Saturday, 3 November 2012

New York-Style XL Sushi Nigiri

Having eaten sushi a number of times at Sushi-Waka in Camden Town - assured by the owner as 'pure Japanese sushi' - and in New York at various sushi bars - I can tell you that the Big-Appley (even their fruit is big) ones like to do it bigger. Not necessarily better, but definitely bigger. Well actually, maybe better.

While my nigiri and maki purveyors in Camden prefer the more no-frills austerity 'minimalist' style of presenting the subtle delights of the raw fish, the guys over in Giant Granny Smith feel that unless they present you with a monster selection straight off the pallets at Fulton Fish Market, and then doll it up with numerous multi-coloured garnishes and accoutrements, that they are somehow short-changing you. 

I cannot say objectively whether authentic Japanese or Massive Cox's Orange Pippin-style sushi is better. The most I can say, is that if I'm in the mood for purist traditional food sold in draughty London premises by the stern looking wife of the jovial chef, I'll take a bus to Camden, and when I'm in the mood for over-the-top metropolitan pescatarian ostentatiousness served by Abercrombie & Fitch models, I'll catch a plane over the Atlantic to the Large Orchard Fruit of the Deciduous Tree. It's nice to have options.

My good friend Ophelia came over for dinner this week, and so I decided to offer her some sushi; as (a) I don't eat meat on a school night; (b) I like sushi; and (c) I like pretty food - and sushi is the veritable supermodel of the culinary universe. But which style should I go for? Proper Japanese sushi (small portions/beautifully presented), or Gargantuan Pink Lady style (enormous slabs of fish/tiny rice/presented like a fishy Carman Miranda's hat)? Well, no contest really. I went BIG.

As for the types of fish I chose. I went to Waitrose on the Edgware Road and interrogated the fish counter guy as to when his fish were caught. Not placed on ice on his counter, but actually caught. He assured me that his stock arrives daily from a boat arriving from the fishing grounds in the middle of the night. Good enough for me. I chose a plump sea bass, a shiny mackerel and a glistening salmon fillet and asked him to make sure they were entirly bone-free (I can be very assertive at times). Great fish choices, and a nice set of contrasting textures, colours and flavours.

I have advocated buying fresh fish for sushi before, but all I can say is: If you're queasy about eating raw supermarket fish, then don't. But then don't eat your tuna rare, or go to one of those sushi conveyor belt restaurants either - the right supermarket (ie a good quality one) trumps a dodgy faux-Japanese disco blaring High Street fish cafe any time. As they say; you pays your price, you takes your risk.

The nice thing about this dish, is you don't need to be an artist to make dinner look amazing. Just cut the fillets up into large chunks and place over torpedoes of rice. Then garnish the plate like its New Year's Eve. Easy. As you can see from the picture, this dish looks a bit of a crazy mess- which is the WHOLE POINT.

Cost-wise, the fish came to £4.50 for three fillets, with the rice and garnishes bringing the whole dish to £3 per serving. Really good value, and a true mid-week treat. As they used to say in New York (I'm out of Big Apple gags): Have a nice day.

Serves 2


150g sushi or risotto rice
50ml rice vinegar
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 fresh salmon fillet, skinned and pin-boned
1 mackerel fillet, pin-boned, but with the skin left on
1 sea bass fillet, pin-boned, but with the skin left on
Large handful of salad leaves
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into fine strips with a potato peeler
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
25g sesame seeds
25g nigella (black onion) seeds
1 teaspoon of prepared wasabi paste, to serve
75ml dark soy sauce, to serve
Pickled ginger, to serve

To make the sushi rice: Add the rice to a pan with twice the volume of water. Cook the rice on a moderate heat until the water has fully absorbed (15 minutes approx). While the rice is still warm, add the vinegar, salt and sugar and fold in gently to ensure you don't break up the rice grains. Set aside until needed. In the meantime. slice all fish fillets across the grain, until you have 3-4cm strips of 1cm thickness. Form the cooled rice into 3cm torpedoes with your hands, and place attractively around a large serving platter with a fish fillet on each. Dress the salad leaves and carrot strips with the oil and vinegar and place in the centre of the dish with a ramekin filled with soy sauce and wasabi nestled in the middle. Sprinkle sesame seeds on the salmon and nigella seeds on the mackerel. Serve the sushi immediately with pickled ginger on the side.

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