Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Making Sushi

This weekend I achieved a milestone. We made California Maki rolls  and had sashimi at home. It was a dream of mine, to be able to make Japanese food like sushi. It was simple, just a lot of preparation. Earlier it had seemed to be complex task that required specialized training but turned out that only a lot of things needed to be considered. It turned out to be much simpler once one delves into the details. I did not realize it was so easy. It goes to show that not everything is thought to be difficult if one puts his mind to it. We sliced avocado, crab sticks, mango and cucumber to place in the rolls. Cooking the sushi rice correctly was the main challenge. But it could be cooked in a simple rice cooker. It was all about buying the correct grain and the rice mixture. It was all readily available in the Japanese store. Buying frozen sashimi was the next hurdle which was also available in the store.

To gain expertise, one just needed to watch YouTube videos and all is set. I guess one is prepared only when the right time or place is reached. It was enjoyable to make the Japanese rolls and we all pitched in. We had the rice mat needed to make the rolls, ingredients including the roe placed on top. The food looked perfect and one now has the confidence to make all sorts of variation: eels, fish sushi, smoked salmon and all sorts of food. The sushi is like a platform where one can make anything. The ‘nori’ or seaweed wrap is the perfect tool to wrap the rice and any ingredient you would like to put. Once one gets his mind into the technical details, then the execution was easy. A few problems in the first rolls but easy afterward when one is used to making it. I guess it all started when one ventured to make the Thai dishes and once the threshold is breached anything can be done.

It was Japanese weekend, watching Kurosawa’s classic film ‘Red Beard’ possibly Toshiro Mifune’s best role. I also finished Ken Burn’s excellent documentary ‘The War’ which portrays the Pacific war in detail. I especially enjoyed the section on the Philippines including the Bataan death march, the incarceration of American citizens in Santo Tomas University and the liberation of Manila. I also was fascinated with the incarceration of Americans of Japanese extractions in prison camps. It was an eye opener especially the story of Hawaiian senator Dan Inoiye and his experiences in the war as a soldier. He was awarded the Medal of Honor many years later after the war. It was also the first time I understood the progression of the Pacific War. In Tokyo, I had visited both the Yasakuni Shrine (for the Japanese war dead) and the Japanese War museum beside the shrine and only appreciated the Japanese struggle after watching Burn’s film.

Ken Burns is a great documentarian and I have always loved his films. I hope to watch his film on the Civil War again now that I am actually here in the American south and attended a battle reenactment. I had watched his film when I was in Singapore and read E.L.Doctorow’s novel ‘The March’ about General Sherman’s march to the sea campaign in Georgia and the Carolinas. I have been watching my fill of DVD again this weekend and rushed through a few audio CDs last week. There is an emptiness that one feels and one realizes that these activities no longer excite me. It is only an intellectual enjoyment when one could live a real life by cooking and making sushi. Perhaps cooking will be my salvation as one gets away from the incessant addiction towards stimulation. There is just too much in one’s mind.  

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