This past year, one of the most memorable nights I had was held by a New York City experience company called Sidetour. It was called: Crack the Japanese Food Making Code with a Lobster Lesson
The experience was led by a lovely, charming Misako Sassa. (A chef who, coincidentally, when I mentioned the cooking class to my roommate, was actually in a column she had fastened to our fridge from Chopsticks NY Magazine.)
Misako (or Misa) floated around the open New York City space, showing us the best way to de-pit an avocado, teaching us about the perfect kind of rice that she specially orders, and letting us learn as she fanned the rice to the perfect temperature for use. We learned about how to quickly blanche the lobster meat, and put just enough cucumber and rice on the nori sheets, so that it would roll smoothly, and still taste full of fresh flavors. But, I’m actually leaving out the best part…
The beginning of the lesson started with our cooking stations set up in front of us. Clean mats, towels, knives, and a bowl of moving, living lobsters.
Since we were making the freshest possible kind of lobster without the use of hot water, something had to be done, we had to kill them ourselves first.
Now, this might sound impossible (or easy, I guess it depends on who you are!). I felt game to jump in, but became a little bit of a wimp while holding the lobster belly in my hands – it moved while I was trying to pinpoint the exact spot where I was supposed to give a quick jab with the knife. But as soon as Misa saw my hesitation, she gave a great quick example. Once you see this petite, delightful woman handle a lobster with speedy, dexterous craftsmanship, you feel a lot less able to wimp out, and much more empowered to seize control and finish the job!
The rice Misa had selected tasted nothing like what you’ll usually find in any ordinary sushi place (or even the places that are always packed on weekend nights). It had a multi-layered rush of flavors, nutty, sweet, and satisfying, and hard to forget. She made the miso soup with the heads of the lobsters for flavoring, and it was the most delicious miso soup I remember having in a long time. And the lobster rolls, which all the guests rolled, were unbelievable. I had wondered if I would feel a twinge of regret participating in the end of the lobsters life, and then eating it, but, as my friends and I had discussed that week, it’s really a much more honest and authentic way to come to the table. And it was delicious! I am really looking forward to getting a few of my friends together and doing this again very soon…