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Sushi making class at Buddha Bellies

One of the best experiences we had was sushi making at Buddha Bellies. Before we left for Japan we visited a local sushi train and tried a place in Tokyo so by the time we got to Buddha Bellies we thought we knew a bit about Japan's original street food. We were wrong.
Sushi chef Ayulo Akivama points to a bowl of rice
Ayuko prepares to slice and flip the rice.

Our host was expert sushi chef and sake sommelier Ayuko Akiyama who starts the class with an overview of sushi's history and the huge variety of sushi. We were familiar with nigiri (rice with topping and a belt of nori) and sliced nori rolls but she also showed us a family style that was wrapped into a cone of seaweed and other kooky types. Our class was a basic one with nigiri and nori rolls that was great for kids though we were tempted to come back and do the mosaic sushi which was presented in a colourful square of deliciousness.

Four sliced nori rolls containing egg, avocado, cucumber and tuna
My basic nori rolls
We make sushi at home so the advanced techniques Ayuko showed us were really helpful. Turns out we've been using the wrong side of the nori and avoiding vinegar (for taste) when all we needed was a lot more sugar. Given that the word means 'vinegar rice' (su=vinegar + shi=rice) what we'd been making was really just shi. The stirring in of vinegar into the rice required a specific method - slicing then flipping to get the perfect taste. Most importantly in slicing your finished nori roll, Ayuko says chop from the middle with "no hesitation". We had a tasty selection of tuna and mackerel though they are happy to customise most food needs. Our class was moved to the afternoon so we could do it with just our family rather than share with strangers.

Several nigiri sushi on plastic wrapping
Our nigiri about to be wrapped in plastic
After making a huge platter, we ate while bombarding Ayuko with questions which she cheerfully answered using her experience as a consultant for international sushi restaurants to explain some our misunderstandings about sushi, sake and Japan. Her great English comes from studying in the UK and qualifying as an English teacher. We opted for a sake to go with the sushi (not so much for the little one but they offered milk). Ayuko served us a Tatenowka sake even going to the trouble of talking me through the label in case we wanted to buy one in a grocery store. She explained that rice is often polished in better quality sake so you get more of the core.

A round platter of both nigiri and nori rolls with hand pointing at them
Picking what to eat off the platter
The class was an ideal way not only to learn about sushi but also get a window into a real kitchen with an experienced chef. We feasted on our platter but still had some to takeaway for the lunch the next day.

Tips for visiting

Here's a video of Ayuko explaining how to make Okonomiyaki on travel TV show, Gurus Explore:


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