Sarawut Sokkowplang has been making sushi for more than 25 years and he makes it look effortless. I’ve made sushi twice, and each time I’ve ended up with a sticky mess of rice and soggy seaweed, none too neat looking.
And while I know that practice makes perfect, I gave up a few years back when my last batch ended up with the fish, avocado and rice moving in different directions to the seaweed when I cut it. The trouble, I think, is my knife, which doesn’t slice neatly through the roll I’m making. Or perhaps my rice was too sticky, or my hands too sticky? Or …
However, I love sushi, and I am prepared to try again, this time with some tips from the master.
Sokkowplang is sushi chef at the new sushi bar at the Two Oceans restaurant at Cape Point. He moved here a few months ago from Durban, where he trained sushi chefs. The sushi bar is a new addition to the refurbished seafood restaurant, and it’s proving popular among visitors from all over the world.
The Two Oceans seems to hang over the edge, with views across False Bay to Hangberg, which must make it the seafood restaurant with the best view in the world.
Sokkowplang took me through two popular and simple sushi offerings step-by-step. Sushi may look simple to construct, but there are a lot of ingredients and many small points to remember. Master those and you’ll be a sushi whizz.
Most important are the rice, and a sharp knife. And remember your presentation. “You eat with your eyes first,” says Sokkowplang.
How to cook sushi rice:
This is the key to successful sushi, so follow instructions carefully.
Using three cups of rice: Wash rice by thoroughly rinsing it three or four times. Add three-and-a-half cups of cold water and bring to the boil. When it boils, lower heat by half until water has boiled away; then turn heat right down and let it steam for 10 to 15 minutes. When the rice cooks slowly it becomes soft and sticky, says Sokkowplang. Place rice in a wide bowl, and while still steaming hot add ¾ cup rice vinegar. Place a damp cloth over the rice and lightly mix it with your hands every two to three minutes. Place the damp cloth over the rice in-between mixing. Keep turning it until it is cool, then leave until cold.
Use any fresh fish available and you can tell this in 3 ways:
The eyes – are they clear?
The gills – are they pink?
Is the flesh firm?
However there are ways to mask all these signs, says Sokkowplang, and the best way is to feel the outside of the fish – it must be slimy.
You can use salmon, tuna, prawn, yellowtail, seabream, Dorado, even Cape Salmon. Prawns must be cooked.
Always cut your fish in one fluid movement, don’t saw at it, hence the need for a razor-sharp knife.
* A sharp filleting knife
* A bamboo mat covered tightly with plastic
* Two clean damp cloths, one for rice and one for wiping fingers.
* A bowl of water with a slice of lemon in for cleaning you hands.
* A teaspoon (keep in water for easy access)
Phil Alcock, executive chef at the Two Oceans restaurant at Cape Point, has some knife tips for you.
“The most important tool a chef has is his knife – and no one but the chef handles it,” says Alcock, showing me his sashimi knife, carefully stored in a box, with a sheath on it. The best knife to use for sushi is a sharp filleting knife.
You may want to invest in a good knife, he says, and then you must look after it.
1. The chopping board should be plastic or wood. Glass or marble will blunt your knife.
2. Sharpen your knife before and after each use.
3. Only one person – you – must sharpen your knife as it is important that it is done at the same angle, about 45 degrees, and in the same way each time. Use a sharpening stone or sharpening steel.
4. Store it properly. Use a plastic case or wooden block.
5. Use the correct knife for the job. Don’t use your filleting knife for bones or frozen food, for example.
* Have all your ingredients prepared and your tools nearby before you construct your sushi.
* Your seaweed must be very dry and crisp. Break it, don’t cut it.
* Each time you use you knife, dip it into water. Keep hands clean and damp to stop rice sticking to everything.
NOW YOU’RE READY TO TRY THE RECIPES
Salmon California Rolls
Rice, prepared and cooled
Salmon, sliced thinly
Avocado pear, sliced thinly
Cucumber, partially peeled and cut finely into lengthwise pieces about 8cm long.
Sesame seeds, toasted (a mixture of black and white is attractive, but white alone is fine)
Break one piece of seaweed in half.
Take a handful of rice and press it down on the seaweed, starting in the middle and working outwards. Keep your hands damp so rice doesn’t stick to them. Turn the rice and seaweed over and place thinly-cut slices of salmon along the middle of the seaweed. Along one side place thin slices of avocado pear; along the other side place slices of cucumber. Now roll it up firmly so that rice is on the outside; make sure your ends are tidy. Now place the mat over the roll and press sides to make a neat roll. Roll over and press other two sides.
Using a sharp knife, cut in half. Dip rolls in sesame seeds, cut in half and then half again. Arrange on a plate with some wasabi, pickled ginger and garnish with coriander leaves.
Very thinly sliced flat strips of salmon
Very thinly sliced flat strips of avocado pear
Caviar, orange or black
Make one long strip of salmon about 10cm, overlapping smaller pieces slightly. They will stick together. Now take a piece of avocado and place it on top of the salmon, letting it extend a few millimetres beyond one edge.
Form rice into a small ball, about 2cm in diameter, and place it on one end of salmon strip. Roll salmon and rice ball to form the salmon rose. Turn on its side, place on plate and put a squeeze of mayonnaise on the top. With the wet teaspoon, add a teaspoon tip of caviar. Serve with wasabi and ginger. - Cape Argus