Chef KG is notorious for having high expectations for students in second quarter, and one of the more challenging stations in the culinary rotations is the sushi station. A few students may have rolled sushi in their lives, usually for fun, and they may not have been as intimidated by the station. In addition to being a food item that I’ve made only a few times and have generally had saggy, half-filled sushi rolls that would certainly earn a head-shake or a “why you do that!” shout from the chef, I really wanted to have my food done early – certainly earlier than many of the sushi dishes that were made in our kitchen this quarter, which barely made the 12:30 “last call” at times.
We’re generally expected to get done with our assigned dish by 11:00, which also applies to getting food delivered to both the Buzz and Square One during lunch service, and I wanted to have my sushi boxes finished by 11:00 and my lunch plates by 11:30. That’s no easy task, because we started our kitchen time at 9:00, so we only have about 1 hr and 45 minutes to have all the rolling, cutting, and boxing completed.
There was a rumor that Alexis, a classmate with whom I’d started in First Quarter before going to Hong Kong, had kicked butt on the sushi station and had gotten her boxes out by 11. So, I asked her for help. She gave me her notes. These are her notes, with some random changes that I made. Now I’m posting them online so subsequent classes can get their sushi out on time too.
I followed Alexis’ notes pretty closely after re-writing them so that I could glance at them quickly. I was partnered with a pastry student named Cheyenne, who had considerable kitchen experience and was really helpful. So you’re right, I didn’t do this all alone, and I honestly don’t know how it could be done in a 100 minute time frame, if you were completely alone the whole time. At 10:00 each day, 1Q students come to help, and we almost always assign one of those students to the sushi station to help out.
I also spent an afternoon at the library with “Sushi” and other books that helped me learn something about Japanese food. If the Japanese have a food attitude like the Cantonese do, then it’s important to try to make sushi to the best of your abilities, because your respect as a cook is gained by how your food tastes and looks. Plus, being Asian, I felt that Chef KG would expect me to be able to do something correctly!
Here are Alexis’ notes.
Prep the day before (takes about an hour):
1) Wash and soak rice
2) Skewer and boil shrimp (Ebi); remove shell and butterfly to the tail from the belly side
3) Prep product – English cucumber (keep peel, cut into thin wedges, length = nori sheet)
– Yellow radish (Takuwan) – wedges, length = nori sheet
– Eel (unagi) – thaw
– Shiitake mushrooms – stew if needed or find the frozen ones (then thaw them), slice
– Atsuyaki Tamago (omelette) – cook, wrap tightly and refrigerate
– Spinach – blanch and dry on paper towels
– Brown gourd (Kanpyo) – trim to nori length; 2 strips per roll
– Surimi (imitation crab meat) – trim to nori length
– Black sesame seeds (Iri goma) – lightly toast
4) Cut Nori sheets
24 x 1/2 size sheets
18 x 1/4 inch strips
4 x full size sheets
5) Check Sushi Su and make more if needed
6) Make Te-su (hand water)
7) Gather your Buzz boxes – box, chopsticks, soy sauce, rubberbands – 12 each
8) Gather but don’t prep – Avocado, wasabi (green horseradish-like powder), ginger (Gari), Tobiko (flying fish roe), Denbu (pink cod flakes)
9) Put mayonnaise in a little resealable zipper bag (cut the tip off the next day to pipe out easily)
Sushi Day of
1) Start Rice at 9:00
2) Trim Tamago – cut the Nigiri slices first, then cut the maki slices
3) Cut avocado into wedges, reconstitute the wasabi, use a fork to get the Gari, put small spoons in the roe and denbu containers (don’t contaminate with your hands)
4) Slice shiitake mushrooms, if not already done and tranche cut the unagi (eel)
5) Set up the fan and a large mixing bowl with the rice paddles to fan the rice
6) Measure out your shari-zu and be ready to stir into the rice when it’s ready
7) Arrange your ingredients according to the rolls you’re making so you can factory-assemble when ready
At 9:30, your rice should be ready
8) Transfer your rice to the large mixing bowl, pour your Shari zu all over the rice, stir it in, using the point of the paddle rather than the flat, so you don’t smash the rice. The fan should be blowing the whole time to cool it enough to handle
Portion your rice:
18 x 3 oz Rice (Kappa, Takuwa, Kanpyo Maki)
18 x 1 oz Rice (Ebi, Unagi, Tamago Nigiri)
6 x 4 oz Rice (California Roll)
4 x 10 oz Rice (Futomaki Roll)
9) Set up your sushi rolling station by putting a Maki-su on your cutting board and covering it with plastic. This is rather important, because the rolls will stick and make a crazy mess
Roll your Buzz boxes first, skipping some of the rolls for student lunch.
12 Boxes – take 4 to Square One and 8 to the Buzz by 11:00
Student Lunch plates
Leftover Futomaki rolls
6 Ebi Nigiri
6 Unagi Nigiri
6 Tamago Nigiri