Roll play: learning how to make sushi - Features - Food + Drink - The Independent

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)

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
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
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
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

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week