Throughout mid/end of 2014, back when I worked for Itoya in Ginza, I’d regularly purchase this oshizushi bento box of packed sushi cubes from Matsuya, an upscale Japanese department store just down Chuo-Dori, the major street I worked at . I wish I can tell you which exact food stand I’d buy it from, but I forgot the name and only remember how to get to it visually. They also sold the same exact box at Tokyo station, my hometown train station (Futako Tamagawa) and I’d sometimes pick it up there as soon as I got off my train from work… I’m pretty sure all locations still serve them today. Anyway, that oshizushi bento box was (barely) affordable while I struggled with a $30k salary and it was a huge inspiration for my culinary pursuits – to precisely measure/cut/pack my food… and after stopping by Marukai a few weeks ago, a Japanese Supermarket in LA and the O.C., and passing by the fish selection, I realized I probably could and should make my own especially since I missed it so much.
So I ordered an oshizushihako (押し寿司箱), a pressed sushi mold box, from Amazon. It comes with 3 parts: the bottom stand for where you place your first layer of ingredients, then the side walls to contain all the ingredients, and the top lid with handles for you to press all the ingredients down on. Now, the mold comes in both plastic and wood, but I prefer the traditional wooden one. You can buy them at Marukai for $30…or… Amazon for $20! (link to the right..)
OH and by the way, the pecha kucha lecture I presented at USC about The Chef Charette has been uploaded and you can watch it here from 1:36…. things are happeninggg!!!
At Marukai I picked up 3 types of sashimi to experiment with: maguro, salmon, and hamachi. Since this was my first time, I tried the cheapest first: maguro…and miserably failed. (I regrettably didn’t take photos of my ugly fails for the fails page I plan to include in the future), then tried salmon and kinda improved. Thank God for my mom’s help and tips because the hamachi came out prettiest. Some major tips: 1) Get your ratios and timing down for your rice (water, rice, vinegar) 2) Cut with a hella sharp knife 3) Press all ingredients down with ALL of your strength to keep everything really dense and tight. Hard work pays off… really. This is probably the meal prepared of that I’m most proud of with my mom. Jeez, I miss you Japan. After you top it all off, you can add toppings like tsukemono (漬物)some pearl-y sake ikura (鮭いくら)…salmon caviar. Really, if it’s my last day on Earth, sake ikura on top of my stacked ochazuke and probably these oshizushi cubes would be my last meal.
Prepare the sushi rice by filling your rice cooker with 2 C short grain rice and 4 C water.
Once rice is cooked, transfer all the rice into a wooden steamer or container and stir in the 2 C of sushi rice vinegar. Dip your rice paddle in water so that it’s easier to work with. Cover wtih a cheesecloth or towel and let the mixture soak together for 30 minutes. If it still feels too dry, add more sushi vinegar.
Next, start preparing the oshizushi blocks by adding about 1/2″ of rice from the wooden steamer or container to the oshizushi box mold. Spread it evenly and press it down so it’s dense.
Next, spread the shiso leaves evenly. Make sure the rice is completely covered. Press it all down so it’s dense.
Add another layer of 1/2″ rice and spread it evenly and press it all down so it’s dense.
Add a thin layer of your selected sashimi slices and spread them all evenly and press it all down so it’s dense.
Remove the top and the sides of the box and carefully slice the sushi mold into 1 1/2″ cubes. Garnish as desired with the selected toppings. Repeat steps 1-7 for the remaining rice and ingredients and serve immediately.