A Japanese New Year

For as long as I can remember, the New Year has been a time in my family for celebrating our Japanese heritage.
My grandfather was Japanese. My dad is half Japanese and they both grew up in Hawaii. I won’t claim Japanese purity as far as our family traditions go. They are probably mixed with some of the Hawaiian mix of Asian and Polynesian island cultures. But, every New Years Day we serve up sushi, sashimi, tako, miso, seaweed salad, pickled ginger (gari), pickled daikon (takuan), fish cake (kamaboko), unagi, adzuki bean jelly, terriyaki, and other Japanese fare.

Visiting my family for the New Year put us close to some good Japanese markets and an opportunity to expand our palate into some of the Japanese foods that we hadn’t tried before and introduce our readers to some delicious foods that we eat every year.

Sushi is one of the Japanese foods that has become quite popular in recent years. Following is my family recipe for sushi. Enjoy.

Family sushi recipe (maki and inari)

Pickled sushi rice: 

*4 cups sushi rice

*3 cups vinegar

*2 cups sugar

*3 tbs salt

Cook vinegar, sugar and salt for 15 minutes on low to dissolve sugar. Cool.

Cook 4 cups sushi rice. Cool in large pan. Sprinkle with salt.

Add 1 cup vinegar/sugar sauce to cooled rice and mix. Add more as needed to make rice easily spreadable into thin layer for sushi.

Maki sushi (sushi roll): 

*10-sheet package nori (seaweed sheets)

*1 small pkg dried shiitake mushrooms (soaked in cold water to cover for 4 hours to rehydrate) save water

*dried kampyo gourd (soaked in water overnight) discard water

*1 large carrot

*10 long green beans

*4 tbs shoyu

*4 tsp sugar

*2 eggs fried in thin omelet

*Unagi (canned or frozen)



*Takuan (pickled daikon)

*Sashimi (we use raw salmon or tuna- be sure to get sashimi/sushi grade fish)

*Kamaboku (fish cake)

*Roasted sesame seeds

Peel and slice carrot length wise into thin, long carrot sticks. Place in large frying pan with lid. Add presoaked mushrooms; presoaked and drained kampyo; and green beans.

To saved mushroom water add the shoyu and sugar. Pour over vegetables in pan and cook with lid on until tender.

Cut shiitake, kampyo, cucumber, unagi, omelet, kamaboku, avocado, sashimi and takuan into long thin pieces like shown in picture below.

As seen in picture, place 1 sheet nori on the makisu (bamboo sushi mat). Spread a thin layer of rice on the nori. Place preferred ingredients on the rice as shown. Using the makisu, roll into a cylinder with nori on the outside and the rice and fillings in the middle.

Slice roll into 5 or 7 pieces of sushi. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make the rolls you like best.

My favorites- unagi, avocado and cucumber.  I also like cucumber with takuan.

My dad and grandpa’s favorite- unagi, carrot, green bean, omelet, shiitake, kampyo, kamaboku, sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds and sakura-denbu (a powdered dried fish that is colored pink).

Another family favorite- tuna or salmon with cucumber and avocado.

These are just some basic rolls that we like to make. There are many recipes for what to put in a sushi roll, all with different names and combinations.

Inari sushi (cone sushi): 

*Leftover cooked vegetables, unagi, omelet, kamaboku, and rice from making maki

*1 can inari (sweetened dried bean curd pockets)

Dice up vegetables, omelet, kamaboku, and unagi into small pieces.

Open can of inari and pour juice from can into rice. Add more vinegar sauce to rice if needed. Rice should be moist enough to pack into inari pockets.

Add diced up ingredients to rice in desired quantity. Mix well.

Open inari pockets carefully to avoid tearing. Stuff rice mixture into pockets (cones). Chill.

Optional, sprinkle toasted sesame seed  on top before serving.

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