Project Food Blog: Zen Goes Sushi!

Take a French man and ask him to cook outside his comfort zone and maybe, maybe he’ll cook something Japanese for you. Needless to say, i didn’t know how difficult it would be to roll sushi with that damn baguette stuck under my arm. This is of course the 2nd challenge in Project Food Blog: “The Next Food Blog Star” where we are asked to pick an ethnic classic and try not to make a fool of ourselves. Thank you so much to all of you who voted to advance me in this competition. If you like this post, then vote again!

I wanted to go Japanese today partly because i’m flying to Tokyo on Friday so i thought this would be the perfect exercise to condition myself for a week of non-stop Japanese eating. You could compare it to the stretching athletes do before competition. Except in my case it’s stomach stretching. The second reason i picked sushi is because i got a lesson from Yoshimi Tanigawa last year in Kyoto, and as much as i love Japanese cuisine the ungrateful student that i’am didn’t do much Japanese cooking to honor his Master since. Boooo… yes, go ahead, don’t be shy! Booooo…

This post is a last attempt to redeem myself before being denied entry at Narita airport.

It started earlier today with a little trip to Mitsuwa and as always, Mitsuwa didn’t disappoint. I came back with a bounty of Japanese delicacies: Oh toro tuna, hamachi, kampachi, uni and eel, tobiko and trout roe, shiso… to name a few.

One of my favorite things to order at sushi bars is the salmon skin rolls, so the first thing i did is slice it off a filet of wild king salmon and make it all nice and crispy by dredging it flour and corn starch and shallow-frying it. The thick part of the salmon filet was used in a roll and the belly was used for nigiri. I love when nothing is wasted.

Another acquisition at Mitsuwa was a makiyakinabe, a rectangular pan used to make Tamagoyaki, a Japanese rolled omelet that’s often included in Bento boxes as well as sushi. It was my first time making it, and it was good except it shouldn’t have colored so much on the outside. What can i say for my defense? I was busy eating the crispy salmon skin.

So i made some rolls, some inside-out, some outside-in, and some double-out-inside-in, and even some in-double-out-inside-in-double-out. It sounds so much better in Japanese!

Here is what you have on the platter below:

– Tamagoyaki
– Sweet shrimp sashimi
– Oh Toro Tuna sashimi
– Wild King salmon belly nigiri
– Sea Bass sashimi
– Hamachi sashimi
– Eel (Unagi)/avocado roll with Tobiko
– King crab roll
– Salmon skin roll
– Salmon roll
– Tuna roll
– Uni nigiri (sea urchin)
– Trout roe nigiri

My favorite bite? Uni, of course! Sweet and creamy, fresh uni is always my favorite but the oh toro tuna sashimi and king crab/ avocado roll didn’t come far behind. Maybe i’ll do some step by step posts on rolling your own sushi in the future.

This was a fun challenge and a great dinner. Voting for me in Project Food Blog of course will advance me to the next round so don’t forget to vote if you feel inclined to. Voting is opened from 6AM Pacific Time September 27th through 6PM Pacific Time September 30th.

Thank you for reading!

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  • The Cilantropist

    Wow this is an impressive platter of sushi! Do you do takeout? :) Great entry!!!

  • Casey Angelova

    You really embraced the sushi and it looks amazing! Best of luck with round 2!

  • Kulsum@JourneyKitchen

    I think you should get a vote just coz you named sushi. I find it sOO difficult to even think about it. U get mine.

  • Kulsum@JourneyKitchen

    Well i read my comment and thought I might have sounded rude. God! Me. I meant you totally rock for making Sushi!

  • LesCasseroles2Nawal

    Tu as un peu fait ton Modeste cette semaine sur Twitter, parce que tes Photos sont de plus en plus Terribles vraiment !
    Bon je vais relire le tout dans le texte pour cliquer là où il faut pour voter, c’est vraiment Superbe surtout pour un Frenchie avec sa baguette sous le bras 😉

  • Janis

    BEAUTIFUL! Great job. You get my vote.

  • Jean (Lemons and Anchovies)

    You’re a natural! I’ve never even considered making sushi at home–I just rely on my Japanese friends instead. Not very food-bloggerly of me, I know, but hey, that’s why I’m me and you’re you. I see Challenge #3 on the horizon for you. :-)

  • kateiscooking

    BEAUTIFUL!!! The photo of the unagi made my jaw hurt even though we just had some fantastic sushi last week. Fantastic job of tackling this challenge. I actually bought a sushi cookbook a couple of years ago but haven’t tried it at home yet. You’ve certainly got my vote!! Kate @ kateiscooking

  • Anonymous

    This is a great challenge for just about anyone, because so many people are intimidated with the process. I simply love the glossy beautiful colors and perfect shapes of your creation, it reflects skills that have been mastered. I am going to have to pay a visit to Mitsuwa.

  • Shea @ Blissfully Unrefined

    Sea urchin . Other than that, this looks gorgeous! I love sushi, and built up the courage to try it myself a few years ago, back in college (of course, we didn’t do anything so traditional – Philly rolls all the way back then, before I discovered the beauty of a fresh spicy tuna roll, or a luscious piece of salmon…) Great, now I’m craving sushi – I’ve managed 8 months off the stuff (not a lot of sushi in Germany, you see) and a mere one month from being back home in MA, you make me crave it… it’s going to be a painful month thanks to you!

    The pain and grief you’re now causing me notwithstanding, you can count on one of my votes tomorrow :)

  • Xai @ ObviouslyOmnivore

    these are so beautiful! i have an addiction to sushi so when i saw your post on twitter, i clicked on the link like a maniac. good luck again!

  • Anonymous

    ohhh brand new spanking tools! must have those knives frenchman. i am definitely roll-challenged, but obviously you are not.

  • Joan Nova

    This post will get you into Round 3 faster than you can say Zen Can Cook! Witty, colorful and well-executed! Great job.

  • eatlivetravelwrite

    Absolutely speechless. What a beautiful post! Good luck though you won’t need it!

  • Nibbles of Tidbits

    Oh my gosh — How amazing! You might as well be put through to challenge #3 now. Can I even contend???

  • Russell at Chading Delicious

    What gorgeous sushi! Love the line about the baguette stuck under your arm. Good luck!

  • Chefs Resources

    Nice! I love sushi but have never attempted making it. I’m told that the rice is the most important and the most difficult to get correct. This looks awesome.

  • Su-yin

    That is one brilliant platter of sushi/sashimi. I can’t believe this is what you came up with outside your comfort zone!

    And crispy salmon skin – I know that feeling. Pure deliciousness, it’s something I could snack on continuously. You’ve done it yet again, because now I really want some salmon skin rolls…

  • Jackie

    What totally beautiful sushi! Great job and post! As a sushi maker and connoisseur I approve greatly! Although I’m not a fan of uni! But Momma Lee definitely is – you’d probably be her new favourite person if you made it for her 😉

    Good luck with this next round and here’s to a forthcoming entry #3!

    Jax x

  • Adelina Badalyan

    Nice job Chef Zen. If anyone has to attack sushi, I would say it has to be you. Did you have all the sushi by yourself? Just wondering… lol. I am sure it tasted great. Best of luck to you!

  • Joy Zhang

    What a stud. Why are your plating skills so stunning — and the marbeling on the that toro!!!

    :) noms. Get in my belly now.

    Can’t wait to hear about your adventures in Japan, best of luck Zen you’re awesome!

  • Bela Gupta1

    Like the simplicity, clarity and presentation.. and love sushi..

  • sians

    very nicely executed. and it looks great :)
    you’ve got my vote.

    check out my entry :)
    i made some japanese too!

  • sippitysup

    Zen can not only cook! Zen is an artist. GREG

  • Jun Belen

    WOW! That plate of sushi is just a work of art! AMAZING! Well done! Are you sure you’ve never made sushi before? :-) It just looks like you’ve been making it all your life!

  • Nina

    Zen, I would hate for you to see my first attempt, by golly that is so amazing. To cook like that outside your comfort zone is phenomenal!!!

  • Sarah the Bear

    Your photo popped right out at me from the masses! Gorgeous!! Now I can’t stop thinking about uni… You got my vote :)

  • Norma823

    Absolutely beautiful..the colors, the photographs…You have my vote, AGAIN!

  • Suzy

    My goodness! You really went all out! Looks fantastic. You got my vote. Looking forward to your next challenge!

  • Eataduckimustblog

    is that a suisin knife? and do i really need to tell you we voted for you? :)

    btw, have a great time in Japan, i feel left out b/c now this time we won’t be meeting up with you!

  • Anna Johnston

    Very impressive & fabulous photos. Too funny when you say ‘…didn’t know how difficult it would be to roll sushi with that damn baguette stuck under my arm’
    Cooking cuisines outside ones comfort zones is a bit of a hoot isn’t it at first, you feel like the first day you rode a bike :) Great post, I enjoyed it.

  • Asha

    Wow! what a beautiful plate. I LOVE sushi. I made it once at home for a Daring Cooks challenge and decided never to repeat at home.. LOL Found it way to involving and time consuming and took the joy of real consumption away! :)

    That said, I am happy to come over anytime you are making sushi.. Just give me a holler! 😀

  • Christo

    bro you get my vote and my tweet…..good luck.

  • Carolyn Jung

    Beautiful job on the sushi. I say you are well prepared for your feasting ahead in Tokyo. Have a great time!

  • Alex Tang

    hey French Rabbit, I didn’t know u can do sushi too~ it looks great! keep up the work, support u man!

    Alex(the other rabbit)

  • The Duo Dishes

    Had no idea you guys have Mitsuwa there in NY too. Thought it was only an LA based store. Looks like you went all out for this one too. Beautiful pictures. We love sushi. You get a vote for sure!

  • pigpigscorner


  • Daydreamer Desserts

    Love it! You’ve got my vote!

  • Amelia Z Tasty Life

    lovely photos!!! so colorful :)
    you have one of my votes. (See my entry here:

  • sushitail

    Nice presentation!

  • Dawn – Kitchen Travels

    Absolutely beautiful… and mouth-watering! Well done. So much fun to make sushi at home. Next time, try deep-frying the shrimp heads that are left over from your sweet shrimp. They are really tasty!

  • Dan Clapson

    What amazing, colourful photos! Great looking sushi! :) 1 vote for you!

  • Kitchen Confidante

    You are an absolute pro! Your sushi master will be very proud, I am sure of it. I would happily partake of that stunning display and “stomach stretch” in solidarity! Or I guess I’ll just go vote :)

  • angi c

    Beautiful – voted! I think if you show them this post and those photos, they’ll welcome you at Narita with a parade! Hope you have fun in Japan!

  • Emiglia

    Wow… gorgeous. I love love love sushi… partial to eel myself, but salmon skin is pretty nice :)

  • DChing

    Wow, amazingly beautiful sushi plater, looks delish, you definitely got my vote. great job

  • Rachel (S[d]OC)

    That looks so beautiful I might actually be tempted to eat it (not a sushi fan). Not a single baguette in sight!

  • Lick My Spoon

    Really well done Chef Zen :) We’ve made sushi a couple of times but nothing to this caliber. You’ve outdone yourself. My mouth is still watering from all the roe you bought! YUM, YUM, YUM! You got my vote!

    Lick My Spoon

  • Baking Barrister

    This is really impressive for a French man (especially one holding a baguette). Absolutely gorgeous spread and documentation of your Japanese adventure. And have fun on your trip!

  • Magic of Spice

    Very nicely done, a beautiful choice…and just so happens to be my favorite food :)