Sushi For Beginners – Press Your Sushi

Pressed sushi is a great starting point if you want to make sushi at home. Best of all, even if you don’t have access to sashimi-grade seafood, you can still make sushi at home. This recipe came from a Nobu cookbook which I helped to edit. Chef Nobu is brilliant and knows what flavors appeal to the wide masses.

A box for pressing the sushi is required. Oshizushi hako 押し寿司箱 or a wooden sushi press mold. Here is an example of one sold on Amazon in the US:

https://www.amazon.com/JapanBargain-Wooden-Sushi-Press-Mold/dp/B00269NS02

For this recipe, mince shiso and myōga (ginger buds) and mix into vinegared sushi rice along with some toasted sesame seeds. Variations of this could include thin-sliced cucumbers or pickled gari (ginger).

Press the rice mixture into the wooden box that has been wiped with some rice vinegar. Press just enough to bring the rice together, but not too hard, and then remove the box. Slice into bite-size pieces and wrap with toasted nori.

To add seafood to this you could do grilled unagi, shime saba (pickled Pacific mackerel), or salmon sashimi over vinegared sushi rice.

The Nobu Sushi Cookbook in Tokyo is sold at his restaurant. I have yet to see it sold at any bookstores, sadly. Online, in the US:

https://www.amazon.com/Nobu-Sushi-Book-Nobuyuki-Matsuhisa/dp/4418133003

Ginza Akomeya

Akomeya Ginza

Ginza Akomeya

For one-stop shopping for food, tableware, kitchenware, and lunch, I highly recommend Ginza Akomeya. The restaurant offers a colorful lunch rich with small dishes. While not vegetarian, it is vegetable-friendly and nourishing.

The retail part of the store is curated offering great products for the pantry. Essentials like mirin, sesame oil, and soy sauce as well as fun condiments like yuzu kosho or ponzu. The tableware and kitchenware selection is also lovely. Pick up a donabe (earthenware pot) for cooking rice on the stovetop.

There is a kome (rice) counter where you can have your rice freshly polished. The selection is impressive, bringing in varietals from all over Japan. Some of our favorites are sold here like Hokkaido Yumepirika, Yamagata Tsuyahime, Toyama Milky Queen and Niigata Uonuma Koshihikari.

Lunch is very popular, so come early or late. The rice is cooked in a donabe. Dinner is also a big affair, and there is a nice selection of saké. In the afternoon the shop offers traditional Japanese sweets. The menu with photos is here:

http://www.akomeya.jp/akomeyakitchen/menu/

Akomeya Tokyo

Chuo-ku, Ginza 2-2-6 中央区銀座2-2-6

http://www.akomeya.jp/shop/ginza.php

Takenoko Gohan

Bamboo shoots are in season at the moment. They are also in season in the fall. But I associate the delicate flavor and aroma with spring. I was at a friend’s house on the weekend. Her mother, who is an excllent cook, had just cleaned and boiled a bamboo shoot and had brought half to my friend’s house. My dear friend then gave us half of that. We brought it home and made takenoko gohan. When you cook the rice in the pot with added ingredients it is called takikomigohan.

Shinji cut up the tender bamboo shoots and put it in the donabe with dashi, sake, soy sauce, and deep-fried tofu. It is garnished with sanshō leaves which we plucked from grandpa’s sanshō bush in his rooftop garden. It was so good I ate three bowls.

IMG_1914

In the supermarkets in Tokyo, you can find both fresh bamboo shoots, complete with the skin on it. Or you can find already boiled and peeled of the hard skin.

Some more inspiration from these recipes:

http://tokyostation-yukari.blogspot.jp/2011/06/easy-bamboo-shoot-recipes.html

take bamboo 竹

takenoko 竹の子

takenoko 筍

 

Onigirazu – Rice Sandwiches

Family Mart Sando Omusubi

Family Mart Sando Omusubi

Onigiri or omusubi are savory stuffed rice balls that are often wrapped in nori. The shape is traditionally a triangle. Onigiri is something we eat at least once a week. These are perfect for picnics, hiking, as a quick meal or snack. But the onigiri is not perfect. The stuffings are concentrated in the center and the edges are not as flavorful as the middle.

The onigirazu, or sandwich omusubi, takes care of that. With the new and very popular onigirazu, every bite will include some of the stuffing. Better yet, if you are making these at home, it simply requires a folding technique. No fancy squeezing and molding to get the triangle shape.

Onigirazu, which actually means onigiri without forming or molding. Brilliant name for something that I wish I would have thought of long ago.

Sando Omusubi

Sando Omusubi

Cookbook shelves have about a half dozen books on the topic. Today I found a “Sando Omusubi” (sandwich omusubi) at Family Mart, a popular convenience store. It was almost twice as expensive as the regular onigiri, I guess as there is more rice and stuffings. Usually the rice balls start at about 100 JPY, but this was for almost 200 JPY.

This is the sando omusubi out of the package.

Tuna and Cheese

Tuna and Cheese

Tuna mayo, canned tuna and mayonnaise, is a popular flavor. Here you can see how the generous stuffing goes all the way to the edges.

Now that these are being sold at convenience stores we know that it is no longer a trend among mothers making these for their kids, but that it has reached the mainstream market.

Please let me know if you try these and how you think they compare to the traditional ones. I am a big fan of the new and improved omusubi/onigiri.

Ginza Lunch – Hachidaime Gihey 銀座米料亭 八代目儀兵衛

 

Hachidaime lunch

Hachidaime lunch

At home we cook our rice in a donabe (ceramic pot). It is much faster to cook the rice in the donabe than it is in a rice cooker. Better yet, if you can cook it properly, the donabe will give you a nice okoge, charred crust. A Kyoto restaurant that specializes in rice that has a small restaurant in Ginza, which is a lovely spot for lunch. Here is a standard set lunch (about 2,500 JPY) that includes sashimi, tempura, yuba, and teriyaki Spanish mackerel as some of the dishes.

Hachidaime vegetarian

Hachidaime vegetarian

The vegetarian lunch (about 1,500 JPY) is a delight which included nama fu (wheat gluten), tempura, and tofu. Both lunches included roasted nori, salted kombu, pickles, miso soup (which is made with katsuo so not vegetarian). Both also included chirimen sansho (sardines with sansho berries), so also not vegetarian. But, if you are vegetarian you would be satisfied with the rest of the meal.

Hachidaime okoge

Hachidaime okoge

The rice has a lovely texture, and is all-you-can-eat. Here is the lovely okoge crust that is so treasured in Japan.

Hachidaime exterior

Hachidaime exterior

The Ginza restaurant is small. Just a handful of tables and it is a popular shop. We saw many diners turned away.

On our way out the staff called out the traditional Kyoto thank-you, okini.

 

Ginza Kome Ryotei Hachidaime Gihey 銀座米料亭 八代目儀兵衛

Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-4-15

中央区銀座5-4-15

03-6280-6383

Closed Wednesday

http://www.hachidaime.co.jp/ginza/

You can see the lunch and dinner photos with prices here:

http://www.hachidaime.co.jp/ginza/menu/

Sweet Corn Rice

 

Corn Takikomigohan

Corn Takikomigohan

Growing up in Minnesota I was surrounded by large farms growing corn. There was nothing better than stopping by the side of the road and picking up a dozen ears of corn in a brown paper bag for a buck. At home we would shuck the ears outside on the front lawn. There was one huge pot in our house that was used mostly for boiling corn every summer. The sweet corn was then slathered with butter and salt, and attack ear after ear until my face was covered with butter and the corn disappeared.

While we salted the water when we boiled the corn I was shocked when a farmer’s wife told me that we should cook the corn in sugared water. That revelation changed the way I made corn ever since, and it does make it better.

Corn in Tokyo has been out for a few weeks already. I have been eating an ear or two every day. The only difference is that here it costs a buck a cob. It’s my favorite vegetable and I will indulge while it’s in season.

Shinji’s in culinary school at the moment and one of his recent assignments was corn rice. Takikomigohan is when toppings are steamed with the rice and then incorporated into the rice. A similar preparation is called mazegohan when toppings are mixed into cooked rice. While this is called a takikomigohan this almost feels like a mazegohan as the corn is cooked before it is added to the pot. To be honest, I don’t care what it’s called, it’s delicious.

Sweet Corn Rice

Sweet Corn Rice

Shinji said that he cooked the ear of corn in salt water. After it is cooked the kernels are cut off of the cob. Rice is cooked with a little bit of salt in the water. We cook the rice in a donabe (ceramic pot). After the rice has come to a boil the lid is taken off, usually a no-no, and sprinkled with some saké and the corn. The lid is returned and the rice is set aside to finish steaming for fifteen minutes. If you are cooking your rice in a rice cooker there should be a timer that tells you when there about ten minutes or so left to cook. I would add the corn at that time.

The rice is ever-so-salty, like the breeze on your face at the ocean, while the corn adds bursts of sweetness.