Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sushi: Taste and Technique by Kimiko Barber and Hiroki Takemura

Sushi: Taste and Technique focuses on ingredients and techniques used in the making of sushi. It's divided into three sections: basics, making and eating. The basics cover utensils, ingredients and basic recipes. The making section covers scattered, stuffed, pressed, rolled, hand-formed types of sushi, while the eating part covers sushi bars, etiquette, beverages, entertaining and troubleshooting.

As a sushi reference, it's great. It's filled with gorgeous mouth-watering photographs. Some of the techniques and recipes have step by step photographs which make them easier to follow. The sections on history of sushi, ingredients/utensils and recipe introductions were all well written and interesting.

I loved seeing all the different kinds of sushi. I had no idea there were so many. Two of the types were new to me: scattered sushi, pressed sushi. I'm definitely going to try the scattered sushi at some point. It looks like a great lunch solution.

Sushi is relatively new to my eating repertoire, so by no means am I a great sushi connoisseur. I've had takeout more than a few times and have made sushi a few times at home. I mainly stick to stuff I know I like, but have been adventurous on occasion. Over the years, I've picked up some equipment and utensils to use. However, I'm still short some pieces. It's nice that the book offers short cuts and utensil substitutions so that I can try out a new recipe or new kind of sushi without making an investment in equipment I might only use once.

While the section on all the types of fish, shellfish and techniques for filleting and dismembering them was interesting and informative, I'm not sure how useful this information is going to be for me. I rarely (if ever) buy fish or shellfish that hasn't already been cleaned. Having said that, it was kind of cool to see all of the different seafoods in their natural states. I'd never heard of John Dory, brill or turbot.

For recipes, the book is just okay. The focus of the book is really on ingredients and techniques, so there weren't as many recipes as I would have liked. I tried a few of them with varying degrees of success:

  • sushi rice (page 36): Straight forward and somewhat successful. I thought the result was a little sweet, so I checked my other recipe. Sure enough, this recipe has 4 times more sugar. The other toppings and fillings pretty much masked the sweetness, so it wasn't too bad. Unfortunately, the sweetness masked the vinegar taste in the rice, which for me is the part of the appeal.
  • dashi (page 39): straight forward and successful. I haven't made this before, so I have nothing to compare it to.
  • Thin Japanese omelette (page 44): Hard to get right and not too successful. The omelette looked ok. A couple of them were too thick and hard to roll, but making a perfectly thin omelette takes some practice. The result was way too salty, almost to the point of inedible. I made a second batch with half the amount of salt and it was still too salty. The recipe called for 1 tsp salt for 1 egg + 1 egg yolk. If I make this again, I'd use 1/8-1/4 tsp of salt. I noticed that the thick Japanese Omelette (page 40) used 1 tsp salt for 6 eggs. That sounds more reasonable.
  • wasabi leaf (page 51): straight forward and successful.
  • Thin-roll sushi (hoso maki zushi) (page 186): straight forward and successful. Made three rolls: scallop and shitake; cucumber; avocado. All of these were good.
  • Stuffed tofu pouches (inari) (page 152): straight forward and somewhat successful. The filling for the inari was a little bland for my taste.
  • Omelette packages (page 158): straight forward and not too successful. See Thin Japanese omelette explanation above. The filling, which was basically the same for the inari above, was bland. As for the other ingredients, I couldn't find kampyo (dried gourd) despite asking at two Asian grocery stores. No one knew what I was talking about. They all said, "What is it?", "Oh, that's probably Japanese." "No we don't have it." I tried to use the green part of a scallion to use as a tie, but it just kept breaking. I used a strip of nori (dried seaweed) instead.
  • Inside-out roll sushi (page 196): straight forward and successful. Delicious! The California rolls had rice, nori, crab (I used shrimp), avocado, cucumber, mayo, wasabi and roe. The recipe called for half a sheet of nori, however, I used a whole one. I didn't think I could all of these ingredients onto half a sheet. Also, I don't think my knife was sharp enough so they came out a little squished, but still tasted good.

Here's a picture of my attempts:

Despite my sweetness and salty issues above, I probably will try a few more recipes in the book. I particularly looking forward to some of the soups and a couple of the fusion scattered varieties for lunch.

The table of contents was pretty good. It was nicely laid out and easy to use. The index, however, was adequate, but not great. I had a hard time finding a few of the recipes. The glossary, which featured Japanese names, English explanations and page numbers was very useful.

Recommended for ingredient explanations and the different sushi techniques.

For more information about this book or to have a peek inside selected sections, please visit DK Canada's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at DK Canada for this review copy.

Sushi: Taste and Technique by Kimiko Barber and Hiroki Takemura, DK Publishing, ©2010. ISBN 9780756664244(paperback), 256p.

1 comment:

  1. Great recipe reviews. Am looking for a sushi cookbook for my son.


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