Simple Japanese

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Chef Khai organised a class today, focusing on the theme Simple Japanese. What constitutes simple Japanese food staples? You've guessed it right & that would be sushi, teriyaki chicken & tempura prawn.

We started preparing the rice first as it requires longer cooking time. The rice used for sushi is shorter & fatter in grain size compared to the local rice or Thai rice. It is starchier but not as sticky as glutinuous rice, which makes it ideal for forming sushi with bare hands. For this session, we used Japanese rice though Calrose rice is possible. The rice only needs to be washed once, then add water & cover it with kombu in the rice cooker. The ratio is 1 cup rice: 2 cups water. Once the rice is cooked, mix it with vinegar, sugar & salt, then set aside.

There is no fixed rules on what needs to be in the sushi. Just to name a few common ingredients used are Japanese cucumber, crabstick, pickles, fish roe & unagi. For our creation, we included mango slices to add some tangy flavour to the sushi. The secret to beautiful & neat looking sushi rolls is putting sufficient rice (not too much), rolling & tugging the ingredients in between nori sheet to ensure that the contents remain intact. Of course, the work of a skilled pair of hands makes all the difference.

My sushi rolls, on the contrary, obviously didn't look appetising enough to be savoured. Just look at the mess which points to signs of inexperience. Honestly, I wasn't enticed to pop one into my mouth but luckily the rolls tasted better than expected & more than compensate for the awful presentation. I seriously need more practice.

One of the tips to perfectly cut sushi rolls is to use a sharp knife. This would prevent the rice grains from falling off the nori sheet. Next on the list is teriyaki chicken. This dish calls for a sauce to marinade the chicken prior to grilling on a hot pan. Sauce preparation is quite simple as it's essentially a reduction of soy sauce (Japanese soy sauce, Kikkoman is highly recommended) & water. Ginger, sugar, garlic, spring onion & chicken bones (optional) are added for richness in aroma & taste. The sauce is boiled in a pot until the liquid is reduced by half. Then, we moved on to marinade the chicken with the ready sauce. Before that, the chicken fillet should be scored first to allow ingredients to be absorbed well. We added in garlic & ginger blend into the chicken together with the sauce, mixing it well; finally leaving it to marinade for 30 mins. Piece by piece, we grilled the fillet to perfection. Oh, the aroma is lovely! Juicy & flavourful too~ (sorry forgot to snap pictures because we were salivating already XD).

Lastly, it's the scrumptious prawn tempura we've been waiting for. Medium size shrimps were used in this recipe with the heads & shells removed, then deveined. We beaten an egg in a bowl, added in ice water & finally pouring in the tempura flour; mixing well until combined. Meanwhile, the oil is heated up before frying. Each shrimp is lightly floured & dipped into the tempura batter, then deep-fried until crisp & turns golden brown. Voila!

This is why I love attending cooking lessons on Sunday morning. Aside from the therapeutic experience, it gets me psyched up to cook as quickly as possible so that I can dig in my free lunch to ease my stomach growl. For the love of food, anything is possible... =)