Rolling Sushi At The Largest Fish Market In The World: Sunrise Hands-on Japan's Tsukiji Tour Report!
Tokyo's reputation as an international culinary destination grows every year, but of course Japan's most famous gourmet export is sushi. In Japan, the best sushi is the freshest, and Tokyo's Tsukiji Market has more fresh fish than any other place in the world. Recently I had a chance to join a Sunrise Hands-on Japan tour of Tsukiji Market, with a very special lunch: a full sushi cooking class taught by a professional chef!
Before lunch though, our tour group (a small group of four people, perfect for maneuvering through the crowded market) met at Hamamatsucho Bus Terminal and our guide led us to Tsukiji on the subway. Climbing up to the surface, our noses told us immediately we were in the right place. The outer market of Tsukiji was comprised of a number of streetside stores selling up anything you could possibly want to eat from the ocean, as well as all the tools and accessories to turn it into a gourmet meal.
Array of knives ready to turn fresh fish into sashimi slices - The largest one at the top is for giant maguro tuna!
The real action at Tsukiji, however, occurs at the inner market. The inner market is where every morning wholesalers and dealers participate in auctions to distribute massive amounts of seafood across the country to local stores and markets. The morning auction was already over, but there was still plenty of activity inside the cavernous warehouse.
After working up an appetite imagining the possibilities for sushi lunch, it was time to get to business ourselves at the nearby school. Our instructor for the day, in addition to being a master sushi chef, was hilarious in both Japanese and (limited) English. After hearing the basics of knife handling and some of the history of sushi's development with some help from our guide as an interpreter, all four of us were ushered to our own counters, handed a knife, and a mackerel. Sure, it might not have been the biggest fish, but it was intimidating! Before the tour, pretty much the only experience I had cooking seafood was opening a can of tuna. Luckily, our teacher and his assistants were happy to show me all the scaling, slicing, and serving techniques I needed.
Sorry little guy
We prepared several different types of sushi, including the classic nigiri style (one piece of fish atop a small bit of rice formed in your hand), its predecessor oshizushi (made by layering fish and other ingredients inside a box and then pressing rice atop it) and the ubiquitous California roll. For me, the most difficult was definitely the nigiri sushi, as rice kept sticking to my hands! Try and remember to keep your hands wet if you try yourself! Overall I had a great time on the tour and I will definitely have a lot more respect for the chefs behind the counter the next time I visit my favorite sushi restaurants. Making sushi myself was challenging, but it tasted great!
Fellow JAPANiCAN staffer Chris trying his hand at flipping a Japanese style omelet for the California roll, and our teacher's reaction
Chris and I with our finished products
What better souvenir to take back from a trip to Japan than the ability to make your own delicious sushi at home?