month. We are going Japanese, with help from Yasu Minowa, who has recently started running Let’s Sushi courses for both adults and children. Yasu was born and bred in Japan but now lives near Farnham with his English wife and their daughter.
For years he’s been preparing Sushi for friends and family which tastes and looks as good as that his mum Reiko used to make. Last year his daughter asked him to teach her and her friends how to make Sushi for her birthday party, and after seeing the amazing response from the children and their parents, his idea to take Sushi into people’s homes was born. We asked Yasu if he would unleash his Sushi skills on the Round&About team, and so we met him at one of our homes on a Tuesday lunchtime. All we were asked to provide was a clear dining table. We sat down and were presented with a mat, sushi tray, bamboo rolling mat, chopsticks and a menu with five different Sushi that we were going to be making. Oh, and a name badge written in Japanese katakana, which is the syllabary used for foreign words.
Sushi was invented over 200 years ago (the word means vinegared rice), and was the original Japanese fast food. Our menu featured five different Sushi - Kappa Maki, Avocado Maki, Tuna-mayo Maki, California Maki and Te Maki. Maki means ‘roll’ and the other names derives from the filling. For instance, Kappa was a legendary green creature, so in this case means cucumber. We were poured some green tea, and more excitingly, a glass of Sake made by one of Japan’s oldest producers, which tasted very innocuous but was still 12.5% proof, and then the lesson began. Thoughts of the Generation Game were not far from my mind…
The rice used is Japanese short grain rice, which when cooked is carefully mixed with Sushisu, which is a mixture of vinegar, mirin, salt, sugar and sake. You need to mix it very gently so as not to break up the rice grains. We were then each given a bowl of the rice and half a sheet of seaweed, which is actually quite crisp when fresh. We placed the seaweed at the bottom of our bamboo mat, and were instructed to take a small ball of rice and then spread it over the seaweed, leaving about a 1cm gap at the top. Now for the first filling. After scattering some toasted sesame seeds over the rice, we placed a long slice of cucumber in the middle of the rice. Then came the difficult bit – rolling it. Apparently it is all in the wrist. Using the bamboo mat, you gently roll the seaweed from the bottom, and when the two edges of rice meet together, squeeze tightly to bind the edges together. Add more pressure while shaping the Sushi so that it is square shaped as opposed to circular. Then leave the sushi to rest for a while and you can start on your next one. We ended up making five different varieties. The first three were all made as above, while the fourth one, the California Maki, had the rice on the outside rather than in the middle. You start off by covering the seaweed completely with rice (no gap at the top) and then add sesame seeds all over. Carefully turn it over before adding your filling (crab stick and avocado) and then rolling as before. Apparently the origin of this is that in an America Sushi establishment some years ago, a customer was put off by the seaweed, visible of course on the exterior of the Sushi. So it was made the other way round, with the seaweed hidden in the middle, which said customer bought and enjoyed. Our final Sushi was made a little like an ice cream cone, with a filling of rice, egg, asparagus and crab stick, with a little Japanese mayonnaise to help bind it together.
Once we had made and cut our Sushi, we laid them out on our trays and judged each other’s efforts, Yasu having provided us with judging slips (what is Generation Game in Japanese?). Small bowls of soy sauce were poured, (very) hot wasabi passed round, sake topped up, and with chop sticks in hand, we eagerly tucked in. Being so fresh, the Sushi was a revelation and streets ahead of the ready prepared stuff the supermarkets sell you. From really very simple ingredients, we had all made some very tasty offerings, each very different and yet similar in execution. Super healthy too. This was all thanks to some great tuition from Yasu, who happily answered all our questions and was only too happy to talk to us about the origin of Sushi , Japan and its culture.
Yasu charges £25 per adult for a lunchtime session, same for evenings and just £150 for a children's party. He will also do corporate events at £35 per person. He recommends no more than around 15 people per event, suggests 10 as an ideal number but it worked perfectly well for us four. Yasu also does catering if you don't fancy doing it yourself. This was a great eye opener, a new experience for us all, and a really enjoyable couple of hours. Barbara ‘s Sushi was judged the best (even she scored herself 10/10) and she received the ‘Queen of the Sushi’ sash and crown. The rest of us had to make do with our Level 1 Sushi Class certificates. Yasu’s motto is ''We teach, You eat!'' and as he himself says, “he brings a bit of Japan into your home”. Right on both counts, and well worth a try.
'' Yasu visited my home today for our lunchtime Let’s Sushi! Party. What a fantastic experience! Not only did we successfully roll our own sushi, but we had sake, and Yasu made some beautiful origami birds! Japan was brought into my dining room, all that was missing was the geisha! The sushi itself was fresh, delicious, extremely tasty; there wasn’t a piece of slimy raw fish in sight! I can’t believe that we all were successful in making 5 different types of sushi, it certainly was a great learning experience, I really would recommend it to all, and I urge you to give it a go, you will not be disappointed! It’s my daughter’s 12th birthday next month, and I will definitely be calling Let’s Sushi! to hold a party for her and her friends. They will love it!’ '' .................................... Marcus Atkins
All copyright reserved to Let's SUSHI! 2011
'' Such an amazing evening. I have really enjoyed it & the sushi is delicious. I will certainly be in touch with Yasu again.'' .................. Jo S.
''A fantastic way to spend the evening. Very interesting and great fun. Thank you.'' .................. Sophie C.
'' Such a relaxing, interesting, delicious treat. The entire experience was a delight! It is a great way to spend an evening learning and also enjoying the wonderful tastes of sushi. Thank you!'' ................. Stella M.
'' Brilliant evening. Really well thought out.'' .............................................. Alice N.
'' Great evening! I really enjoyed it. Thank you.''............. Loraine
'' Thanks for such a lovely evening. I really enjoyed it and the instructions were clear and I felt the pace was just right - it all felt relaxed, but we achieved a lot! ''.... Fran B.
'' I just wanted to say a huge thank you for last night - All the ladies said what a fab evening they had, I really enjoyed myself too. I shall be having a turn at sushi making very soon!''... Emma D. O. (a party host)
'' Yasu, you did such a brilliant job last night. All my guests said this morning how much fun they had and a couple of them have already said they will want you to do one for them. You did so well, they were all impressed! '' ....Laura C. (a party host)
''A really enjoyable lunch, very clear instructions. I would not have thought that I could make sushi before today! Thank you.'' ...... Barbara H.
''Loved it - lovely get-to-gether. Beautiful lunch with extra to show off! ''..... Lorrain A.
''My wife booked Yasu for my birthday surprise and I had the most wonderful evening - very different and a great experience - Must be tried!!'' .... Simon M.
''What a fantastic evening's entertainment, wonderful teacher & superb food (even though I didn't win). Highly recommended.'' ...... Tony A.
(8th June 2012)
(20th March 2012)