Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sudako and Temaki Zushi... Why I Gain Weight in Japan - Again

9th August, 2010 - Well I was in for a treat again tonight. Two dishes. Sudako and Temaki zushi - or simply put, hand-rolled sushi. I'll start off with some gratuitous entree diversion known as "sudako", or pickled octopus. First off - get yourself an octopus... then it's pickled in Japanese rice vinegar, sugar, and most likely a good helping of MSG (yes folks, it's not just chinese food that loads up on the good ol' monosodium glutamate). Still - I'd be more interested in knowing how they manage to get this colour!

Slice and dice said octopus (purchased already pickled). Hmmmmmmmm.... tentalicious! This isn't necessarily for the temaki zushi, but it's a great side dish. Any time. Of course - this is not raw... and it's not just eaten by itself.

Instead, it's nicely served up with a big old dollop of Japanese mayonnaise, soy sauce and shichimi spice, or seven flavoured chilli spice. The octopus is simply picked up an dipped into the mayo. Simple and stupendously yum. Who said great food has to be complicated?

Now most people when they hear sushi, their thoughts turn to the small shop-bought sushi from their local (healthy eating fast food). Alternatively, there's the image of the crusty chef who's been perfecting the art of making sushi for decades and whose sushi melts in the mouth. Finally there's those of us foolhardy enough to go and buy a sushi rolling kit and try and do it ourselves. The results of these attempts are normally fraught with stress at getting a decent looking sushi roll.

Now here's the thing...We finally come across (possibly - surprisingly - for the first time in my blog) Nattō. Yes. Nattō. Doesn't sound too bad, does it? Looks kinda like baked beans... but trust me, if computer technology had advanced enough to communicate sheer ickiness, then you'd get the right impression. Nattō is a fermented soy bean... or as we call it, rotten beans. It comes with it's own bacterial growth for crying out loud (Bacillus Subtilis... which by the way, apart from generating rotten beans, can do interesting things such as decompose some forms of explosives. Even I have to admit that's pretty cool) . Nattō 's pungent, highly sticky (and stringy) and has a very sharp nutty flavour. The Japanese love it, and I guess it's one of the reasons they are Japanese after all. So this ingredient is for T-chan and her family. I regret to say, that L-kun loves it as well. 

Now you can't have temaki zushi without some nori... seaweed sheets. Love it. This is just cut into quarters, perhaps about 10 cm square (or slightly larger).

The secret of making sushi rice is vinegar... and Japanese rice vinegar in particular. You can buy sushi powder as well (to provide a more authentic flavour - and which is a common additive in Japanese homes) - or failing that you can make your own extra flavouring by adding sugar and salt to the vinegar. A simple recipe is: for 3 cups of rice you will need to add 1/2 cup of vinegar, 2 tbsp of sugar and 1/2 tsp of salt. Mix the vinegar, sugar and salt, and then gradually and gently paddle the mix into the cooked rice. Add to taste - and be careful not to add too much vinegar. T-chan's parents do it the easy way with sushi rice powder.

It's also good to add in some prawn or ebi. Ebi are one of L-kun's favourite foods, and it's usually the first thing that he'll look for or ask for.

Now for the main ingredients for the sushi. We simply use raw tuna (maguro), salmon (sake), mackerel (saba), cucumber, salmon roe (ikura) - or as we did this night, you can use something like flying fish roe (tobiko), cooked egg roll cut into strips - and of course, freshly cooked rice. Don't forget, you're the chef so you can put in whatever you want. There's few if any rules, other than what can be comfortably held in a roll.

So here comes the part where you'll think - hmm, I think I could do that. No need to roll anything... just put your nori flat in your hand (or on the table) and then grab a rice spatula and push the rice onto it. Then simply pile up whatever ingredients you want... ok, including the Nattō, and then when you're done, just grab one corner around (as you would if you were making an icecream cone).

And yes, you can most probably roll them better than this... but don't forget, this is for preparing and eating at the same time. The thing to concentrate on is that you don't want your ingredients falling all over the table. You don't need to get hung up on the perfect conical roll. Not unless you're preparing them earlier or inviting over the Queen. That's one reason why we never buy temaki zushi when going to a restaurant... for us, the fun is in the making!

 Bon appétit, and itadakimasu


  1. I love natto :) it's a daily food at my house.

  2. Great post! I wasn't a fan of natto the first few times I tried it (yes, I was brave enough to try it a few times) but have grown to like it, especially with rice for breakfast. I think I'm turning Japanese!

    Japan Australia

  3. It's funny how Natto is such a focusing point when it comes to Japan... or at least Japanese food. I often hear people refer to it in terms of Vegemite (for us Aussies) in terms of love-hate relationships and having no sane reason (my words) to eat it, and yet people swearing by it.

    For me, I'm happy to let this one Japanese taste pass me by... after all, you don't need to love everything about a country, or it's food. And perhaps one day I will change my mind.

  4. Love Sushi, sashimi and love too much the salmon!!!
    my brother like the octobus! and I not! kkk
    and reading this post.....give me hungry!!! kkkk
    In japan there are delicious foods!

  5. Thank you Erica, I appreciate you leaving a message. There definitely are a lot of delicious foods in Japan.