# 5 Japan: Light, Simple, but Untrustworthy

Where to begin with a country as interesting and dynamic as Japan. Not many countries can claim that they attempted to dominate the Pacific rim, were bombed into oblivion and then grew into the world's second largest economy with the world's 10th largest population all in less than a century. Let's just say it hasn't been an entirely static place.

The earlier history of Japan is an interesting combination of isolation from and interaction with the outside world. Probably the most well known example of this was the 200 odd years in which Japan completely shut themselves off from the rest of the world but still heavily interacted with Dutch visitors, who offered the latest of European technology. The Japanese elite then decided whether or not this technology could be adopted and used by the population more broadly.

Japan continues to take what it wants from the Western world and leave what it doesn't. They are a democracy, but with one viable party. They have been called "the world's most successful communist country" by Wall Street Journal writer Walter Moss (as quoted in Friedman's "Lexus and the Olive Tree") but we embrace them as an Asian bastion of capitalism. They use vending machines to sell not only soda, but also used women's underthings (scroll down the page).

Culture, as it is transmitted through television, also is representative of this isolationism mixed with utilitarian tolerance of new technology. In the video clip below, we can see a clearly Japanese event being transmitted across a medium that was originally American. How they have made it their own!

Their food and cooking techniques are representative of this isolationist bent mixed in with pragmatic acceptance of outside influences. While ingredients used in Japan are used by many countries that find themselves in a similar climate, some of the cooking techniques are very unique. We explored these unique cooking techniques through the creation of a fairly standard Japanese meal.

Firstly, we made nori-wrapped, hand-wrapped and hand moulded sushi. Then we made a vegetable-shrimp tempura salad and we topped everything off with a cup of soup purchased from the local sushi shop.



Rice-vinegar, though we used white wine vinegar and it worked well
Soy sauce
Pickled ginger


Bamboo skewers
Makisu (rolling mat)


Firstly, you need to make the su-meshi, or vinegared rice for your sushi. This is quite a simple process, but it's important to get it right.

Fill your pot with as much rice and you would like. Make sure to just barely cover it with water and get it boiling. You can use a rice cooker or anything else, but that's cheating. Then, mix together in a small bowl your vinegar, salt, sugar and some water. Mix enough so that it's about the equivalent of 5% of the mass of your rice.

When your rice is finished, fold in the vinegar solution and let the rice cool.

Next, you want to prepare your shrimp. For hand-moulded sushi, the shrimp are flayed out and steamed. You want to peel them, flay them and put your bamboo skewer through the middle. This will keep them from curling up when you go to steam them.

Steam them.

Cut your tuna and vegetables into appropriate sizes for your sushi: thin and long.

Next, take your makisu and place a piece of nori on it. Get your hand wet, grab a handful of rice and place it in the center. Make a nice trough in the middle and fill with whatever combination of vegetables and fish you would like. Roll, wet the end, and seal. Cut this into cubes using a very sharp knife.

For hand-moulded sushi, wet your hand, grab a clump of rice and make a ball. Put something on top.

For hand-rolled sushi, cut the nori wrap into thirds or quarters and fill with rice, veggies and meat. Roll with your hand until it resembles the cone of an ice-cream cone.

Serve with soy sauce and a generous helping of wasabi and pickled ginger.

Tempura Vegetable/Shrimp


A box of tempura mixture
Anything else you would like to fry




Take the tempura box and follow the instructions. If it's good tempura, the instructions will be written in choppy, awkward English. Typically, it's just the tempura mixture mixed with water.

Take your goods to fry and dip them in the tempura mixture. Then, place them into a pan of oil that is sufficiently heated. Remove when cooked through.

This is to be served with a sauce made from stock, sake and salt, but seeing as how we were attempting to make a meal representative of Japan in one way or another, we took their technology and adapted it for our own use. We used a home-made cocktail sauce for our dipping. The heat of the wasabi and the horseradish have similar qualities.

Miso Soup




Google Earth


Using Google Earth, find a local sushi restaurant. Drive there and, using money or credit, purchase some miso soup. Take home, open lid, serve.


We loved the sushi and give it four globes. I'm glad Japan remained isolated for so long and developed these nifty cooking techniques.

We also loved the tempura vegetable/shrimp dish and give it four globes as well.

The miso soup was good, but not home made. You could taste that it had sat in a pot for a while. Three and a half globes.

No comments: