I have no memory of eating “real” sushi until I was seven or nine years old. As a child, my father never took us to a sushi restaurant where you would sit down at a sushi bar and order omakase or whatever you like. As a matter of fact, I cannot remember any occasion where all of our family went out to a sushi bar at all.
The only memory of sushi we had at our home is Temaki Sushi dinner. Temaki, perhaps, is one of the most popular ways for Japanese to have sushi at home. It’s very economical and easy to make. Temaki is a hand roll and all my mom had to do was to cook sushi rice, cut some vegetables like cucumber, shiso leaf, pickled radish, buy a sashimi pack at a supermarket and make some tamago- egg custard and put them on a large plate along with nori seaweed. Cooking rice was an everyday chore, so to turn the short grain Japanese rice into sushi rice, all she had to do was to add sushi vinegar, which, she purchased at a supermarket. She sometimes made it by adding sugar and salt to rice vinegar. Everyone picks up a sheet of nori and put whatever fish and vegetables they want, roll it up in their hand and eat it. It’s that simple. Temaki is very simple to make, and almost anyone can make it without training. When it comes to rolls, some mothers in Japan can make them, but not all of them. Nigiri is something only trained professional sushi chefs can make, so naturally, temaki dinner is the most convenient and easiest to do to enjoy the fresh fish available at the supermarket.
Until I was ten years old, my main interest in food was eating, or more precisely, dining out. We had family dine-out-night every month or two and my parents took me to some nice restaurants. We all dressed up and took the bus and train to downtown, where many department stores were.
My favorite dish to eat was Steak, and my sisters’ was Unagi, fresh water eel. When I was a child, all I wanted to eat was steak. I was like meat meat meat guy. No fish. What the hell was fish? That was me. When I saw fish on our dinner table, I complained, “Where is the meat?”So, you can imagine we constantly had an argument as to which restaurant to go to as a family, as there was no restaurant serving both steak and Unagi. I wanted as much meat as I could have and always ordered the biggest steak they had on the menu, which, I think, was not easy on my parent’s wallet. $30 steak for the eight-year-old boy, around 1973 in Japan.
We ended up going to a Western-style restaurant more than Japanese because they had a nice view and a live band. I was happy every time I ordered my steak and listened to a jazz band.
Then, of course, my occasional trip to the Kaiten Zushi restaurant after the hospital visit was my early memory of dining out.
My dad only took us to two to three restaurants. Well, they are not exactly restaurants, but I should say two locations. One was the restaurant raw on the top floor of a department store, a thirty-minute train ride from our home. There, there was the Western-style and Japanese restaurant, and we alternated. Then, the other location was near my dad’s office in downtown Tokyo. It was a four-story building, which housed German style pubs like restaurant, Japanese, and Chinese cuisine. Again, we altered the restaurant each time. I liked the steak at German-style restaurant and egg drop soup, and egg white coated fried shrimp, which was so soft it only needed a sprinkle of pepper salt. I did enjoy occasional Unagi with my sister, though, I preferred my steak to fish.