The end of a long week brought Friday. The end of a long Friday brought after work drinks. The end of after work drinks brought a ravenous form of hunger. You know the one. The hunger that can only be satiated with a doner kebab with garlic sauce. My plat du jour that fine eve was that served in a fine establishment, which brought with it rich wafts of cheese, tomato and garlic. With delicate overtones of lard and processed meat, I found myself at the one and only Pizza Hut. Somewhat satisfying at the time I realised the next morning that I had actually taken photos of these oily, triangular creations in some vague fantasy where I thought it would be food blog material. It wasn’t:
Onto the real post at hand: Saturday night sushi. An idea had been a-brewing in this old head of mine. One trip to Paddy’s market later and I had convinced DF1 (Dining Friend 1) and DF2 that we should try our hand at creating our own Japanese extravaganza. Having had to lure my dining friends with non-“scary” sushi, I took the Gringo approach, settling on teriyaki chicken, fried fish, cucumber and avocado, as well as gyoza, the Japanese dumplings.
Step 1: Get marinating (the Teriyaki Chicken, that is). None of this bottled teriyaki sauce garbage (would you like some flavour with your MSG?). Chop up a couple of cloves of garlic, a healthy thumb sized piece of ginger, a tablespoon of soy, a tablespoon of honey, a tablespoon of mirin and a couple of shakes of pepper. Roughly slice some chicken (I used thigh, sliced into inch-thick slices), roll it about in your marinade and let it hang out while you’re preparing your other sushi ingredients (I left mine for about an hour or two). Fry the chicken off in a pan with a little oil until done – careful, honey has a sneaky tendency to go from deliciously caramelly to seethingly burnt in seconds, so watch it!
Step 2: gyoza. I like to think of Gyoza as heavenly parcels of deliciousness enveloped in a crunchy, chewy blanket of fantasticness. To make the filling, I chucked 200gm of pork mince in a bowl along with 4 chinese mushrooms (which I had soaked in warm water for about 30 minutes), a thumb-sized bit of ginger, grated, a chopped spring onion, a few chopped chives, about 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, one teaspoon of sugar, a teaspoon of pepper and a tablespoon of cornflour (so it all holds together). Don’t feel scared. The only way to truly mix this mix of heaven is to get in there with your hands and squelch it all together.
Once this is mixed, you’re ready to wrap. Hold your gyoza skin (you can get them from any Asian supermarket) in the palm of your hand and lump a good, heaped teaspoon of mixture in the middle (no one likes a gyoza of air!). Dip your finger in some water and “paint” around the edge of the wrapper, fold the side toward each other and press as hard as humanly possible so you end up with this:
Now you’re ready to see these beautiful pillows of deliciousness to their full potential. Whack a frying pan on high. Heat some olive oil and when hot, add your gyoza to the pan. Fry the base until golden, then tip about a half centimetre of water in the pan, put a lid over the gyoza and once the water is gone, they’re done. Fry them for a little longer after the water has gone, to re-crisp and then feed them to the masses.
Step 3: the other but probably not less important sushi ingredients. For my fried fish, I used flake and cut this up into square-centimetre pieces, crumbed with the usual flour / egg / breadcrumbs routine and fried until golden. I also sliced some cucumber and avocado, and boiled about 3 cups of rice. In a brief moment of yuppie-ness I used special sushi rice but post-checkout was informed that it really makes no difference. Once the rice is done, mix around a couple of tablespoons of sushi vinegar (or you can make your own using half normal vinegar and half sugar) and let it cool a little.
Step 4: assembly. Much like primary school assemblies which involved lining up in neat rows and singing the national anthem the assembly of a sushi equally involves neatness and precision, though not necessarily singing. Get yourself a bamboo sushi mat, they’re only a few dollars and make the whole process a lot easier.
Lay a piece of nori down on your sushi mat and spoon rice – a half centimetre thick – leaving about an inch across at one end, positioning it so that the un-riced nori is farthest away. You can pretty much put whatever filling you want at this point – for the teriyaki chicken I lay strips of the deliciously caramelly meat in a line on top of the rice at the end closest to me (i.e. farthest from the non-rice end) as well as some cucmber and avo. The more you fill, the harder it is to close so filling the whole area of rice with filling would be an impressive challenge. It’s rolling time! Roll away from you, use the bamboo mat to help and essentially just keep rolling until you have a cylinder. Dab a line of water across the un-riced nori and this will help seal the sushi. Done!
Washed down with a few Asahis, Saturday night sushi was a bit of a success. Despite a little bit of prep work, it was actually a pretty fun night where everyone could participate in making their own fantastic / suspicious (depending on how you look at it) combinations.