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World-traveling sushi chef lands in Hillsboro

Plastic wrap among experts tips


As head sushi chef at Syun Izakaya, Miki Willis can make sushi that will please your eyes and dazzle your taste buds. She’s worked in top notch kitchens in Japan and the U.S., and has learned the detail-obsessed art that can take a Japanese chef 10 years of training to master. But Willis will tell you that making a platter full of delicious, beautiful-looking sushi at home doesn’t have to be difficult. Temari-zushi or “handball” sushi doesn’t require special tools or esoteric ingredients, and a novice home cook’s skills are plenty. “It’s very easy. You just use plastic wrap to make it,” Willis said. Together with cucumber gunkan-maki or “battleship roll,” you can set up a counter full of ingredients, assembly-line style, and turn out dozens of pieces for your next party or family event. Lined up on a platter, the colorful results will impress any guest and look just like something you’d find at a high end sushi bar – at a fraction of the price, of course. “You don’t usually see these at restaurants, but they’re easy to make,” she said. Before she left Japan for the U.S., Willis was a certified dietitian. She learned basic kitchen skills during her training, but focused on sushi after she moved to the states and traveled with her husband Jared as he finished college and dental school. “In America, Japanese food means sushi,” she said. by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DEEDA SCHROEDER - Miki Willis demonstrates how even a novice can make sushi at home. Willis apprenticed with a sushi chef in Salt Lake City and later worked at Iron Chef Masuharu Morimoto’s Philadelphia restaurant. Next, she was the product development leader for the company that provided sushi to 130 Whole Foods market locations. Willis’ family came to Oregon about two years ago. Sushi isn’t on the menu at home every night – she saves it for special occasions – but Willis said she tries to cook food that’s a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables. She’s never been able to shake her dietitian’s habits. “I just automatically think that way,” she said. “At the restaurant, I try to serve healthy food as much as possible.” Sushi is an exact art, she said. In Japan, if you want to train to be a sushi chef, you’ll spend years learning how to cut dozens of varieties of fish. And in cooking sushi rice, speed is essential. From the moment the rice-cooker lid is removed, cooks must finish preparing it in fewer than three minutes. An inside trick: Sushi chefs spend nearly all of their working day with wet hands, which keeps rice from sticking to them. At home, Willis uses kitchen gloves instead. You don't need bamboo rolling mats or special sushi ingredients like nori (dried seaweed) for the following recipes. Sushi really just means sushi rice with something on top, Willis said. “It doesn’t have to be rolled up.”



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  • 21 Sep 2014

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  • 22 Sep 2014

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