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Sushi with Style: Master the Basics and Beyond - Ellen Brown

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Genre: Food & Drink / Dieting / Author: Ellen Brown / Edition: illustrated edition / Paperback / 80 Pages / Book is published 2008-09-01 by Sterling

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      16.12.2012 18:48
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      Not the best Sushi cookery book

      Since coming back from China I have dug out one of my poshest Sushi recipe books. I know Sushi is Japanese but the Chinese also eat a lot of it. The book I am going to review is a medium sized recipe book filled with 80 pages of instructions and recipes. On the back of the book it states that this is a book introducing the reader to classic forms and innovative twists that are easy to prepare. Let's take a look and see if the marketing spiel is true.

      For a start, the paper that makes up the book is good quality although the print is small. I need to wear reading glasses which I hate, to read this. First chapter is called, 'What's Sushi', this explains the history of sushi. Moving on, we then go to 'Sushi Basics'. This tells us what kind of equipment we need to use, the different types of ingredients, how to choose your fish, pantry items, all about refrigerated and frozen foods and shopping for vegetables. I would have liked to have seen a few more photos here as there is far too much text. I found this bit too basic and a bit boring.

      Also in this section we learn about special techniques and just how important the cooking, seasoning and cooling of the rice should be. As fish is the most important ingredient the author, Ellen Brown, tells us how to slice fish and prepare the shrimp. Preparation of vegetables get a look in before we are instructed to Make a Tamago (sweet egg omelette essential to sushi), Tempura, Dashi (chicken stock of Japanese cooking), Wasabi Paste and even how to toast sesame seeds. A nice bit at the end of this section is all to do with the preparation of garnishes. Do you know how to prepare a pickled ginger rose, radish cup, tomato flower or make flower petals? It's all here. This is a very comprehensive section with lots of text and again not many pictures.

      After reading the first two chapters you will now know everything about becoming a sushi superstar according to the author and you should have learnt how to prepare all your ingredients to the proper size and not to be too generous with either the rice or ingredient additions.

      Chapter 3 will teach you the skills so you will be able to make each distinctive form of sushi and feel free to experiment with toppings and fillings. The Finger Family is first on the list and the first page of this section starts with a full page colour photograph showing Finger Sushi (Nigiri-Zushi). This form was developed in the 19th century. In Japanese, nigiri means, 'to gently squeeze' and here we are shown how to form fingers of seasoned rice by using this technique. The rice serves as an edible support for a wide variety of toppings, called Neta. The continuation of this chapter is about the choices of topping.

      Next come Battleship Sushi (Gunkan-zushi), a variation on fingers. The toppings used are small and could easily fall off the rice so they are wrapped in a sheet of nori which creates a small collar to hold the toppings together.

      Finally, in this chapter we come to the assembly line of sushi making - how to make and slice up Maki Rolls (Maki-Zushi), thin (Hosomaki-Zushi) and thick (Futomaki -Zushi). We are shown how to layer the rice on the nori so we don't tear it, how to form the shape of the roll and how to cut it into pieces. Finally, we are advised about the best types of fish and vegetables to buy for these rolls. Tuna, cucumber and strips of cooked chicken which are untraditional are mentioned.

      If you want to boast and be a bit showy, you can learn how to make inside out rolls (Uramki Zushi). This is when the rice is on the outside rather than the inside and once rolled, coated with toasted sesame seeds.

      Before we are let loose on the recipe section there is a page and a half all about Chirashi-Zushi (Bountiful Bowls). This is more my sort of Japanese cooking. Basically, it is a meal in a bowl - 'scattered sushi.' You have to know how to make the rice properly and then after that you can add ingredients of your choice. Two primary types are Edomae Chirashi-Zushi (comes from Tokyo) and Gomoku-Zushi which hails from the Kansai region of Japan. Both types can be served in individual bowls or in one large bowl for a group. This is not finger food and should be eaten with chopsticks or if you can't use them, a fork.

      At last, the recipes. There are only 8 pages illustrating traditional and contemporary sushi recipes. Examples: Carrot and Scallion Nigiri-Zushi, Tempura Vegetable Futomaki, Fried Salmon Skin, Salmon, and Snow Pea Futomaki, Tuna, Salmon, Crab and Cucumber Uramaki. This isn't as exciting as it sounds and I think the recipe section could have been presented in a better way. Again, a lack of photographs. There isn't a photo with every recipe and some pages are only text with red bold for headings and ordinary black text for the method and instructions.

      Chapter 5 is called, 'Small Touches' and covers soups, vegetables, pickles and non traditional "dessert sushi." Sushi aficionados will know that desserts as we know them in the western world do not exist in Japanese cooking. However, the author has included a recipe for dessert sushi with two accompanying sauce recipes (caramel and chocolate).

      The final chapter, 'Dining on Sushi' deals with the rituals of eating sushi, something my husband turned his nose up at when we were in China. We learn what and what not to do with our chopsticks. Do you know that you shouldn't rub them together or cross them on your plate? I have to laugh, my husband made a big fuss about not wanting to use chopsticks and now he's much better than I am at using them and shows off all the time.

      There is a section on Dining Out and Serving Sushi at Home as well as one on Beverages. Saki is the drink always associated with Japanese food but not with sushi as they are both rice based. I think this rule doesn't apply in UK. Most Japanese purists drink green tea with sushi especially in the day.

      At the end of the book there is a glossary which I always enjoy looking at, a Mail Order section giving addresses where you can find specialised equipment, a Metric Equivalent conversion table and an Index.

      I have had this book quite a while now but can't remember how much I paid for it. I bought it from the American Bookshop in Warsaw and it says it cost $9.95 so I guess that's how much I paid, the equivalent in zloty, of course. Let's go with approximately £6.15.

      What do I think?

      Now, I'm going to be big headed. Having written three cookery books of my own I am not too impressed with this one. I suppose I shouldn't really say this as Ellen Brown (the author) has written over 18 books and was the Food Editor of USA Today. In my view, the book is too detailed and such dry reading. The print is too small, there is a lack of colour photographs and the sketches illustrating how to squeeze the rice, mould the fingers and roll the nori are so tiny, you can hardly see them at all. The size of the book isn't too good either. I always like to spread my cookery books out so I can lean on the opposite page to the one I am looking at. There isn't a lot of room for leaning - my elbow takes up much of the space.

      I agree with the author that once you have cracked how to cook the rice and slice the fish the rest is quite easy if you are prepared to commit the time to making sushi. I have followed several of the recipes and they are easy to understand so I will give full marks for that although I would have liked more pictures and more recipes. My favourite parts of the book are how to make the garnishes, tips on dining out and the glossary.

      It's not a bad cookery book but there are better Sushi cookery books out there like, Sushi Taste and Technique by Kimiko Barber and Hiroki Takemura. I'll give it 3 stars.

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