Saturday, July 14, 2012
Sushi and Sake 102
I showed up at the RA Sushi Bar and Restaurant in Highland Village today, just before 11 a.m., to participate in the restaurant's Sushi and Sake 102 Class. I wanted to learn more about sushi, how to prepare a few of the restaurant's signature dishes and how to pair them with the appropriate sake.
With me to enjoy this culinary adventure was Nikki, my good friend and associate.
We were greeted by Kim Stitham, the restaurant's general manager, and Head Sushi Chefs Jimmy Kieu and JoJo Urbano, who put in front of us several plates and bowls filled with the food items we would be using during the class — avocados, imitation crab, cucumbers, ginger, salmon, seaweed, sesame seeds, shrimp, soy sauce, tuna, wasabi, yellowtail and, of course, rice!
Also placed in front of us were cutting boards, bowls of water, clear plastic gloves, glass mats, knives, chopsticks and saki glasses.
Kim started the class by telling us sushi was invented thousands of years ago in Japan - as a way to preserve raw, cleaned fish. (The fermentation process could keep a cleaned and gutted fish for several months.)
In the 18th century, Yohei Hanaya, a chef from Tokyo, decided to forget about the fermentation process and serve the fish as it was. Fresh sushi became very popular, and two styles emerged — the kansai style from Osaka and the edo style from Tokyo.
After that brief introduction and before severe hunger set in, we were ready to prepare Salmon Nigiri, the first of several items on today's menu. It took a couple of tries, but we learned to properly (by using only one hand) wrap the salmon atop and around a "log" of rice. We learned the secret of keeping the rice together is folding in distilled white sushi vinegar, available at H.E.B. and other grocery stores with an Asian food section.
Next, we prepared a Rainbow Roll, RA's version of the California Roll, topped with tuna, yellowtail, shrimp, salmon and avocado.
The California Roll, we learned, was invented in Los Angeles in the late 1970s. It was considered "a big leap" in sushi culture. It is credited for spreading the popularity of sushi in the West. Until the California Roll was created, most sushi rarely utilized ingredients foreign to Japanese cuisine. It was also considered a "no-no" to use imitation crab for a cuisine that prided itself on using the best seafood possible.
After preparing (and eating) our Rainbow Rolls, the chefs taught us how to prepare tuna rolls. We made two types - "outside in" and "inside out." Both consisted of tuna, rice and seaweed wrappers. In one, the rice is rolled on the outside of the wrapper, and then sliced. In the other, the rice is rolled on the inside of the wrapper, and then sliced. In both ways, the tuna rolls we made looked beautiful and tasted great!
At the end, we prepared a Banana Split Maki - a fried banana maki topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit and then drizzled with raspberry and chocolate sauces. Again, this "sushi" was beautiful and yummy!
RA Sushi offers Sushi and Sake classes about every couple of months. Already, I'm planning a return visit in the fall. Taking a Sushi and Sake refresher course would be delicious fun!