Hello Exe-plorers! I should start by apologising for the absence of Exe-plore last week. To cut a long story short, I was invited for dinner at the house of a group of people with whom I am hoping to live next year. After the meal I very quickly began to feel unwell, and not long after that I was at home making regular trips between my bed and the toilet. And so I would remain for the next week. To be honest, if they didn’t want to live with me, they didn’t need to poison me with dodgy food, they could have just said so. There is also the fact that the person who cooked that night happens to be a columnist at one of Exeposé’s rival publications. Let this be a warning to all contributors to this newspaper: someone is out to get us!
My housemates were deeply concerned about my condition. When I say concerned, I mean worried that they might catch something. So they pretty much avoided me at all costs. The most extreme case of this was Liz, who went to London for the week to see her boyfriend. I absolutely swear that this is true. As I write, she has not yet returned.
As I began to get better, those who remained decided to cheer me up by making me sushi. I know this might sound horrendously middle class, but it’s actually quite clever – as long as you don’t fill it with anything too exotic, sushi is basically just rice and vinegar which is very gentle on a weak stomach, without being too bland and boring. The other advantage that having a sushi making night had was that it gave me something to write about when I did eventually manage to complete another instalment of Exe-plore. So this week is the Exe-plore guide to throwing a really fun (and really, really cheap) sushi night, including where in town you can find the best ingredients and rolling equipment that you will need.
Firstly, create a Facebook event and invite all your friends. Even people who don’t like sushi will be intrigued by the idea and will want to come round anyway and get drunk on Japanese beer and saki. Secondly, make sure that the place in which you hold the event has a big enough kitchen! The beauty of a sushi night is that everyone can get involved at once creating their own unique sushi rolls, but, if (like at my house) worktop space is limited, this won’t work. My solution was to scope out which of the members of our friendship group has the biggest kitchen, then set the location of the event to there. The occupants of that house were pretty surprised when all of our friends descended on them one evening. My advice would be to tell someone in the house where the event will take place that you’ve chosen their kitchen as the ideal location for the sushi night.
For everything you need for your sushi night, I would recommend heading to the BHL Oriental Food Store on King William Street. It’s nice and central (take a right off Longbrook Street just before you get to the high street) and they offer a 10% student discount if you pay in cash.
The basic ingredients that you’ll need for a party of 8 or people are:
- Short grain sushi rice (BHL has so many different brands, I just go for the best value for money)
- Two bags of 10 x sheets of sushi nori; these are the sheets that you roll the sushi up in. If you’ve got a big group of people, get two bags so that people have a chance of getting seconds. Sushi isn’t that filling.
- A bottle of sushi vinegar; this is the only expensive item on the list – half a litre of sushi vinegar can be as much as £5 – but you can’t make decent sushi rice without it!
- Rolling mats, chop sticks; if you want more than one person at a time rolling their sushi, you’ll need several rolling mats. They’re only a pound each though, so go nuts!
- Styrofoam/paper/plastic plates and cups; if you don’t fancy washing soy sauce and wasabi off all of your plates, just get disposable ones.
- Soy sauce, wasabi and Japanese mayonnaise; never heard of Japanese mayonnaise? Get some. Trust me.
- Saki and Asahi; traditional Japanese booze. If everyone is awful at making sushi, or doesn’t really like the taste of it once they’ve made it, you’ll need lots of alcohol to salvage the night.
- Fortune cookies; a bit of cultural appropriation going on here, I know. Fortune cookies are not a Japanese thing, but they’re tasty and fun and BHL sell them at about £2.50 for a box of 12. And even the most miserable party guests will cheer up after you give them a fortune cookie. The only reaction that it’s humanly possible to have to a fortune cookie is mild excitement.
If the selection at BHL doesn’t get your motor running, head down to Summerland Street (the road with Unit 1 on it), where there are several different Asian food shops. As for ingredients to fill your sushi, why not try one of the many local produce shops around Sidwell Street and Old Tiverton Road.
The Best One International Food Shop always has cheap, fresh veg in the crates outside the shop and their selection of exotic imported veg is stunning. Inside they also have a really good selection of green tea, which is a great accompaniment to sushi. For a traditional Japanese fishy filling for your sushi, head to Brothers Butchers at the very bottom of Sidwell Street near the roundabout and ask for ‘sushi grade’ salmon or tuna. The quality of fish you get from these places will be so much higher than at the supermarket, and it’s usually cheaper, too.
So there you go! Everything you need for your sushi party. If, like me, you are the only person who can make sushi in the group, offer to teach everyone else. You get to be the centre of attention for a while, but it does mean that you’re the last person who can get drunk. If you can’t make this commitment, another idea is to all learn together – YouTube is full of excellent videos on how to make different kinds of sushi.
Whatever you do, though, do not celebrate your recent return to health after a horrible bout of food poisoning by getting smashed on Japanese saki. You’ll end up right back where you started. If you must hit the bottle hard, at least teach your friends how to make sushi before becoming incoherent. Oh well, we live and learn.