In keeping with my renewed interest in nihonryouri, I decided to play around a bit with sushi.

I’m not exactly a sushi fanatic; put it in front of me and I’ll eat it, but I generally don’t bother making it myself. There are a couple of reasons for that – first, when it comes to family get-togethers, my father takes on the role of the sushi itamae (chef). For whatever reason, the old guy likes spending hours cooking rice, slicing fish, and rolling nori.

Secondly, I don’t particularly like nori. Don’t get me wrong, I am not repulsed by it or anything like that, but it’s not going to be the first thing I think of whenever I’m hungry.

But, as I’ve been told once or twice, the world does not revolve around me. Folks want to learn how to make sushi, so I need to brush up on my sushi making skills, end of story.

Well, not really. If it were the end of the story, then this would be a really short blog post.

In any case, I decided that I needed to put my own spin on things, since any schmuck (no offence, Dad!) can make sushi with tuna, or salmon, or…..well, you get the idea.

So, I decided to go with supaishii kani, or spicy crab. Now, spicy crab isn’t exactly unheard of in the sushi world, but every version I’m familiar with uses sriracha as the heat element. I’m a Japanese man, I was making a Japanese dish, and by Inari, I was going to use Japanese ingredients!

(Inari-no-Kami is the Japanese god of food. Bit of a geek moment, sue me)

To that end, I came up with the brilliant idea of making a tobanjan aioli to mix in with the crab meat. Tobanjan is a paste made from fermented soybeans, rice, and chilis. A sort of spicy miso, for all intents and purposes. It’s also known as doubanjiang in Sichuan cuisine. It’s hot. Like, really hot.

The aioli idea was a direct result of a burger that I had eaten the week before. No, seriously. I went to a restaurant that offers a “build your own burger” option, and one of the toppings was a chipotle aioli, so my twisted little mind figured that I could substitute one spicy element for another. It was a good idea in theory, but…..I hit a snag.

I discovered that aioli, in any flavor, is damned bloody hard to make. I found a nice egg, beat the hell out of it, then added about three drops of oil and continued to beat the mixture together, until it looked like it was ready. I then started to add the rest of the oil with one hand while I worked the whisk with the other, waiting for my aioli to emulsify.

Didn’t happen. Didn’t happen the second time I tried, either. Nor the third. Eventually, I decided to quit before I ran out of eggs, and tried to figure out what I was going to do. Then it hit me – Japanese mayonnaise.

No, I was not attacked by Japanese mayonnaise, I just remembered that I had some in the refrigerator. If you’re not familiar with it, Japanese mayonnaise is made with either apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar, as opposed to the distlled vinegar found in “western” mayonnaise, which gives it a very different flavor. The Japanese version also tends to be thinner in texture.

Anyhow…..I had Japanese mayo, I had tobanjan, and in short order, I had a spicy, aioli-like substance to add to the crabmeat that I had procured from the grocery store. REAL crabmeat, not that imitation crap. I mixed it all together, then started assembling the maki.

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I didn’t really measure anything, since I was merely trying it out, but to the best of my recollection, it went something like this:

6 oz crabmeat
4 tbsp Japanese mayonnaise
2 tbsp tobanjan

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Once that is done, pop the mixture into the refrigerator while you get your sushi rice together:

2 cups cooked Japanese short grain white rice (1 cup uncooked rice makes 2 cups cooked)
Sumo’s sushi seasoning syrup

Oh, you never heard of Sumo’s sushi seasoning syrup? Well, it’s not a secret. You can actually buy something similar:
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If you want to make it at home, add 1 cup of rice vinegar, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt in a small saucepan and cook until the sugar and salt dissolve. Let it cool to room temperature before using.

Moving right along, place the cooked rice in a large, non-metallic bowl and drizzle a couple of tablespoons of the syrup over the rice as you gently spoon the rice from the bottom of the bowl up to the top, continuing until all of the syrup is incorporated into the rice.

If you don’t know how to roll makizushi, I found a random instructional video to help you out, since I’m too lazy to type it out myself.

I can tell you just by looking at the rice, that girl was NOT using Sumo’s sushi seasoning syrup. Or even the bottled stuff. When you use the syrup, your rice takes on a beautiful, glossy sheen that is quite visually appealing. The rice sticks together better, too.

Anyhow, in addition to the crab mixture, I decided to throw in some avocado to balance out the heat a bit:
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And, after some nifty knife skills,
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While I still don’t particularly care for maki, I’ve already begun to think up new applications for the crab mixture, so I suppose this little experiment was not in vain.