Eight gloved hands pull gobs of sticky rice from a container on the center of the table.
“It should be about the size of a baseball,” Grace Chiang says, “But don’t pack it!”
She uses her loosely formed rice ball to pick up a piece of nori and slams in on a saran-wrapped bamboo mat, spreading the rice in a uniform layer. She makes sure grains are pressed just off the edge of the rectangle of nori so they will stick and form a cohesive seam when rolled.
Last week, over 25 students squeezed around the island in the Arcus Center’s sleek kitchen to make sushi. Mina Chaing and Grace Yang, sisters-in-law and owners of Hunan Gardens, demonstrated the steps of the process from slicing the cucumbers to sprinkling toasted sesame seeds over the finished roll. Each participant assembled their own roll, customizing with spicy tuna, crab, or a heap of avocado.
Students proudly garnished their creations with ginger and wasabi (or what we think of as wasabi. In fact, most of the wasabi eaten outside of Japan is a mixture of horseradish, mustard and food coloring, which is, of course, cheaper to produce).
“There were so many people from different backgrounds [in the class],” senior Hang Nguyen said as she tucked in with chopsticks. “And I liked that we made a not American dish.”
Hunan Gardens, which has locations on West Main and Texas Corners, features Chinese, Thai and Taiwanese cuisine. The Chaing family, originally from Taiwan, moved to Kalamazoo from New York City in 1991 and started the restaurant in 1992.
Last year, Dining Services started purchasing sushi from the restaurant for the Richardson Room café. Grace Yang and Jim and Mina Chiang donated their time and ingredients for Monday night’s class.
The class was organized by staff at Dining Services (full disclosure: myself included) as the first of a potential series to be hosted in the Center’s space this quarter. In addition to bringing more local restaurant owners and chefs to campus, we hope to support student instructors as well. If you have a kitchen skill you’d like to share (with a stipend from Dining Services for ingredients), email me – firstname.lastname@example.org.