Make your own sushi that's not sloppy Joe

The Baltimore Sun

Sushi is a favorite of mine - a special Japanese dish that is as colorful, elegant and delicate on the plate as it is on the palate. It also is a fairly expensive dish, and now I know why.

It is not, as you would imagine, because only the freshest exotic ingredients must be flown in from all over the globe. No, sushi is expensive because it is darn tricky to make or at least to make so it turns out looking remotely like sushi and not like a Japanese sloppy Joe.

I guess I used to take sushi for granted. I just dipped those attractive rolls in my wasabi-laden soy sauce and popped them into my mouth without proper appreciation or reverence. But I recently experienced the challenge of making my own sushi at a make-your-own-sushi party hosted by my friend, Ydnew Otomuram, whose name has been spelled backward for privacy and whose married last name has just plain been left off at my discretion.

You see, Ydnew is Japanese; her husband is Greek. Who would trust this authoritative column if I insisted I went to a make-your-own sushi party hosted by a Greek woman? Now, if my column were about the fact that Ydnew also makes authentic Vassilopitta - Greek New Year's bread - why, then I would refer to her using her Greek married name. This is the type of modern journalism we practice here in Janet's World, where we continually alter the facts to enhance readers' understanding.

It figures that Ydnew would develop such a clever party concept because she has probably been making sushi since she could say it. But can she say "See Suzy share sushi Sunday" three times fast? I do not know, but my point is, we should all try new and embarrassingly difficult things.

Ydnew did a little demonstration that made sushi-making look easy, the way a practiced infomercial chef would wield the chop-o-matic device to create paper-thin tomatoes and radishes and yes, even strawberries. Of course, you get the chop-o-matic home, and you can't slice a thing except the pads of your fingers.

Eventually, it was my turn to make sushi - and so I bravely took the bamboo mat, and I put on my sheet of nori (seaweed), and then I spread on some sticky rice. Next, I layered on a few tasty ingredients such as crabmeat and asparagus. Then I tried to roll it up and make it stick together into a nice roll, which I anticipated slicing expertly into miniature works of art.

When I regarded the sushi I had created, I experienced a flashback to a time when I was working at a Long Island beach club, and I brought my tuna sandwich down to the ocean for my lunch break. I had a bite, then set it on my paper plate while I went for a quick dip. When I came back to my towel, I saw that the hovering seagulls had reduced my sandwich to ... sushi.

Happily, the only person at the party whose sushi looked worse than mine was my husband's. This was nice of him, to deflect attention from my ravaged plate by creating his own Triple-Whopper-with-cheese version of Japanese sushi. My husband selected a lot of ingredients, to the point where he then had to connect the edges on a sushi that was roughly the size of a roll of paper towels. It was a bountiful American-style sushi. But when he tried to select a slice with his chop sticks, he found that it was definitely not the quicker picker-upper.

I have to say that my version of sushi tasted fantastic, though I would never be able to serve it proudly to any guests with just two legs. But there is a technique that I picked up at the make-your-own-sushi party that results in picture-perfect eating: Just ask the hostess for repeated demonstrations.

Contact Janet at janet@janetgilbertonline. com.

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