After California Roll, Making Rainbow Roll was a Breeze (so I thought)
In case you missed the previous story, here is “Making My First California Roll was Nothing But Disaster.”
Once I got the hang of making California Roll, Spicy Tuna was a breeze.
It was like knowing the secret to a magic trick. I could see the steps from a different angle. Before I was in the audience and now, I was watching from backstage; I could see all of the small details I didn’t notice before.
Keep your hands wet all the time, but not too wet. Use your towel like it’s your best friend. Don’t touch the shari too much.
Spicy Tuna Mix was easier to spread than the Crab Mix. Spicy Tuna rolls didn’t have avocado, only cucumber — I liked that a lot better.
Now, I knew how to make two kinds of rolls, and I was ready to tackle the third, and most popular roll in the house, Rainbow.
I observed Toshi and Kai make Rainbow Rolls, it seemed simple. Once they made a California Roll, they just added thinly sliced fish — Maguro, Salmon, Ebi, Tai, and avocado — on top of the roll, placed plastic wrap on top, cut it into eight pieces, and voila. It was done. Simple, but not easy.
“Which fish do we put on Rainbow?” I asked Toshi.
“Usually, it’s Maguro, Salmon, Ebi, and Tai. Not Hamachi because it’s expensive.”
“What if we run out of some fish?”
“Then, use whatever we have to make it colorful,” Toshi grinned.
“Is Rainbow more difficult than California?”
“I say it’s more complicated. The difficult part for you is slicing the fish,” Toshi said. “You are not yet ready to slice the fish, so we need to make the slices for you until you can. But let me show you how to make Rainbow.”
“First, you cut the fish. One piece of Tuna, two pieces of Tai, two Salmon, and one shrimp,” Toshi explained to me.
He grabbed each block of fish and made his slices using his Yanagiba.
I watched him anxiously. I wanted to try slicing fish, but I knew he wouldn’t let me.
“Slicing fish would be the most difficult part,” Toshi said.
How hard could it be? It’s only slicing. All I have to do is to move my knife, right?
Toshi continued. “You need to pull your knife backward when slicing the fish and never press down the knife too hard. When you apply too much pressure, you will break the soft flesh of the fish and its tissue.”
“Okay,” I responded, not fully understanding what he meant. Why does the tissue matter? I asked myself.
“You have to be gentle, using as little force as possible. Let the knife run is what they say,” Toshi said.
“Run?” I asked.
“Yes, run the knife. Let the knife do the work. Use the sharpness, weight, and length of the knife. Make only one stroke when slicing fish, never pulling and pushing back and forth. One stroke. That’s why Yanagiba is long,” Toshi pointed at his knife.
His knife was longer than my $60 stainless- steel knife. It also had a nice wooden handle.
“That looks like a nice knife,” I said.
“Thanks. It’s made by Masamoto,” he told me.
“Yup, it’s one of the most popular chef knife makers in Japan. This one cost me about $600,” Toshi said. “Actually, it’s a gift from my mom,” Toshi said.
Toshi quickly made a California Roll and then started to place the sliced fish on top of the roll.
“Place the fish diagonally because you use less fish to cover the outside. Use more avocado instead of fish, that way, you can save the food cost,” Toshi whispered.
He placed the fish one piece at a time, alternating.
“Finally, plastic wrap,” Toshi grabbed a piece of plastic wrap, placed it over the roll, and cut it into eight pieces.
“All Special Rolls come in eight, not six. You can use more rice for the Special Rolls to make them look bigger because we charge more. We need to make it look like customers are getting more food,” Toshi explained.
Toshi didn’t let me try making a Rainbow Roll, which was disappointing. But, at least now, I knew how to make it. I decided to keep concentrating on observing Toshi, Kai, and Jun make rolls.
I thought I watched them enough to memorized all the sequences. I thought I practiced enough with California Roll. I was confident, this time, I would score it.
When the time came to make my first Rainbow Roll, I was faced with a harsh reality.
“By the way, do you know who invented the California Roll?” Toshi asked.
“I dunno,” I said.
“A chef in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, at a restaurant called Tokyo Kaikan,” he said.
“Yes. It’s an American invention. I heard Americans did not like the taste of seaweed, so the chef decided to make ‘inside-out’ so that they don’t taste the seaweed,” Toshi said, amusingly.
“Unlike California Roll, no one seems to know who invented the Rainbow Roll. But there is Niji-Maki in Japan, which looks close to American Rainbow Roll,” Toshi said.
“I think some Sushi Chef invented Rainbow Roll because he saw some unwanted pieces of fish lying inside of Sushi Neta Case,” Toshi explained.
“That’s how you were using those small bits of pieces lying around,” I mentioned.
“When you have too many of those pieces, you can put all of them in one roll and call it an Everything Roll and serve it as a special to the customers at the Sushi Bar. They’ll love it!” Toshi exclaimed.
“The downside of an Inside-Out Roll is that you can’t taste the fish that is inside of a roll. All you taste is the rice, not fish,” said Toshi.
“Is that true?” I did not quite understand.
“Try it and see it for yourself,” he handed me a plate with two pieces of California Roll on it.
I put one in my mouth and started chewing. I could taste the Sushi Rice first, nori second, then some avocado and mayo, and lastly crab.
“Wow, you are right. A very little flavor of crab, and by the time I could taste the crab, I am almost done eating,” I said. “I like Tekka Maki lot better because you can taste the seaweed, rice, and Tuna inside.”
“Yes, Tekka, I must say, is my favorite. The rice and Tuna are perfectly balanced, and the aroma of seaweed is great. Inside-Out rolls use too much rice, I think. Nori-Out uses less, and I think they taste better that way,” Toshi said.
“How do you make Nori-Out Rolls?” I asked Toshi.
“Wait,” Toshi looked up at the order paper, glanced at Kai, and said, “This one is small, so you can do it yourself, right?”
“Yes, no problem,” Kai said.
Toshi turned his attention back to me, “Let me show you, Tekka Maki,” he said, taking a makusi without plastic wrap from the top of the Neta Case.
“You use the one without the plastic for Nori-Out Rolls,” Toshi said.
“First, you need to cut Tuna, about one centimeter in diameter, the same length as your nori.” Toshi picked up a Tuna saku block and cut one side of it exactly the same length as a sheet of nori. Then, he took some Sushi Rice and made a small ball in his hand. This ball looked a lot smaller than the one he used for a California Roll.
“You only need half as much rice,” Toshi explained, as he spread the rice on the nori. He left one-centimeter blank on the top and bottom of the nori.
“You need to keep the top and bottom empty — not too much rice on the nori. Too much rice, you cannot seal the roll,” he told me.
Using the tip of his right index finger, Toshi then picked up a small amount of wasabi with his index finger and slid his finger across the Sushi rice. There was now a thin green line of wasabi on the white Sushi rice.
“Wasabi goes well with Tuna. All the Nori-Out Rolls have wasabi, and you can spread it using your index finger,” Toshi said.
Then, he lifted the nori with one hand and picked up the makisu with the other. He placed the makisu onto the cutting board and slowly put the nori down on top of it.
“You roll the whole thing, grabbing the bottom of the bamboo mat,” Toshi moved his hands quickly, sealed the roll, rolled it halfway forward, and then applied some pressure with his fingers.
“Like California roll, we cut it into six pieces,” Toshi grabbed his knife and moved it back and forth on top of the black roll.
Placed side by side, all the rolls were aligned perfectly at the top.
“That’s how you make Tekka. Kappa is the same. You can practice Nori-Out Rolls with cucumber later,” Toshi said.
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