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Sushi Academy London – Bringing Traditional Japanese Cooking to London

BY Boon Koh
Published 24 November 2010

Do you like sushi? Do you crave for it in your dreams and can’t get enough of it? If you’re partial to cooking and love Japanese cuisine, you should give the newly set up Sushi Academy London a try!

Courses are supervised by Hiroyuki Kanda, who is the owner and chef of the famed Kanda restaurant in Japan, which has won three Michelin stars in every edition since the Michelin guide was introduced in Japan. When he was in the UK recently, he was shocked by the non-traditional and lax standards being employed in sushi restaurants across London. Together with Masataka Oikawa, who owns a sushi restaurant at Harrods, they cooperated together to help set up a traditional sushi school in London.

Sushi Academy London is scheduled to open in February 2011, and I was lucky enough to be invited to learn more about the school as well as to take part in a short sushi class for beginners. The school is concentrating on teaching the correct way of preparing healthy and delicious Japanese food, concentrating on courses for chefs serious to becoming a professional Japanese chef. Top students on the course will get the chance to train at Michelin-starred restaurants in Japan and around the world.

In addition to their professional courses, Sushi Academy London will also be hosting courses for foodies and amateur chefs, who are looking to learn how to prepare Japanese food at home. With dining out so expensive these days, and the standard of Japanese food variable in London, a course might be a wise way to saving some money from dining out and learning how to make proper Japanese food.

The class that I attended was run by Keiko Waters, one of the directors of the new academy and a sushi master, having trained and worked in Japan as well as in Australia before coming to London. She was an excellent teacher and a very passionate chef, explaining the whole process in animated detail, and demonstrating each step clearly with really good tips. As anyone who has tried to roll their own sushi at home, it is much harder than it looks to get it right, and certainly I was quite anxious on the night! Thankfully, with Keiko’s guidance and advice, I was able to roll two different types of sushi correctly. For this taster class, we learnt how to make a traditional chumaki roll, with the nori seaweed on the outside, containing warm sushi rice and a filling of carrots, cucumbers, and crabstick. We also learnt how to make uramaki roll, which is an inside out roll, with the seaweed wrapped between layers of rice.

Keiko enjoyed her role as a teacher, even giving us a history and background into sushi. I learnt that uramaki rolls are not actually very Japanese, having been invented in the US to “hide” the seaweed, as Americans were not very keen on seaweed at the time. Despite sushi being served virtually year round in other parts of the world, it is a unlikely to be eaten in Japan during the summer months, as it is difficult to keep raw fish fresh on a hot day. Salmon sushi, despite its proliferation and ubiquity in the UK and Europe, is not widely eaten in Japan, where the most popular sushi is tuna.

Near the end of the night, we were treated to some amazing kazari maki, which is decorative sushi (see pictures below). The rose pattern sushi below was made earlier in the day by Sumiko Wakatsuki, one of the instructors at Sushi Academy London. Kazari-maki is not authentic Sushi but become popular in Japan for its art and presentation.

Apart from setting up a cooking school, there are concrete plans to set up a restaurant next door to the school, which will aim to introduce genuine Japanese cuisine as innovative new dishes. Some of the dishes on the menu will be supervised by Kanda, and exceptional trainees at the Sushi Academy will be allowed to practice their skills in the kitchen of the restaurant. The restaurant is due to open a few months after the school, next Spring, and will be located just round the corner from Holloway Road Station. As a resident in the area and an avid sushi fan, I’m looking forward to having some quality Japanese food at my doorstep!

Sushi Academy London will be running professional and amateur Japanese cookery courses from March 2011. For more information on the classes, visit sushiacademy.org, or get in touch with the team by email at info@sushiacademy.org

  • Sola

    I’m feeling slightly jealous that you have this on your doorstep! Having lived in Japan (six months in Tokyo)and as a big lover of sushi (probably my favourite food) I have been dismayed at the quality of the sushi in the UK. I’ve only found one or two restaurants that have matched the quality of the sushi I ate there. I think many of these Japanese chain restaurants that serve en-mass and toned down versions of japanese food are not even near to the real thing, not to mention all the ‘japanese’ restaurants owned by non-japanese in the UK. How great then, that a school has opened in the UK where people can learn skills from real Japanese chefs.I’m definately in the ‘amateur’ chef category, but should I get the chance to venture down to London, I will look into taking a course