Monday, December 13, 2010

Sanbiki's Sushi School

I remember my first time. Twenty years ago, chaos ruled in my tiny, steamy student kitchen. Rice boiled over on the stove and bottles of vinegar lay knocked over on the counter. A side of fresh, orange farmed salmon sat disintegrating on the chopping block. Sheets of seaweed had rolled up in defeat, dead, dead, dead from all the heat and humidity. My first attempt at sushi making was not safe, let alone delicious...

If only there had been Sanbiki Sushi School! I would have known that fresh raw salmon is a no-no (it must be frozen at some point to kill potential parasites) I could have made properly seasoned rice that was not a gooey mess. My rolls would have tasted good even if they weren't too pretty.

Monday nights in the cold Kamloops winter tend to be slow at Sanbiki. We had an idea...customers had been asking us for tips on sushi-making at both the restaurant and next door at Mori Mori Grocery. Why not convert the far side of the restaurant into a sushi classroom once a month?

We could move the tables in the window apart to provide a work station for participants in the class. Masato could demonstrate from a table at the front and our staff could assist students at their stations. We would start with the basics; cooking the rice and seasoning it properly. With vinegar, yes; but equally important is the addition of sugar and salt. Masato could show our guests how to use sushi mats to make California, tuna and other rolls. Time permitting, we could introduce people to chirashi and nigiri sushi making.
And so sushi school was born...usually once a month on a Monday. We keep the classes small to ensure everyone gets the attention they need. 10 people maximum. Two hours is enough time to get a handle on the basics and early evening is a convienent time for pretty much everyone. After, eat your sushi with your "classmates"...or take it home for a midnight snack. Right now, we are showing people how to make California, veggie and tuna rolls. Also "Inari" sushi; sweet and savoury fried tofu pockets stuffed with sushi rice...a traditional favourite in Japan.

So far we have had good feedback from our participants. It is easier to learn when you can watch someone demonstrate and ask them questions. Masato will point out mistakes that will slow you down and make for less than perfect rolls. You'll learn how to cut rolls properly and tips on proper Japanese presentation too.

All this what cost you ask? Only $50! You'll need to buy your own sushi mat ($1.99 next door at Mori Mori) but everything else is provided at Sanbiki and you can eat the fruits of your labour afterwards. Or take it home for snacking! Call or come down to Sanbiki to register for our next class. Sushi School makes a great gift too. Rescheduling in classes is possible if the recipient of the sushi class coupon cannot make a certain date. Other gifts ideas...Gift Certificates from Sanbiki or Mori Mori! Visit Mori Mori for unique gift ideas...Asian dishware, bento lunch boxes, toys, stocking stuffers and more!

Have a great week...more next time!!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

HM Private Parties!

There is a lot to love about Sanbiki's new location! One of the best things is that the design accomodates groups and private parties in a way that was impossible in our previous space. The far side of the restaurant has tables that fit together to form a "communal" eating area. While still connected to the goings on in our open kitchen, the area offers a nice degree of privacy.

Recently, Sanbiki hosted a 40th birthday party for the Shouldice family. We worked with the hostess to put together a menu that would offer a combination of hot and cold dishes. The sushi platters were a combination of raw and cooked rolls and nigiri. Veggie rolls, yam fries and shiitake mushrooms in tempura offered yummy meat-free options for the vegetarians.
Sushi Roll Platter B

A buffet area was set up where guests could serve themselves. However it is crucial that certain foods be served immediately. Examples from this menu included Japanese-style calimari and tempura yam fries. Small plates of these dishes were cooked continually through the night and servers passed them around as guests socialized.

Ika Tempura ("Calimari")

Sushi is a perfect finger food and the other offerings were also designed for easy eating. Kushikatsu (panko breaded pork on skewers); Yakitori (seasoned chicken on a stick) and Chicken Karaage (crispy Japanese style chicken wings) required neither chopsticks nor cutlery and were popular with the guests.

Smoked Sockeye Salmon Roll

Assorted Nigiri Sushi Platter

Private parties can choose to pay "cash and carry" for their drinks or may arrange for wine, beer, sake or other beverages to be available "on demand". We offer "Party Pigs" of local, organic draft beer courtesy of Sorrento-based Crannog Ales. Premium chilled sakes from Granville Island Sakemaker Masa Shiroki can be pre-ordered and we always have organic French red and white wines on hand.

For the holiday season, we are offering Sanbiki's dinner guests the option of ordering our very popular lunch menu "Bento Boxes" for evening parties. Pre-order required and minimum 4 guests please! But at $10 for a complete meal you cannot go wrong! Even raw food lovers can enjoy our Sashimi Bento for only $13 including green tea. So there is no excuse NOT to organize your next get together at Sanbiki!

Chicken Bento $10!

NEXT TIME....Go back to school...SUSHI SCHOOL that is! Learn to roll your own...with Masato and Kishino's expert advice of course....!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

HM: All New!

Quick update from Sanbiki and sister store Mori Mori!

NEW!!Gyudon for lunch! Canadian AAA beef sliced thin and sauteed with onions and Chef Koji's secret sauce. Alright the sauce isn't a particularly well guarded secret but it is home made and delicious. And at $7 (including tea!) it's probably cheaper than eating at home and a hell of a lot easier than cooking it yourself....

Healthy snacks for the Holiday Party Season! Sushi platters made fresh to order. Starting at $25.95 for a 40 piece platter we will provide you with something far more interesting than the standard Costco cheese platter! Lets face it, we all serve them (often as a last resort!) and we are all sick of them by the second week in December. Do something different! Discounts available for pre orders! Call Sanbiki for details...377 8857....
Office party? Family get together over the holidays? Save time and money by booking your function at Sanbiki. Private dining area can accomodate up to 30 people. Communal table for family style dining. For the holiday season we are offering our famous $10 Bento boxes for lunch and dinner parties! Preorder necessary for dinner parties, and minimum 4 guests. Bentos always available for everyone at lunch time!

Christmas is COMING! Gift ideas available at Mori Mori (next to Sanbiki at 467 Lansdowne, right across from Dollarama) We went on a shopping spree in Vancouver and picked up Japanese and Asian dishware, cooking utensils, bamboo steamers, rice cookers and LOTS more! Come down and check out some of our reasonably priced tea and sake sets or pick up Pocky and Japanese sweets for unique stocking stuffers.

Sushi making supplies

Cute gifts ideas!

.................and much more!!

Stay tuned for next week's news!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

SAKE= "Rice wine"?

It's "Nippon-shu" in Japan, but the rest of the world knows it as "sake". English speakers frequently refer to it as rice wine, although it is made in a process perhaps more like brewing beer than making wine.
Most of us Canadians like it served piping hot, preferably sipped from tiny ceramic cups to keep it warm. It's better now than it once was, but the selection of sake available at your local liquor shop is limited at best. You'll be lucky if you can find anything other than a few low end brands. Find a premium "cold-serve" sake and you'll pay dearly for the privlege.

The Japanese however, are spoiled silly when it comes to sake. And they pay considerably less for their sake given the system of taxation in Canada. It's estimated there are more than 10,000 different kinds of sake in Japan! Some are served warm, some room temperature, others are chilled. A sommelier could find ten ways to serve a hundred fine French wines; so too is the situation with a "sake-snob". Everything from the shape of the glass to the PH of the water used in the brewing process is hotly debated. How much the rice has been polished is very important. Polishing the rice removes the outer layers that are believed to negatively affect the flavour of a sake.
The Japanese have been making sake for thousands of years. Like beer, sake must first convert starch to sugar in order for it to develop that alcoholic kick we all know and love. Wine is a simpler fermentation process (chemically anyway!) as the fruit already contains sugars that are ready to be gobbled up by the yeast, producing the beloved booze and some CO2 to boot.
Basically, sake is made from special rice which has been polished, soaked and steamed. Koji (a type of black mold) is added to the rice and then a yeast starter. Over a few weeks more rice, water and koji is added, creating a "rice mash" known as "moromi" in Japanese. The "Toji", or head sake maker then decides when the moromi is ready to be pressed, filtered and blended. Most sake is pasteurized to "deactivate" enzymes which may change the flavour and colour of the sake later. Pasteurizing the sake improves the stability and shelf life of the sake.

Not all sake is pasteurized. Granville Island based sake maker Masa Shiroki produces unfiltered, unpasteurized sake in small batches. Sake of this kind is fruity and delicate, but must be refrigerated to preserve it's quality. It is not served warm. Like most sake it does not get better with aging. Usually it is recommended that sake be drunk within a year of being made. Decent sake will almost always have a production and/or expiry date.

"Grading" Japanese sake is complicated to say the least. The kind of rice used, the degree of polishing, and whether or not distilled alcohol is added to the sake are a few of the factors to consider.
At Sanbiki, we find most guests prefer warm sake. However we do have premium chilled sakes available and they are starting to catch on. Customers are liking our "Granville Island Sake Sampler" Similar to a wine "flight" with a few different sips of different wines, guests have opportunity to sample 3 different kinds of sake for only $8. Each 1 oz sample includes tasting notes by Granville Island Artisan Sake Maker Masa Shiroki. Melon, citrus and even hints of licorice can be tasted and smelled when you're pointed in the right direction
Warm or cold, we've got a great selection of sake and other alcoholic beverages for you to try. Sorrento-based Crannog Ales supplies us with organic, seasonal ales made by hand and left unpasteurized and unfiltered. The draft ales come in "partypigs"; self contained reusable containers that mean no empties to recycle! And they have a great website to boot! More info on Granville Island sake @
Thanks to Masa Shiroki, Crannog Ales, Steamy Kitchen and Where for photos. More news next week...bundle up kids, its getting cold...stay tuned for "Nabemono"...Japanese style hot pot, perfect winter comfort food!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

HM:Chefs in the City

My throat is raw and I can barely talk. I was so wired Monday night, I didn't sleep until 2am. All good signs....another successful Chefs in the City!
This was the third year The Rotary Club has organized the event, held this year November 1st at The Columbo Hall. More than 15 restaurants, wineries and breweries took part in the event with the proceeds going to charity. Initiatives locally and around the world are funded by Rotary that aim to eradicate poverty and disease, provide education, job training and promote peace. Sounds serious...but they know how to throw a great party too!

This was the second year Sanbiki has taken part in the event. Masato and I had Kishino to help us set up, serve and socialize. Last year we really didn't know what to expect. Predictably, we ended up swamped when 300+ hungry guests converged on our tiny table. This year felt better. The chaos was semi-organized, and while we ran out of sushi early (again!) we had Kishino's homemade dessert to compensate. Fluffy cream cheese mousse with blueberry compote and shortbread cookie crumble. Yum. Almost enough to forgive and forget our sushi shortage...
California and dynamite rolls are best-sellers at the restaurant and proved to be popular with the crowd at Chefs in the City. A few guests were disappointed that there was none of the raw stuff. With limited refrigeration and space we didn't want to take a chance and serve something that was not up to "Sanbiki Standards". Veggie options were somewhat limited at the event, so vegetarian diners were pleased that we had vegan sushi rolls on hand.

Chicken "Karaage" sounds fancy but it's basically a Japanese chicken wing. Corn starch and seasoning in the batter make it extra crunchy and flavourful. Keeping Sanbiki's oil clean and hot ensures that deep fried items are crispy, never greasy. Karaage is a great finger food and a perfect dish for Chefs in the City. Seating and table space are virtually non-existant; people are there to sip wine, sample new foods and socialize. The karaage was a hit. More than 100 peices in under 2 hours. But you have to admit it is a little bit "safe"...
So we had decided earlier some experimentation was in order. We wanted to try a recipe that people would not have tried, but nothing too off the wall. We find that Sanbiki's guests are usually willing to try new dishes, but it makes it easier if they recognize some of the ingredients or cooking techniques. For example a smoked salmon sushi roll is a good place for a fledgling sushi- eater to start. You may have no idea what sushi is all about but it's pretty hard to screw up smoked salmon.
So Kishino worked out a recipe for a wonderful winter soup. I gave up trying to give guests a long-winded, flowery description and settled on calling it "Japanese style chicken noodle soup". As the evening went on and my voice went away, I managed a barely audible "soup...good". But that hardly does her dish justice.
She started out with happodashi, a homemade Japanese stock made from dried fish, konbu (kelp), light soy sauce and a pinch of sugar. It's full of "umami"; flavourful and delicious. To the happodashi she added mushroom and chicken broth. It was important that the broth be kept separated from the other ingredients so the flavours could be tasted separately and so certain ingredients did not lose their crispy texture. But we had to keep it easy to serve and more importantly easy for guests to eat!
We decided to serve the soup in small disposable cups. We prepped all the solid ingredients; chunks of cooked chicken, King Trumpet mushrooms, yam noodles, cooked burdock and carrot, and seaweed. Just before serving we placed these components into a cup.
As guests approached the table, Kishino would ladle the piping hot broth from a pot and top the cup off, finishing the soup with a drop of fragrant sesame oil and fresh green onion. The smell of the hot soup and the autumn colours (orange carrot; dark brown burdock) drew more diners to our table.
Now we continue to ponder new weird and wonderful ways to showcase seasonal ingredients in our dishes at the restaurant. The weather is growing cooler and we are seeing the sushi orders slide slightly. At the same time we are scrambling to find enough bowls to serve our customers tempura and chicken udon. What could make winter in BC better than a big bowl of steaming soup chock full of noodles, veggies and chicken or tempura. Does it get any better? You tell us! We are always open to suggestions.

Recently...customers ask for Ramen, Beef donburi, and more varied lunch specials...GYUDON (Big beef rice bowl coming soon....)