December in Japanese is called 'Juunigatsu' or 'Shiwasu'. Shiwasu means that the time is very busy.
Historically, Christmas is not celebrated as much in Japan, as New Year's Day holds more significance. Their religion 'Shinto' teaches people to worship the sun as the highest god, and the first sunrise on New Year's Day is believed to be one of the most precious things one can share with their loved ones.
However, recently, Christmas is becoming more popular since Japanese companies saw the commercial importance of the event and began promoting it. Although, it is still not something that is celebrated like New Year's Day, children, couples and friends still have a lot of fun going out for dinner and parties, and giving and receiving presents.
But, in Jamaica, during the Christmas season, people host a lot of house parties, so I would like to contribute a very fancy-but-easy recipe, which may be useful for entertaining family and friends.
This week, I am introducing 'temaki zushi' which means hand-rolled sushi. It is easy to prepare and guaranteed to entertain guests.
All you have to do is cook sushi rice, cut sushi nori (seaweed) into 1/4 inch pieces and prepare various bite-size fillings of your choice. Then guests can select the fillings they like and assemble Temaki Zushi by rolling them in their hands.
If you and your guests love sashimi, raw fish, like salmon, snapper, shrimp, yellow tail, squid, etc., and sashimi-grade fish are available, use them. However, although temaki zushi is sushi, the fillings do not have to be just raw fish and fish roes. Some very popular fillings in Japanese households are tin tuna with mayonnaise, imitation crab, fried chicken, ham, boiled shrimp, grilled mackerel, tempura, omelette, lettuce and cucumber sticks, just to name a few.
The ingredients below are just suggestions, so be creative. You can try jerked chicken, ackee and saltfish, stew chicken, avocado, saltfish fritters, anything you like.
Temaki zushi is an ultimate party food for everyone.
Cooking time 60 minutes
Serves 4 persons
6 cups of dry sushi rice
6 cups of water
180ml of rice vinegar (Mitsukan brand recommended)
5tbs of sugar
1tbs of salt
20 sheets of sushi nori (seaweed)
50gm of cream cheese
1 tin tuna with vegetable oil
20gms of smoked salmon
6 imitation crab sticks
1 tbs mayonnaise
Soy sauce (Kikkoman brand recommended)
Wash sushi rice thoroughly under running water, then soak it with equal amounts of clean water for about half hour. Make sure no salt is added when cooking Japanese rice. If you have a rice cooker, use it. Bring it to boil then simmer for about 30 minutes until the rice is completely cooked.
While the rice cooks, let's prepare fillings.
Cream cheese: cut into 1 inch-long sticks (approximately)
Cucumber: cut into 1 inch-long sticks (approximately)
Avocado: peel and slice thin
Lettuce: tear into bite-size pieces.
Imitation crab: slice in half.
Tune tin: drain oil and mix with one tablespoon of mayonnaise.
Okra: boil until soft and slice into half.
Eggs: beat them, add pinch of salt and make omelette, then cut omelette into 1 inch-long sticks (approximately).
Sausages: slice into half or quarter depending on the size of the sausage and fry with a small amount of vegetable oil.
Smoked salmon: cut into smaller pieces.
Mix vinegar, sugar and salt until the sugar is completely dissolved, and set aside.
When the rice is cooked, let cool for 10 minutes before you transfer the rice on to a flat container. The idea of using a flat container here is to let the heat from the rice evaporate quickly so that, when you add the vinegar mix to the rice, it does not get soggy.
Once the rice is in the flat container, slowly pour the mixture of vinegar, sugar and salt over the rice, then use hand-held fan to cool rice while you mix rice and vinegar with a spatula.
Sushi nori usually comes in a pack of 10 sheets. Cut each sheet into 3" x 3" squares.
Place nori on a plate. Put one tablespoon (heap) of sushi rice in the centre of nori and spread thin, then put some of your fillings on top of the rice. You can put a little mayonnaise or wasabi together with your filling, if you wish, then roll by hand. Do not worry too much about the shape.
Dip into some soy sauce and eat.
Ai Irisawa-Coney managed a Japanese restaurant in Soho, London. She is also a founder of Epiphany Media Solutions and ACI Consultancy www.aci-consultacny.com in Kingston, Jamaica