What can I say, summer in Japan does not seem to me a favorable season, especially for travel and exploring. June was mostly rainy with endless showers, while July has hit with blazing heat and high humidity, the latter making my already bushy hair go totally wild. All this makes outdoor strolls a little uncomfortable and I have started to look into interesting indoor activities. Learning how to make sushi seemed like a perfect idea.
My train ran a little late and I arrived at a tiny cozy apartment in Azabu-jaban (very close to Roppongi) huffing and puffing and apologizing for violating the most important Japanese etiquette – being on time. Nevertheless I was warmly welcomed by Elizabeth, incredibly friendly, amicable and smart young lady from Philippines I met via Instagram. As she later told me she traveled to Japan years ago for vacation and fell in love so much she decided to stay for good. She made a decision to establish Arigato Japan, a company offering Tokyo (and now Kyoto and Osaka!) food tours and Japanese cooking classes to tourists and locals alike and thus share her love for local culture and food.
Four other participants were already comfortably settled in and anxious to start, so I made my shameful entrance as discreetly as possible, while Liz clad me into a yukata. I have always been secretly jealous of my friends who keep posting photos of their home-made sushi, it always seemed so complicated to me. I was thus thrilled to finally
master try my hand at making my own sushi. Doing it in Japan of all places under guidance of a Japanese chef made the whole experience so much more exciting. Our Japanese chef Shirley-san started off with with showing us the simple steps of making osuimono soup (dashi broth made from kombu (kelp) and bonito flakes). Did you know that bonito fish flakes contain all necessary amino acids making them very healthy? No wonder Japanese live so long and look so young, their food is packed with valuable nutrients. We proceeded with learning all the intricate details of preparing sushi rice. I loved seeing all the traditional wooden utensils and molds used to cook and chill rice. Afterwards we sat around the table where Shirley-san and Elizabeth told us about all the ingredients we’d be using as well as let us taste popular Japanese condiments. Sadly I do not know the name of it, but this particular one is my absolute favorite – a salty paste with green yuzu flavor which I use all the time, especially with meat. I highly encourage you to try it. You can get it at large local supermarkets. Afterwards we proceeded to the main part – making sushi! The goal was to learn how to make a flower-shaped maki roll which seemed impossible to me when I first looked at the photo, but Shirley-san made sure to guide us step by step. We also gave vent to our creativity (or lack of it, in my case) and experimented with making temari sushi – a pressed rice ball with various toppings. The last part was learning how to make oshizushi (presses sushi) which involved using a rectangular wooden mold into which we layered rice and toppings and then cut it all into neat rectangular pieces using a very sharp knife. At this point all of us felt famished and couldn’t wait to dive into all the food we just cooked. It is interesting how food serves as a perfect ice-breaker and brings everyone together. None of us in the class had met before, but somehow sitting in that tiny kitchen while munching on sushi we collectively prepared felt so homey, heart-warming and relaxing. I had a feeling I was a guest, not just another customer. Liz made sure to make the entire experience extra special and served us little sweet treats with green tea in the end. I admire people who put their heart into what they do and I could definitely see that in Liz. Every time I’ll attempt to make my own sushi at home I will be reminded of a gloomy day in Tokyo which was brightened up by a lunch with total strangers who for a moment felt like long-time friends.
I was kindly hosted by Arigato Japan.