Ok ok, I turned 35 this year, but Ant ensured I celebrated in style, with a day full of fun and yummy surprises. The instructions required that we be in town - early. Or early for a Saturday morning, anyway.
We arrived at Yoi Sushi headquarters, just behind the London Eye, for a 10am start. About 20 of us lined up around a conveyor belt, for a 3-hour sushi-making workshop.
Our host was a Japanese sushi chef, who had been making sushi for years. He took nearly an hour to explain the importance of perfecting sushi rice - a process that involved much washing of the Japanese short grain rice, and a specific method for cooking it over a pan - or in a rice cooker if you prefer.
He explained that you could substitute italian arborio rice if you could not find the pure (Australian or Californian produced) rice most frequently used in the UK for sushi rice. That said, Japanese sushi rice is available at the Japan Centre in Piccadilly, and many other shops in China Town.
He demonstrated how to blend rice wine vinegar into the sushi rice, and how to store and handle it during the sushi-making process.
He then went on to demonstrate how to fillet a whopping big fillet of salmon. I was impressed when he said that his shop alone consumes over a tonne of fresh salmon each year. That's a hell of a lot of filleting.
At this point, I was pondering whether I needed to adorn my kitchen with a dedicated sashimi-fillettng knife, but continued to watch the dude's dexterity in fish-slicing, in the mean time.
He did amazing things with the very fresh orangey fish. We got to sample it straight of the fish's back, so to speak. He showed us to to fillet the pieces to create sashmi or nigiri sushi.
We then progressed to learn how to roll sushi-rolls and california rolls. It's not as hard as you may think, once you gets the tips from a pro. Latex gloves and japanese mayonaise certainly make life easier.
Our host did a finale, where we each got to pick an ingredient for him to include as part of mega sushi roll. It looked fantastic, although I don't know if the combination of teriyaki chicken, avocado, salmon, peppers and god knows what else, would all combine to create the perfect and-rolled sushi. The salmon on the side was fab however.
We were then let loose on our own mini-setup, to practice rolling our own magical creations.
It really wasn't as hard as we'd anticipdated, and with a bit of practice, we were rolling cylinders that actually resembled those that you might buy in shops.
Lunch followed, and we got to take our magical creations home.