From the beginning of his interactive luncheon at Flavor! Napa Valley, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s message was clear. “You think you know about sushi, but you don’t know anything,” he told his audience.
His demonstration at the Culinary Institute of America began with a quick lesson on how to eat the dish. Japanese cuisine and culture emphasizes etiquette, and eating sushi—even in America—is not an exception.
For example, when eating nigiri, you must always dip it in your soy sauce fish side down. “Fish side down,” Morimoto repeated to the amused crowd. You must also never mix your soy sauce with your wasabi. Instead, portion small amounts of wasabi onto your sushi.
Afterward, Morimoto taught the audience how to make his world-renowned sushi, displaying immense skill and talent. He then ushered participants to the CIA's kitchens to attempt the feat on their own, wishing them good luck.
Below, we share with you Morimoto's guide to making maki sushi.
Seaweed (also called nori)
Your choice of fresh fish
Your choice of toppings (scallions, ginger, sesame seeds, etc.)
Spicy mayo (optional)
1. Set your seaweed wrap with the shiny, smooth side facing down.
2. Wet your hands thoroughly and pick up a handful or ball of rice. Sushi rice is extremely sticky, so it's important to keep your hands wet when handling. Note: Morimoto seasons his rice with rice vinegar, sugar and salt.
3. Using what Morimoto calls “cat fingers,” lightly spread a thin layer of rice on the seaweed, leaving about 2 cm of room on each end. Do not compress or flatten the rice.
4. Top your rice with ingredients. This can include wasabi, spicy mayo, your choice of fish and your choice of toppings. Line everything horizontally for easy rolling.
5. Begin rolling the seaweed tightly and firmly with pressure. Use the extra room on each end to seal.
6. Use the bamboo mat to shape the sushi roll.
7. Cut the roll in half (it helps to wet the tip of your knife blade), then cut the remaining sushi into 6ths or 8ths.
Don't get discouraged if your sushi looks wonky the first time around (like ours does). As with anything, it takes a little practice.
Participants at the interactive lunch devoured their handmade sushi as a first course, followed by a second and third course by Morimoto. Wines for all three courses were paired and presented by Chuck Wagner of Wagner Family of Wine.
Morimoto's second course, braised black cod with vegetable ragout. Paired with 2011 Mer Soleil SILVER unoaked Chardonnay.
The final course, Morimoto pork chop with applesauce, kimchi and bacon. Paired with 2011 Belle Glos 'Las Alturas' Pinot Noir.