Validating my cookbook collection, one damn recipe at at a time

26: Rolled Sushi (Futomaki) — Washoku

26: Rolled Sushi (Futomaki) — Washoku

I have been putting off cracking into this book for so long. It won’t take long to discover why. We’re gonna dive right into this…

The Assignment: Rolled Sushi (Futomaki) from Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen by Elizabeth Andoh

“Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen,” she said. Washoku means “the harmony of food” and is a culinary philosophy centered around simple, nourishing food. Sounds like a friendly and unintimidating way to wade into Japanese cooking, which I’ve loved since I visited Japan in my teens (and nearly moved there), right?

WRONG. So wrong. Could not be more wrong.

Because this beast is practically a textbook. And Elizabeth Andoh is a freaking scholar.

Andoh was born in America but has lived in Japan since 1967. Her first encounter with washoku came on her first visit to her soon-to-be husband’s family home on the island of Shikoku. She knew little about Japanese food, and definitely didn’t speak any Japanese. But she immersed herself and learned. She learned it all. Eventually she became fluent in Japanese and did her culinary training at the Yanagihara School of Classical Japanese Cooking. She’s an award-winning cookbook author, food journalist, teacher, and the director of the Taste of Culture culinary program in Tokyo and Osaka.

This is not just some American who wanted to write about sushi, y’all.

By this token, not only is each recipe meticulously explained in technique (which is incredibly helpful while being daunting to behold as a block of text) — most of the recipes have ingredients that are also… recipes.

I like to call these “choose-your-own adventure recipes.” Not because you get to do whatever you want, but because you find yourself constantly flipping backward and forward in the book. In addition to the incepted recipes within the ingredient lists, there are also references to cookware and techniques repeatedly cited through the directions. Again, SO USEFUL. But FUCK. It’s a lot.

I imagine you’re sensing the reason I’ve put off actually attempting these recipes for about a decade.

That said: I’m not including all the reference pages along with this recipe. If I did, this post would be a never-ending story without any luck dragons, racing snails, or rock biters. If you want to attempt this recipe from this post, you’re gonna have to do some Googling, but the info is out there. Here’s how to prep sushi rice, though. (There’s also a companion website for this cooking because Elizabeth Andoh goes hard.)

The Recipe (straight from the cookbook, which you should totally get if you want to dive into this style of cooking headfirst and you are up for the challenge):

Things to Note About This Recipe:

  • This is a really great starter recipe if you’ve never made sushi before, mostly because it does not require sleek carving of high-quality raw fish. However, Andoh’s described method of rolling the futomaki a half-sheet of nori at a time also makes things a lot more manageable, particularly because once you start putting the rolls together, you realize that a big part of learning the assembly is trial and error. She tells you everything she can to set you up for success, but you’re gonna have to do it, kinda mess up, then try again if you’re gonna get it right. Making your attempts a half-roll at a time helps to hone those instincts with a lot fewer error pieces as a result.
  • That unagi you see at sushi restaurants everywhere? Not only can you buy it cooked, frozen, and ready to heat ‘n eat — it’s actually recommended. Yes, this book will have you making your own seasoned rice vinegar (which I did, despite having a bottle of storebought stuff on hand), but it will not make you prep the BBQ unagi. Whew. I hit up the Mistuwa Marketplace in Santa Monica, and they had it stocked, no problem. I got basically everything that I didn’t already have in my kitchen at Mitsuwa.
  • I used pea sprouts instead of radish sprouts because they had a big alluring bag of ’em at Mitsuwa.
  • I skipped the sansho pepper. It sounds fun and intense and, hell, they probably had it at Mitsuwa (this is not a sponsored post, BTW, but maybe it should be), but I didn’t think to grab any.
  • Keep a bowl of water at your side for wetting your hands so the rice doesn’t stick.
  • Keep a damp towel at your side for wiping down your knife after slicing the rolls.
  • You will still end up rinsing your hands a lot.
  • You might think your chef’s knife is sharp. It’s probably not as sharp as you want it for cutting sushi. Go sharpen it now. Don’t argue with me. Just do it.
These rolls have too much rice.
  • I did not do the cucumber aku nuki procedure, as my cucumber was not bitter (and also, baby steps, y’all).
  • Careful not to use too much rice. Also, the recipe says to flatten it to cover the bottom third of the nori, but I found I was needing to go up about halfway to get the rice to connect around the fillings.
  • HOLY JESUS, do not forget that you are dealing with WASABI. Don’t get carried away by creating a solid pretty green stripe. I used a bit too much wasabi on my first roll, bit into it, and it hit my tongue before any of the rice or unagi. I stomped around my kitchen like I had BEES IN MY SINUSES. BEES. (Also, I’m breathing better than I have all week, so…)
Looks cool, TOO MUCH WASABI.
  • Don’t add too much cucumber, even if you love cucumber and you’re like “But I want it in there!” There’s not that much room. Go easy on the cucumber.
  • There’s a good chance you’ll have leftover ingredients after you make your 6 mini rolls — I did. So I rolled up the rest of the cucumber with some more pea shoots into li’l veggie rolls, then pressed and seared the rest of the sushi rice with some soy sauce and sesame oil.
  • I’d also set aside some rice BEFORE I added the seasoned rice vinegar because I wanted to make some omusubi with umeboshi plums, which I’d been dying to try for ages. They’re tart and salty as hell. Just ate one of the omusubi and I’m pretty into it.
  • Not all of this was a good idea. Didn’t think that through. Should have saved the leftover rice, refreshed it, reheated the unagi, and made fresh rolls to eat as I needed them. What’s that? Cold unagi can get weird and rubbery? 2-day-old rice gets hard in the fridge, isn’t great cold, and absorbs the fishiness of the unagi and seaweed? Yeah. All these things are things I learned the hard way so you don’t have to.
  • That said, I reheated the omusubi and the seared rice, and those were just fine several days later after being warmed up.

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THE VERDICT

How did it taste?
Good, but I kind of figured it would, provided I got the right ingredients and applied them in the right proportions. The challenge here is mostly in the assembly.

Would I make this again?
Rolled sushi? Heck yes. With unagi? Not necessarily. It’s never really been my favorite sushi filling, since it’s so sweet. Maybe now that I have some test runs under my belt, I’ll take a hack at some salmon rolls next time. That said, the omusubi with umeboshi plums? TOTAL KEEPER.

Do I recommend this book?
I do. This is another one that is intimidating as hell at first glance BUT all the information is there. If you’re an adventurous and studious novice, you can absolutely handle this stuff, provided you square up like Lyanna Mormont against that giant and just charge at it with a battle cry. (Yes, Game of Thrones owns my brain for a couple more weeks.)

What’s the next recipe I want to make from this book?
Probably the Rice Porridge with Sour Plum and Herbs (Okayu). I love a good savory breakfast porridge, and since I’ve already got the umeboshi plums AND I grabbed some bonito flakes to make the Basic Sea Stock in the book, I’m pretty well set up to give it a try. However as it gets hotter in LA, the Thin Noodles on Ice (Somen) are likely to look more and more appealing.

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FYI, I made some other fun stuff this week, including a queso dip with roasted jalapeƱos which was far too good, and a birthday cake with lemon curd, whipped cream buttercream frosting, and fresh strawberries. And THEN I got bloodwork done at a routine checkup and they’re all “You have high cholesterol,” and I’m like “NO FAIR, I had queso in my bloodstream!”

Maybe next week should be another healthy one…



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