Japan

Japan is a place I’ve always wanted to go to, but I haven’t quite made it yet.  A quote from Chris Rowthorn on the Lonely Planet website sums it up beautifully;
“I’ve spent most of my adult life in Japan and now it feels like home to me. I love the food: it’s incredibly varied and nourishing and there seems to be no end to the culinary discoveries one can make. I love the combination of a hike in the mountains followed by a long soak in an onsen. But, most of all, I love the meticulous and careful nature of the Japanese people, reflected in every aspect of Japanese life, from trains that run right on time to sublime works of art. Put it all together and you come away with a country that still intrigues me even after two decades of living there.”

 

Japan is a stratovolcanic archipelago of 6,852 islands. The four largest are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku, which make up about ninety-seven percent of Japan’s land area.  Over 70% of Japan is mountainous and there are over 100 active volcanoes.  The population of 126 million is the world’s tenth largest.  It has the world’s third-largest economy by nominal GDP and the world’s fourth-largest economy by purchasing power parity.  Japan has the highest life expectancy ranking in the world with an overall life expectancy of 84 (vs 81 in the UK, which is ranked no.20).

 

Some quick facts …
Coffee is very popular and Japan imports approximately 85% of Jamaica’s annual coffee production.
On average there are around 1,500 earthquakes every year in Japan.
Japan is the largest automobile producer in the world.
It is home to the world’s longest railroad tunnel at 54 kilometers (33 miles) – the Seikan Tunnel linking Honshu to Hokkaido.
As of 2011, Japan overtook France in the highest number of Michelin starred restaurants and has maintained the title since.

 

I received a few suggestions from friends for Japanese recipes including Shabu shabu (hotpot of meat & vegetables), Katsu curry (deep fried pork or chicken in curry sauce) and Okonomiyaki (savoury pancake).  Other traditional dishes include miso soup, soba or udon noodles, sashimi (raw fish), chahan (fried rice), tempura (deep fried fish or vegetables), gyoza (dumplings) and teriyaki (grilled meat, fish or vegetables).

 

As I was having a little get together with friends I decided to make Maki-zushi (sushi rolls) with salmon & avocado to serve as a nibble with drinks.  It seemed the jury is still out for some of my guests when it comes to raw fish.

 

Rating: 8/10

Makes 32 sushi rolls
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

300g sushi rice
2 tbsp rice or white wine vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar
1 large avocado
juice ½ lemon
4 sheets nori seaweed
2 previously frozen salmon fillets thawed
1 bunch chives
Soy sauce & wasabi to serve

Put the rice in a small pan with 600ml water. Bring to the boil and cook for 10 mins until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. Stir through the vinegar and sugar, cover and cool.
Skin, stone and slice the avocado. Put in a bowl and squeeze over the lemon juice, turning the avocado to ensure the pieces are covered.
Divide the rice between the nori sheets and spread it out evenly, leaving a 1cm border at the top and bottom. Lay the salmon over the rice, followed by the chives and finally position the avocado across the centre.
Fold the bottom edge of the seaweed over the filling, then roll it up firmly. Dampen the top border with a little water to help it seal the roll. Repeat to make 4 rolls. At this stage, the rolls can be wrapped individually in cling film and chilled until ready to serve.
Using a serrated knife, cut each roll into 8 rounds. Serve with sweet soy sauce for dipping.

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