When a fun friend up and asks you if you want to make sushi at their house, in a land that seems to have little to offer in the way of exciting and/or inexpensive food, the proper response is a clear and well-enunciated, "Hell yes."
Such was the situation when our good friend, German T, invited us all over to his wonderfully sprawling (at least in comparison to our tiny tin can apartments) house in the middle of the suburbs to make sushi. We were also celebrating his birthday, in which he was turning an age which he refused to tell us. This seems to be a common trend, especially amongst our somewhat "elder" friends. Oh wait no, it's just a common trend. Period.
Anyway, on the appointed day we all gathered our ingredients (as events taking place at any person's residence require you to bring at least something, given the expense of this country - in this case an ingredient that could be used in said sushi-making experience, booze that you could share or would be drinking yourself, and if you wanted to, a nice bottle of red for the birthday boy), and made our way to the middle of nowhere that is otherwise known as suburbia. German T happens to live out near the zoo island (yes, there is an island where the zoo resides...but unfortunately he only lives near that zoo island, not on the zoo island, as I've once made the mistake of thinking).
The house was packed with people I knew and some unfamiliar but still wonderfully friendly faces. And the sushi making commenced. Admittedly it's been a few years since I made my last sushi roll (maybe two?) but it was just like riding a bicycle - I remembered pretty quickly how to do it, and I'm happy to say that by the end of my second roll I was teaching others how to do it as well.
Look at how pretty rolls can be!
There were multitudes of ingredients because everyone pitched in and brought something - cucumbers, mango, krab (the kind made from pollock), fresh sashimi-grade salmon and whitefish, every flavor of cream cheese you could imagine, carrots, avocado, even some of the Japanese ingredients that are a little harder to find (like marinated teriyaki gourd). They even had makings for nigiri sushi and other fun things like inari pockets (the deep fried marinated tofu pouches, one of my favorites, plain and simple as they are).
Needless to say people were supposed to (and did), make their own rolls and contribute to the communal sushi roll smorgasbord. By the end we had four large platters stacked high with everyone's different creations:
It was a beautiful sight to see. There was also other food to be had - seaweed salad, edamame, pickled ginger, and some other fun things that had nothing to do with Japanese cuisine like ha gow (steamed shrimp dumplings) and siu mai (I guess the general translation would be wrapped meat balls?).
And what do you do with all of the ingredients that weren't used in the rolls but are still good by themselves? Like the extra sashimi-grade salmon? Uh, you slice that stuff up and serve it anyway!
And man was it heavenly. If the Finns know how to do one thing absolutely right, it's how to get fresh salmon, year round. This was absolutely amazing.
And thus the stuffing of faces commenced. I don't think I've been this full in a long time.
People also brought fun things to drink, since it was a themed night. Several bottles of specialty sake were opened and British F, unfamiliar with Asian drinks, brought an assortment of nonalcoholic drinks she wanted to try out. Hong Kong P and I were laughing at everyone's faces as they tried things we'd been drinking since childhood - grass jelly (which is understandably creepy if you've never had it before...I mean, how can a black-brown drink with little chunks of equally black-brown jelly floating in it seem appealing to someone who's never had it before?), chrysanthemum tea, sugar cane juice, aloe vera, and mangosteen juice. Surprisingly it was a Chinese Canadian in our group who found them the most repulsive. He later admitted that he was basically a redneck though and despite appearances, should not be considered an Asian (turns out his was the only Asian family in his entire town, which only had a population of 5000 in a very remote part of Canada).
The party went well into the night and a good time was had by all. Food kept pouring out of the kitchen, and even though people were way past full all of it was just too good to stop eating. Wasabi peas, rice crackers, an assortment of Fazer chocolates (the classic choice of Finns and famous for its recognizable gold/blue or pink wrappers).
Oh German T, you know how to throw a delicious food party. There was so much food brought to the house that they ended up giving some of it back at the end of the night as guests were leaving. I got an avocado and an unopened container of flavored cream cheese (I can't read the Finnish but it looks to be some sort of green onion and black pepper variety...in any case, it's absolutely delicious).
I also technically got a cucumber, but as me and some of the other girls went out later that night and it needed to be stored for coat check, it was lost in the shuffle (put into someone else's bag and therefore went home with someone else). Many jokes of the variety, "is that a cucumber in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?" ensued. There is now a hilarious bunch of inside jokes that have everything to do with going out on dates and having enormous amounts of produce in one's bag. One of the girls ended up seeing a guy she knew at the club we were at later and she did indeed have to explain awkwardly why there were two cucumbers in her bag (one of which was mine). Just goes to show - you never know what might happen in a county like this where you don't always have the convenience of going home first. Hilarious.
And so another good weekend event has come and gone. Memories of glorious sushi will continue to linger with me...