How much Japanese cooking can a person do, who vows never to stuff, roll, or fry? Quite a lot, actually. Whenever I say I love to make Japanese food, people eagerly say, "oh, you do sushi and tempura?". I fix them with a stony glare, or a pitying glance, or maybe just brush an infinitesimal speck of dust from my sleeve and say "there´s a lot more to Japanese food than tempura and sushi, you know. And no, I couldn´t do either of those to save my life".
I am broadminded in my definition of Japanese, and anything that has soy sauce and mirin and wasabi and sesame oil is Japanese enough for me. A scattering of sesame seeds over some white rice, eaten with chopsticks, and I´m there.
One of our favourite lazy dinners is a bowl of white rice topped with cut up omelette (made with a dash of sugar), slices of avocado, sesame seeds and a bit of nori. Dip the egg or avocado in soy sauce and there you are. A quick, beautiful, really quite Japanese looking dinner.
I might also marinate some defrosted salmon to go along with that, or throw in some smoked salmon, which always goes so well with avocadoes.
What I had never made is real sushi rice. I found the instructions intimidating. What with the kombu, and the soaking the special wooden instruments, and the soaking then resting the rice, and all that palaver of "gently fold the vinegar into the rice with one hand while you fan it with the other"...I mean to say, what? I need two hands to fold vinegar into rice if it´s not all to end up on the floor, thankyouverymuch. Fanning, indeed. No sir, I thought.
But yesterday the crushing heat of Madrid summer brought the solution. I have an electric fan in the kitchen, and what could be easier than mixing the vinegar-sugar-salt into the rice, inside a normal baking tray, while the electric fan did its sushi job and also made me not faint from the steam?
So there you go. Ignore the punctiliousness and the ritualistic stories and don´t let that Japanese aura of perfection put you off. After all, they invented those little junky packets of ramen, so shortcuts must be quite common in Japan. Just get yourself some mirin and soy and sesame oil and sake and start playing.