Nadine Truong, Friday 04 May 2012
Japanese cuisine has grown in popularity rapidly over the last few years, especially in London where it seems wherever you are there’s a sushi restaurant just around the corner.
I’m very fond of Japanese food and in particular sushi, having tried many chain restaurants as well as independents in recent years, but I’ve never really known how authentic the offerings at these outlets are having never been to Japan. My own attempts at making sushi have been average as I lacked the skill, technique and knowledge in making genuine Japanese style sushi.
Roll in Yuki (excuse the pun), who grew up in a traditional Japanese family near Mount Fuji and who trained as a chef in the US before settling in London and setting up Yuki’s Kitchen, which offers a variety of cooking classes including sushi making for adults and children, vegetarian, bento, meat, fish, dumpling, private classes and parties.
I took the sushi making class at Yuki’s home (she also teaches in students’ homes) with two other students who had differing levels of knowledge in cooking, but all with the same passion and enthusiasm about Japanese culture and food. We made four different types of sushi during the class: temaki (hand roll), futomaki (‘fat’ roll), hosomaki (small roll) and ura hosomaki (inside-out roll). But first came preparation of the ingredients. All the sushi I’d ever made basically consisted of simple salmon and avocado, so I was eager to learn how to make tamago (Japanese omelette) as well as braised shitake mushrooms and carrots, which was simply divine in both smell and taste. I was surprised at how simple they were to make.
Yuki’s instructions were very easy to follow. I especially liked her personal tips for making the perfect, fluffy sushi rice, which involves using an electric fan and the same gentle folding action when making a sponge cake. There were other very simple tips that I found extremely helpful like standing the rice in water before cooking, a recipe for homemade sushi-su (sushi vinegar), using half a sheet of nori (seaweed) instead of a full sheet and not using water to seal the roll as it makes it soggy.
As a tutor she is very friendly and encouraging, always praising our efforts and finding out a little about us and our backgrounds. Yuki gave us a lot of insight into her own background and also, interestingly, how Japanese cuisine has become so popular since settling here seven years ago. She says that back then children would whine and refuse to eat raw fish in her classes, but now they are so open-minded, willing to trying new things and very inquisitive about the cooking process. She’s also had a lot of people come to her who want to open restaurants (including people from Brazil, Australia, Ecuador and Sweden); there seems to be a surge of people who want in on this current food trend.
We all wanted to know where to go to get the best fish for sushi. We had salmon, tuna and sea bream in the lesson, all of which was fresh and very tasty. Luckily for south west Londoners, Yuki recommends Moxons in Clapham South, which is one of her favourite and most trusted fishmongers. She once spoke to another Japanese lady in the shop who told her that she felt that life is better with the knowledge that she can get such great quality fish locally.
By the end of the class I was very satisfied – both with what I’d learnt and the delicious sushi that was in my belly! The only thing I would say is that I could’ve eaten more sushi at the end of the class, but no doubt I’ll be using my new found skills very soon with the recipes that I took home.
Find out more about Yuki's classes at www.yukiskitchen.com.