My Japanese Table by Debra Samuels and Trident, Back Bay, Boston

Debra SamuelsMy Japanese Table was our favorite demonstration at Trident by far. Although we loved La Tartine Gourmande and Scallops: A New England Coastal Cookbook, but My Japanese Table because alive when Debra, a Boston Globe contributor engaged attendees with participatory sushi making and a lovely discussion about Japanese food culture.

Debra has visited Japan for over 40 years, and lived there for a collective total of eleven years. She initially traveled to Japan as an undergrad to study abroad. Her husband, a professor at MIT specializes in Japanese politics, while Debra focuses on Japanese cuisine. We found it charming that Debra has traveled multiple times with her children as babies and fed them tofu, octopus and rice. Debra teaches Japanese cooks about Western food culture and Americans Japanese cuisine.

During Debra’s demonstration, she focused on rice and sushi making. From maki or hand rolls to pressed sushi. The short grain Japanese rice or sticky rice should not be smashed down, just mixed.

Debra explained sushi rice required rice vinegar and a fan. One must cool down rice as one seasons and the rice pearls getting shinier.

One of my favorite samples was the homes-tyle or pressed sushi. The layers of sushi rice with smoked salmon, spicy mayo and shiso was a lovely flavor of salt, creamy and umami. She also suggested another alternative of using saba (mackerl). In a pyrex, the pressed sushi can be cut into 40 small bite size squares.

Debra set a mini platter shitake mushrooms, egg, cucumbers, avocado, surimi or fake crab. Throughout the dialogue, she reiterated that the Japanese eat with eyes first, which is why color and presentation is important.  We each took pieces of roasted seaweed and rolled it into Temaki sushi. The spicy mayonnaise was lovely with a great combination of sesame oil, sriracha and mayo.

Sushi making is fun, meditative and a great conversation starter. The seaweed we sampled had a nice texture and sesame flavor.

Debra mentioned that she loves bento boxes and tofu. Additionally, she loves to make hot pots when hosting for guest participation. Our favorite tea drinking oasis in New York City is Cha-An (and revisited) and some of our favorite sushi joints are o ya and  Fish Market in Allston. We have on our radar the newly opened Yakitori Zai on Shawmut. Yakitori Sai also has Cultural Classes every second Sunday 12pm-2:30pm. From sake pairings, grilling, to dashi, another opportunity for further appreciation and learning of Japanese culture.

Would love to test Debra’s recipe for Soy Glazed Chicken Wings, Yakitori Rice Bowl, Scallops with Citrus Miso Sauce and Sweet Potato Tempura Fritters. For sushi instruction, Debra offers classes, but for a public transportation accessible option, we highly suggest Sea To You Sushi School in Brookline.

Sea To You classes are fantastic and the sushi school also is a fish purveyor to most of the sushi restaurants in Boston. One can buy sushi grade fish direct at a fraction of the cost, as well as sushi making supplies.

Both Debra and the Sea To You instructors both reiterated at home sushi makers should not purchase plain tuna from the local supermarket unless labeled sushi grade. Sushi grade is deep freezed fish to kills parasites and ensure safety.

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