Roll play: learning how to make sushi

Pizza and pasta always go down well with children. But getting the little darlings to eat raw fish and seaweed could prove a lot trickier. Tracey MacLeod and her son roll up their sleeves and learn how to make sushi at a top Japanese restaurant

This may just be the most reprehensibly middle-class thing I've ever done. I'm texting my nanny to make arrangements to get my son to a sushi-making class in Soho. What next? Bikram yoga sessions with my mother? A Kabbalah initiation with the man who fixes my car? Please, just shoot me now.

In my defence, I signed up for the class in an attempt to broaden the horizons of a seven-year-old for whom eating something that isn't pizza or pasta is really pushing the envelope. Sushi is just about the only thing David likes to eat that doesn't come with tomato ketchup, a taste born from occasional visits to those conveyor belt restaurants, where the rotation of the colour-coded plates seems to hypnotise even the most unadventurous young diner into wolfing down quantities of raw fish. Capitalising on that enthusiasm, I volunteered us as guinea pigs for a new sushi class for parents and children, organised by So Restaurant after similar classes for adults proved popular.

David comes after school with his friend Daniel, who hasn't eaten sushi before but is equally keen to miss swimming. Only as we are standing outside So, looking in at the cool, minimalist interior, does the reality of what we're about to do sink in, and with it, recognition that the codified formality of Japanese culture is not something that two boisterous seven-year-olds are necessarily going to grasp instinctively. "Our teacher will be a great master," I intone, like the voiceover at the beginning of Kung Fu. "He will have trained for many years. You must show him respect, and listen when he is talking to you." And don't throw food or, please God, make farting noises with your wet hands.

I hustle them past the sushi counter, with its tangle of octopus tentacles, and down into the restaurant's basement dining room, where our work stations are laid out in readiness for us. In my limited experience of cooking with children, this has always been the stumbling block. You set out to make a cake together, and they've already lost interest while you're still rooting around in the back of a cupboard grunting, "I'm sure I had some baking powder in here somewhere." Here, our ingredients are already assembled and prepped. Bamboo rolling mats, dishes bearing balls of sushi rice, slices of salmon and tuna, and adding a less Zen-like touch, damp J Cloths. "Where's the little track that carries the plates around?" asks David. "Is that a film?" wonders Daniel, looking at a glass window through which a chef can be seen chopping in the restaurant's kitchen.

Our teacher for the two-hour session is So's sushi chef Matsuya Tomokazu, or Tomo for short, whose instructions are translated by waitress Koko. It's good manners to bow to your sushi chef when entering a Japanese restaurant, so I attempt a little bow. "Mu-um," hisses David, rigid with embarrassment.

We begin by spreading one of our balls of vinegared rice on to a square of nori, the dried processed seaweed used as a wrapping. The key is to keep your palms damp, using water from a finger bowl, or the rice clings to your hands. As we work our rice, I remember that I am a klutz, and what's more, my son has inherited my klutz gene. Our fellow pupils, a trio of older girls, have made neat little squares; David soon looks like he is wearing elbow-length gloves of sticky rice.

Next we lay down our fillings; weirdly, these are a breadstick and a plasticky orange substance called cheese strings that all right-thinking parents know and shun. "Chef Tomo's original recipe", beams Koko. Chef Tomo obviously doesn't think much of the gastronomic adventurousness of the average British child. David is momentarily fazed by the appearance of this forbidden item. "It's cheese strings!" I encourage. "You know like I always tell you you're not allowed to eat when we see the ads...?"

Still, we press on – literally; turning our nori squares over and rolling them in the damp J Cloths, then pressing them on all four sides using our bamboo mats, to produce a rectangular block – some more rectangular than others. These are sliced into sections by Chef Tomo (he's the only person allowed near the lethally sharp sushi knives) and sprinkled with sesame seeds. And I have to say, with the filaments of cheese strings bursting out in a golden spray, these uramaki, or inside-out rolls, look rather gorgeous. Just don't ask me to eat one.

We move on to temari, or ball sushi, and this time, raw fish is involved. Amazingly, the boys are still concentrating. Even the normally fastidious David, who freaks out if he drops a baked bean on his clothes, is happily applying raw fish to sticky rice and twisting it into a ball in his J Cloth. Who knew J Cloths were such an intrinsic part of sushi-making?

The neat little balls which emerge from our tightly wrapped parcels are probably the simplest way of preparing sushi at home. "Oh, I wish I could eat them now," sighs one of the girls. And we do. Soy sauce is poured, volcanic wasabi is dispensed (to adults only) and chopsticks distributed. The boys snap theirs open and immediately start sword fighting. Tomo tells me that since coming to England, he's starting making his sushi with a firmer consistency, as British people eat their sushi with chopsticks rather than their fingers, as is normal in Japan. Another reason why sushi is the ideal foodstuff for young children.

Our little group thoroughly enjoy eating their creations, and David is still doggedly chomping his way through his platter long after the girls have abandoned their posts. Daniel, on the other hand, has removed the cheese string and bread stick from the centre of each of his uramaki and eaten it, leaving perfect rings of rice and nori, like the Olympic symbol. It's the idea of eating seaweed that's putting him off. "It's meant to make your hair nice and shiny and ... black," encourages Koko, tailing off as she looks around at her class of flaxen haired kids.

"What was the best part of the day?" I ask the girls. "Learning something new," replies Evie. The boys, meanwhile, are pressing around Koko, clamouring for the giveaway she's dispensing. It's packets of cheese strings.

Family sushi classes today & next Saturday, 3.30-5.30pm, £60 a head inc. wine; £35, children over 6. info@sorestaurant.com So Restaurant, 3-4 Warwick St, London W1 (020-7292 0767)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
peopleBenjamin Netanyahu trolled by group promoting two-state solution
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Sport
Husain Abdullah returns an interception off Tom Brady for a touchdown
nflLeague has rules against 'sliding to ground on knees'
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
tech
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Management Accountant

    28,000 to 32,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our client, a hospitality busi...

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    Day In a Page

    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
    Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

    Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

    Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
    Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

    Education, education, education

    TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
    It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

    It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

    So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
    This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

    Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

    Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
    We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

    Inside the E15 'occupation'

    We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
    Witches: A history of misogyny

    Witches: A history of misogyny

    The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
    Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
    'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style