A couple of weeks ago, Michiel and I went to Okura Hotel in Amsterdam for a sushi making workshop! The cooking course was his birthday gift from me, since I know how much he loves Japanese cuisine. All in all, we had a fantastic time, and are glad to have the chance to learn how to make sushi from the experts!
Okura is a 5-star hotel situated in Amsterdam, and is famous for its restaurants: two Japanese and one French. The hotel also offers cooking workshops, and the one we tried was called “Taste of Sushi.”
When we arrived at the hotel, we went down below the restaurants to a special workshop kitchen. We arrived a little early and saw several chefs preparing the workspaces with special sushi knives and all the ingredients. As more people arrived (there was 12 of us in total for the workshop) we were guided into a special wine tasting room where we were given samples of plum wine and also some appetizers (grilled salmon and eggplant) by a woman in a traditional kimono.
During an introduction from chef Akira Oshima-san (who, by the way, has been awarded the prestigious Michelin Star, and was also knighted by the Dutch Queen!) we learned some of the Japanese sushi making methods and traditions, and learned a little about his career. Under Oshima’s leadership at Hotel Okura’s Yamazato Restaurant, the establishment earned its own Michelin Star, the first — and so far the only — traditional Japanese restaurant to achieve this in Europe. The man himself is very friendly and funny, and really went out of his way to interact with each person in the class.
After being shown by chef Oshima how to prepare sticky rice, how to properly cut the fish, how to make sushi balls and roll Maki, (and even how to properly eat sushi) we put on our aprons and got to work! (We totally got to keep the aprons after the class, which was very exciting for us.) There were several worktable stations set up, with one sushi chef for each group of 4. First, we tried for ourselves to make the perfect sushi ball (chefs train for years to get it right). They have to be a specific size and weight to support the fish on top. Then you swipe it with a glob of wasabi (Michiel was delighted at the amount of wasabi he was given to play with) and top it with a slab of raw salmon, tuna, shrimp, yellow-tail or sea bass. We got to try them all! I really enjoyed learning how to cut the salmon, with one swift swipe of the blade, finishing with an angled style to create that perfect edge. When Michiel and I eat this type of sushi at a restaurant, we usually just plop it in the soy sauce and eat it, but we learned that this is not the proper way. According to chef Oshima, soy sauce should never touch the rice, it is only meant to touch the fish. You should roll the sushi on its side, pick it up with chopsticks, and turn to dip only the fish into the soy sauce.
Next we learned how to make a rolled-type sushi (called Maki). We used Nori (seaweed) and learned how to apply a precise amount of sticky rice, give another swipe of wasabi, and place a long strip of fish and some sesame seeds. We were taught how to properly roll it and cut it. After all of our sushi pieces were made (which turned out to be A LOT!), we were given a plate so we could eat our creations. All 12 of us were led to a long table where we sat and enjoyed the fruits of our labour, with some miso soup and samples of Sake (rice wine). During our meal, Mr. Oshima gave us a demonstration of how to make a traditional hand roll. While we ate, the other chefs packed up the rest of our sushi into take-out packs for us to bring home! Needless to say, despite already having a sushi lunch during our workshop, all of our leftovers were consumed as soon as Michiel and I arrived home. We were also given a copy of the recipes, and someday in the future we’ll try our hand at making sushi ourselves!