The perfect sushi gift package
November 30, 2009 11:49 AM   Subscribe

What should the 'starter sushi chef' package include?

I want to put together a Christmas gift package for making sushi at home---I have a great Japanese market for fish, so everything else needed is fair game. Ideas and recommendations please!

So far I am thinking:
--Rice cooker (which he has been requesting anyhow, with or without the sushi package), any recommendations?
--Knife--he has a Shun Santoku which he *loves*, what type of knife would a be a good complement/needed for sushi?
--Condiments? Ginger? Wasabi? brand recommendations?
--Recipe/instruction books?
--Classes in the LA (especially west side/south bay area)?
--What did I forget?

I predict a big hit with this gift, so thanks for any recommendations!
posted by lemonade to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You need one of those bamboo rolling mats to roll up rolls. You might consider also getting a second one that is wrapped in that layer of plastic. When you roll one with the nori on the outside, the plain bamboo one is fine. But if you do the kind with the rice on the outside, I think the plastic sheet covered one is designed to keep the rice from sticking. Maybe you could just get that one. Or maybe you could get the other one but lay plastic wrap on top of it. Never tried that.

How about a nice set of four or so pairs of chopsticks and optionally those resting blocks to rest the ends on when you lay them on the table?

It would be neat if you could fine genuine wasabi. It's apparently harder to find. The stuff we get is often mostly regular horseradish and maybe some kind of mustard, I hear.
posted by Askr at 11:56 AM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

He'll need a bamboo roller thingy, for one. Making sushi is fun! I doubt he'd need another knife.

Personally, I'd look for a sushi making set NOT TO BUY, but to find out what they think you need, and then source higher quality items for less money elsewhere. Sounds like you've hit all the bases, though.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:57 AM on November 30, 2009

Oh, and a pack of nori to get him started if he likes rolls.
posted by Askr at 11:58 AM on November 30, 2009

How much are you willing to spend?

If the answer includes some variation on 'a lot', then you want to look at some really spectacular knives for him. From personal experience (though not personal possession, alas) I can suggest Global knives. (Click on 'specialist knives' and scroll down to the Yanagi and Tako knives). Santoku knives are good, but they are not optimal for slicing raw fish.

Rice cookers are, generally, much of a muchness. Don't go super-cheap, go middle of the road. See if you can drop by a sushi restaurant or two and spy what they're using.

Pickled ginger (gari) is available everywhere. If you want to get him something really cool, see if you can find miyoga; try a Japanese imports store for that and gari. Fresh (real) wasabi would be nice too--most of what we get here isn't actually the real stuff. The taste of the real root is a bit more subtle, a bit less PUNCH YOU INNA FACE, and vastly more expensive.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:01 PM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Story of Sushi isn't an instruction book per se, but it is a fascinating read for anyone with any interest in sushi.
posted by mikepop at 12:05 PM on November 30, 2009

Yeah, wasabi isn't wasabi anywhere anymore. But since even the wasabi I've eaten in Tokyo is the same horseradish-fake, I submit that that's when it comes to wasabi, fake is the new real. I think "real" wasabi root will actually seem "wrong" to the taste.

Personally, I'd buy him a nice sake, like a Juyondai or Otemon.
posted by rokusan at 12:09 PM on November 30, 2009

As far as rice cookers, definitely get a Zojirushi.
posted by gnutron at 12:14 PM on November 30, 2009

He may not need classes... just a good book and YouTube. I got this book from the library a few months ago and found it to be better than any other sushi book I'd read. A good mix of technique, recipes and history, and it also covers just about every style of sushi out there. The sushi books from Barnes & Noble or World Market are more colorful, but I didn't find them to be all that helpful because they didn't ever talk about technique.

It's kind of hard to wrap YouTube as a present, but there are lots and lots of well-made videos out there that show in detail how to make any kind of roll - thin, thick, inside-out, caterpillar, you name it. There are also a lot of videos on making good rice, which is top priority when making your own sushi.
posted by relucent at 12:19 PM on November 30, 2009

If you are looking for book recommendations, I'd also recommend this one.

On the sauce/condiment front, I strongly recommend Tamari style soy sauce.

And lastly, if you can afford it, it is incredibly helpful to go to a sushi making class: can you book a spot for your gift recipient?
posted by bearwife at 12:22 PM on November 30, 2009

Would add some togarashi (chile powder) to make spicy tuna and such. I would add at least 3-4 bamboo matts. I have sushi parties and run out of workers because lack of matts.
posted by bleucube at 12:38 PM on November 30, 2009

1. Dipping bowls
2. Nice chopsticks with a case
4. A variety of mirins and other rice vinegars.

dnab starts you out on a *dangerously good route* with mentions of the traditional sushi knives. Ideally, the knife should accompany classes or apprenticeships in the knife's use. To put it in some contextual perspective: cutting fish properly is akin to mastering the art of wheelbuilding in a bicycle shop... its does become the obsession...
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:49 PM on November 30, 2009

We bought this rice cooker which is expensive (we paid about $220 on sale but we did get a free toaster with it during a promotion) and it makes excellent rice (and oatmeal!) has a timer (which is awesome) and it plays twinkle twinkle little star when the rice is ready.
posted by vespabelle at 1:15 PM on November 30, 2009

I am planning to spend say $200-500, although I really can't imagine rice good enough to spend $200+ on a rice cooker! I am however all about the *dangerously good route* as far as knives are concerned, he loves knives.
posted by lemonade at 1:29 PM on November 30, 2009

My Zojirushi rice maker is completely awesome! Current price is $144; it does everything I want it to and a lot besides.

You'll definitely want a bamboo roller. You could also get some of those little square sauce containers, or the larger square sushi plates, and chopsticks.

For mixing the sushi rice - a traditional wooden rice tub?

You could get some high-quality black sesame seeds or some really nice pickled ginger - I like the Ginger People brand. As others have suggested, real wasabi rather than green-colored horseradish would be a treat. High-quality nori is also nice (nori comes in several grades).
posted by Cygnet at 2:53 PM on November 30, 2009

I was thinking of the rice tub that Cygnet suggested.

Also don't forget the right kind of vinegar! Rice vinegar, mixed with salt, sugar, maybe some mirin makes for that sushi taste I find completely inedible (very personal problem, I'm sure everyone else finds the rice delectable).

An Itamae Outfit! Chef hat, white clothes.

I have a white fuzzy logic Panasonic rice cooker (I am in Japan, so the lo-tech ones aren't really available). Rice cookers mostly all work okay, though. A good thing to have is a nice heavy insert bowl for even heat distribution.

Get the right kind of rice, koshihikari or some Japanese varietal--definitely definitely not Basmati or Jasmine. Tastes totally different, has a totally different texture.
posted by that girl at 5:50 PM on November 30, 2009

An Itamae Outfit! Chef hat, white clothes.

Y'know, I mostly don't care (mostly...), but it can take a lot to earn wearing those jackets. Doubly--triply--so for sushi chefs; sushi apprenticeship is really serious business in Japan. So those jackets, well... perhaps not the most respectful of gifts.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:53 PM on November 30, 2009

Huh? Disrespectful? It's intended as a costume for use for home sushi making . . . I don't expect the guy to go around trying to pass himself off as a real sushi chef.

It takes a lot of work to get the proper training to be a real fireman, but small children dress up like them all the time.
posted by that girl at 6:25 PM on November 30, 2009

A nice tall-pitcher or vase or something that's tall enough to fill with water to stand the knife, that you cut rolls with, into. One dips the knife in the water before slicing the rolls so the rice doesn't stick. Re-dip the knife when it starts getting sticky.

A nice set of lacquered chopsticks, dipping trays, and small plates is helpful for when you're eating your creations. There are matched sets available (sometimes with sake serving pitchers and glasses) - you can check Amazon or local Japanese import stores. Sure, there's sake, but tea is important too. Perhaps a nice Japanese tea set?

As for rolling mats, I just wrap one of my bamboo ones with saran wrap if I'm rolling rice-out maki. They're cheap. Get a few so you don't have to wash on-the-fly if one gets messy.

If you're going for ingredients, spend the extra for quality rice vinegar and mirin - oft overlooked ingredients for prepping sushi rice. "Real" wasabi (it's more yellow than green) is indeed much better than the green stuff, but yeah, like the Starbucks effect, a lot of people don't appreciate the real thing.

If you're trying to pad your budget, maybe a small 1 or 2 liter deep fat fryer for tempura (both standalone and for stuff to put in rolls) or for tempura-ed rolls (ie., a normal roll, lightly battered, deep fried). Maybe a nice small square cast iron skillet for making tamago (or better yet, a tamago skillet).
posted by porpoise at 7:07 PM on November 30, 2009

Huh? Disrespectful? It's intended as a costume for use for home sushi making . . . I don't expect the guy to go around trying to pass himself off as a real sushi chef.

It takes a lot of work to get the proper training to be a real fireman, but small children dress up like them all the time.

There's a difference between wearing a costume, and wearing something to which you are not entitled while doing the thing which the people who wear that thing do. To continue your analogy: people dress up as firefighters all the time. What they don't do is go and try to put out fires.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:14 PM on November 30, 2009

lolz dirty. In his own home? sheesh.
posted by toastchee at 7:57 AM on December 1, 2009

To continue your analogy: people dress up as firefighters all the time. What they don't do is go and try to put out fires.

Sometimes I dress up like the cable guy for my girlfriend. Then I fix the cable.
posted by rokusan at 8:04 AM on December 2, 2009

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