Sun 26 Jun 2011
Oh man, this place is soooo J.
This is something my sister would say if we walked into a particular type of place. What does “soooo J” mean? Sooooo Japanese. This comment would be appropriate is if my sister and I walked into a shopping centre that reminded us of one in Tokyo, maybe because of the items it sells or the general vibe of the place. Or if we walked past a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles full of Japanese people, we might say This place must be good, look at all the J’s in there!
Living here in Ireland, I rarely see Japanese people but the odd time I do I tend to make a verbal note of it – probably because it’s so unusual. Of course now Mountaineering Man has picked up on my use of J to refer to Japanese people; as he has a mischievous sense of humour, he’ll abuse the reference. Pretty much any Asian person we see will elicit a Look, there’s some J’s! He’s just being cheeky of course but I will admit I do find it quite funny. Moreover it’s interesting to observe his growing knowledge of Japanese food and culture, which he’s picking up in bits and pieces from me.
Before we met, he probably couldn’t have imagined taking a bento box lunch with chopsticks to work – something he now does regularly. He probably never uttered a Japanese word or phrase but these days he frequently uses one of my favourite words – gambate – which means hang in there or you can do it! And I’m fairly certain that if someone had asked MM a year ago if he’d ever travel to Japan, his answer would have been somewhere between maybe and I’m not sure. Now it’s a definite possibility and something we plan to do in the next few years.
Food, as is often the case, has been a great way to introduce MM to Japanese culture and I’m relieved and happy that he’s embraced some of my favourite dishes with absolute enthusiasm. The other night we had make-your-own sushi with nori (seaweed), brown sushi rice, anago (cooked marinated eel, a popular feature on most sushi restaurant menus) and some goma (sesame seed paste) coated carrots. He enjoyed it so much we’re having the same thing – except this time with mackerel – for dinner tonight.
As for teaching me the ways of Irish food culture, MM’s contribution is an endless variety of potato jokes. The other day when I was explaining how my mother became an American citizen, he said, To become an Irish citizen you have to stand up with your mouth open while someone tries to toss a potato into it. If you can catch a potato with your mouth, you’re in! He also tells me [frequently] that when we visit Los Angeles this autumn he’ll bring my bag of potatoes and a guitar and that he’ll say to my friends, Nice to meet you, where should I put my bag of potatoes? Please don’t touch my potatoes! Naturally all this is said with an overhyped Irish accent.
Gotta love that Irish sense of [potato] humour!
There’s really no recipe here – all you really need is some cooked sushi rice, some nori (sheets of black seaweed) and whatever fish or even vegetables you like. It doesn’t have to be raw fish, even. I bought frozen but already-cooked anago (eel) as well as our brown sushi rice, sesame seeds for the carrots and kimchi (this is a Korean spicy fermented cabbage condiment) at Asia Market on Drury Street in Dublin. You just lay everything out on the table and make your own handrolls – you do not need a rolling mat, this is rustic and you’d roll it up just like you would a small burrito!
If you have specific questions about this meal, leave it in the comments and I will be happy to answer what I can!