By Lindsey Turnbull
People in the Cayman Islands have developed a real love of sushi, with loads of great restaurants offering this Asian culinary classic. So, it was unsurprising to see a full house at Bon Vivant last week, when a handful of budding sushi makers gathered around the table to watch chef Maureen Cubbon, Culinary Director at Bestlife, who presents the cooking classes at Bon Vivant, along with number two, Chef Hanson, who led the sushi making for the evening.
Bon Vivant has made a name for itself over the years, offering an array of cookery classes to young and old, but that sadly came to a halt when the pandemic hit. Their sushi making class is hopefully the restart of Bon Vivant’s highly popular cooking classes, which have, in the past, showcased how to make everything from brioche to pasta.
Hilary Van Loon, Bon Vivant’s Retail Sales and Service Lead, was the MC for the event and ensured that all guests were happy at their seat and well supplied with wine throughout the event.
Chef Maureen explained that the class was highly interactive and everybody would be getting the chance to create their own sushi masterpiece.
“The idea is we want you to get a bit hands-on and understand all the moving parts,” Chef Maureen explained. “We want you to at least try to recreate this at home.”
All ingredients supplied were easily available at Cayman’s supermarkets, she said.
Rice is king
Chef Hanson then led the way, explaining the intricacies of the art of sushi making. Rice, he said, was the key ingredient and it should be Japanese rice, but not necessarily ‘sushi rice’ which tended to push up the price if it had that label. Rice was pre-cooked and then marinated overnight in a salt/sugar/rice vinegar marinade.
“Sushi actually means ‘sour taste’,” he advised. “Hundreds of years ago, it used to be just a procedure for the Japanese to preserve fish via fermentation and, once they were ready to eat the fish, they would throw away the rice, but a Japanese chef cooked the rice and served it with the fish and that was when sushi was born.”
The first roll guests made was futomaki, a type of sushi which has the nori (seaweed) on the outside and should only include four or five ingredients, he advised.
A beautifully presented station greeted each event-goer, complete with nori sheets for rolling, already cooked shrimp, neatly sliced cucumber, some sticky rice already pre-cooked and a selection of condiments. Prepping ahead of time was essential for sushi making, Chef Maureen advised.
Chef Hanson explained the importance of the nori to Japanese people:
“Japanese love their seaweed, they dry it out and use it for stocks for sauces and especially sushi,” he advised.
Guests were invited (once hands had been washed) to slice their avocado and then rub their hands with sesame oil to prevent sticking, before squishing the sticky rice on the inside of their nori sheet with their thumb, covering it in about a quarter inch layer and leaving a gap at the top of the sheet.
“The idea is to spread it thinly and all the way over from side to side, with about an inch gap at the top and all the way to the bottom,” Chef Maureen advised.
Sesame seeds were sprinkled over and then cucumber strips were then piled high in the middle and then avocado slices and shrimp were carefully laid out horizontally. Using a sushi rolling bamboo mat covered in cling film to keep it clean, guests carefully and tightly rolled their sushi. The movement was surprisingly easy and guests created perfect rolls with their ingredients.
Chef Hanson gave a helpful cutting tip in that you should dip the tip of your knife in water and then let the water drain along the cutting edge of the knife (which should be very sharp), the water preventing the knife from sticking to the rice as you cut.
“The thing about slicing sushi is you don’t have to saw, it’s cut in one motion, and you begin cutting in the middle of the roll,” Chef Hanson explained.
Having tucked into their now perfectly formed sushi, guests also were able to make an ‘outside’ roll, called Uramaki which contained fresh tuna that was piped in a horizontal line across the rice covered nori and then rolled. Chef Maureen then demonstrated an amazing yakitori chicken on skewers that she had prepared and cooked earlier, complete with a divine satay sauce that guests could dip their chicken into. She also demonstrated a delicious pho (pronounced ‘far’) bowl that she made that contained an intense broth that was the key to the success of the dish, deeply flavoured with star anise and cinnamon.
Armed with leftovers in take out boxes and a gift of a sushi rolling mat and wooden paddle, guests left feeling that they had learnt a great deal about the fascinating cuisine of Japan.
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