Photos courtesy of Jason Yeh
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of assisting Chef Andy Matsuda in a sushi making class at Sur La Table. Chef Matsuda has worked in the finest sushi bars and hotels in LA, Aspen and New York and has consulted for many fine japanese restaurants and sushi bars. In 2002 he established The Sushi Chef Institute in Los Angeles where he teaches the art of sushi making to beginners and professional chefs from all over the world.
If you are like me, when you eat sushi, you aren’t thinking about the detail and careful preparation that went into each roll. You stuff it in your mouth, chew it up, and focus on whether the freshness of the fish lives up to your expectations. Watching a professional sushi chef make a California roll, then watching 15 unprofessional people imitate him, will change this. Suddenly you appreciate the detail and precision that goes into every slice, placement, roll and cut. You realize that even nigiri sushi is a 7 step process.
The only way to understand how difficult sushi making is, is to try it for yourself. Here is what your first time may be like…
1. You watch the sushi master as he breaks the process down, speaking clearly and moving slowly, as if you are senile.
2. You think, “Hey, that looks easy.” It does. He makes it look easy, fluid, obvious.
3. You go back to your table where you have the same ingredients, the same amount of fish, the same rice and suddenly, your mind goes blank. You begin to have a mental meltdown. Do you roll the rice in your left hand? Do you push gently on the top of the rice, then reverse it? Why is your rice sticking to your hands? They didn’t stick to his hands. Maybe his water is better? His rice less gooey? How come your fish won’t stay on? Were you supposed to put wasabi on the fish or the rice? Does it matter? Which side of the seaweed should be up? Is your fish facing the right way? Which end do you roll first? What did he say about soy sauce? Why is everyone else looking so much better? Did I remember to take my birth control? AGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
Relax. Remember the important thing is to FOCUS. Sushi making may be tedious, difficult, and mentally hazardous, but it is well worth it in the end!
Click here to watch Chef Matsuda demonstrates his 7 step process to making nigiri sushi.
For those ambitious people interested in making sushi at home, Chef Matsuda gave me a few names of top Japanese markets to shop for sushi grade fish. The three markets below have multiple locations, not only in LA but San Diego, San Jose, and even New Jersey.
There are also several small Japanese markets on Sawtelle near Olympic that have excellent selection of fresh seafood.