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First Try at “Sushi” From Scratch: Notes for the Future

Disclaimer: I have previously taken one sushi making class, but this is my first time attempting it at home from scratch. The most important takeaway (more like the only one I remember, lol) from that class was “keep your hands moist so the stupid rice doesn’t stick!”

This set “only” took a small blood sacrifice and 2.5 hours of my time to make from start (washing the rice) to this… attempt at plating. >_> Don’t give me shit about the tray. Let’s just call it traditional? Because vermillion is a traditional Japanese color. Do I at least get a point for making it semi presentable?

  • Back Row: Gunkanmaki with (fail) salmon roses  on top of a bed of to tobiko (flying fish roe) and slivers of green onion for garnish
  • 3rd Row: Makizushi with salmon and tobiko
  • 2nd Row: Gunkanmaki with battered, pan-fried spam, toasted white sesame seeds,  tobiko and green onions again; + slice of the salmon maki roll that wouldn’t fit in the 3rd Row
  • 1st Row: Pigs in a blanket.  (Egg fried spam + green onion + a finger of rice. spam IS mostly pork, AKA pig)
  • Right: Salted, seared beef tongue makizushi with, guess what!!!!! Green onions and toasted white sesame  seeds

The takeaway? I like green onion and it grows very well in my backyard so I spam it  in my “cooking” hehhehheh.  I was trying to keep things simple by reusing only a limited number of ingredients. The most expensive thing in here is not the salmon, but the flippin’ beef tongue. The pre-sliced stuff rivals gold, price per ounce (not really). However my sister looooves that stuff, tongue not gold thank god, and this was for her birthday dinner since we were too busy to go out. Plus I’m really fond of it too.

My first roll (as represented by that lone slice piece  in row 2 was waaaay off in terms of rice ratio seeing as the filling wasn’t centered. However, I mostly got it down and was decently pleased with myself by the last roll (see the left beef tongue cross slice). I do not have a mat and this set was made without one so it is definitely possible to make sushi without it. From what I learned it’s mostly just for final shaping before plating.

The tub of tobiko required a blood sacrifice to open. Watch those nasty, sharp plastic edges 😛

Rice and Seaweed
Obviously, I bought the seaweed sheets. Did not make them from scratch.

I used this recipe for cooking the sushi rice and making the sushi vinegar, going with the version that uses 4 tbsp of rice vinegar, 1 tsp of salt and 2 tbsp of sugar. I nuked the solution twice in 15 second intervals to get everything dissolved before drenching the rice.

The above pictured spread is the results of  2 cups of sushi rice and 8 sheets of seaweed (which turned out to be way excessive). The birthday girl and my dad “helped” me fit it all of it onto the platter you see by “disposing” of several pieces.

If you can’t find “sushi rice” aka Japanese hulled short-grain rice at a resolvable price, I have a substitution for you  in the next paragraph. By the way, “first crop” rice is highly, highly preferred for the moisture absorption properties to make the grains tender and properly sticky. if you use non-first-crop or rice that’s been sitting around for a while, add more water in the cooking pot.

This is an acceptable, functional mix that i have found: 3 parts short-grain, sweet rice (aka glutinous rice, not to be confused with Japanese short grain rice) to 1 part medium grain CalRose Rice. Make sure that you BLEND the rice well AFTER washing/rinsing as the grains tend to sort themselves and settle for size. You want the mixture to be as homogeneous as possible when you add water and put it to cook.

To answer some questions:

  • The 3:1 ratio is by volume not weight. be consistent in the way you pack the measuring cup.
  • 2:1 is not sticky enough.

Update: Round 2

I made more sushi, again, the day after and changed the components ratio of the sushi vinegar a bit and found that I preferred the taste of the resulting sushi rice. For 4 tbsp of rice vinegar I added  1 tbsp + 1 tsp of sugar, 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of fish sauce (the three crabs brand).

2 cups of rice is juuuust enough to go with 6 sheets of seaweed and make 7 rolls. I trimmed 1.5 inches off each of the seaweed sheets (8 x 7.5 inches) off the longest side then overlapped and “glued” the trims back together with a carpet of rice for the last, 7th roll

This is not quite enough to feed a family of four so I will need to cook three cups of rice next time and slap it all on top of 9 sheets of seaweed.

**Another Round: My Favorite Variation

2. 5 Tbsp white cane sugar

0.5 Tbsp Fish Sauce (Three Crabs Brand)

0.5 Tsp salt

2 Fl Oz Rice Vinegar (Marukan)

This variation is a little sweeter and pairs well with briny or salty,  rich things. Not so great with just cucumber maki or tamago yaki though. Rice probably needs another half tsp of salt for those items.

I doubled the sushi vinegar for double rice (4 cups). Feeds 6 with plenty to spare.

Things to Try

Shinode Sushi Rice

Tamanishiki Super Premium Short Grain Rice

Heng Shun white rice vinegar

More play with the sugar amount and maybe types of sugar.

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Posted by on May 15, 2017 in Exotics, How to Food

 

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USC’s 2017 Commencement – Speeches of Note

That moment when everyone is hyped for Will Ferrell at graduation but freaking Helen Mirren makes an appearance to also receive an honorary degree.

The (unemployed) valedictorian’s speech was also amusing and managed to make the professional comedian uncomfortable. (00:59:00)

Right afterward are when the 6 honorary doctoral degrees are awarded! Helen Mirren is at 1:20:00

 

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2017 in Current Events, Short Humor

 

GPA & Getting A Student Driving License

For a bit of background, let’s just say that in the place where I grew up, the high schools have a *bit* of a culture of over achievement. This is pretty much the attitude you get regarding the number of Advance Placement Classes/Tests you’ve completed or plan to have completed upon graduation:

  • 4 AP Classes: You mean you’re taking that many this year, right?
    • If you’ve got 4 as a sophomore. Then you’re on the right track but might want to pick up the pace a little more. (This is assuming 1 was taken during freshman year as a trial, and 3 during sophomore year. You should be good if you take at least 4-5 AP’s during junior and senior year, each.)
  • 6 AP classes: Do you want to work at McDonald’s for the rest of your life?!
  • 8 AP classes: Slacker.
  • 10: AP classes: Average
  • 12 AP classes: Not Bad. Your prospects look promising.
  • 15 AP Classes : Hey! you probably have a good shot at getting into your top choice school.
  • 16 + AP Tests Taken (Classes + Self Study becuase it’s nigh impossible to actually schedule that many): You are God.

Yeah. By “a bit” I mean that it’s a bit extreme. It’s like an arms race (to get into a good college/university). But when you’re immersed in the culture it feels normal until you come into contact with students from other school districts in university.

Anyhow. this was all going somewhere. Just about every kid has an above 4.0 GPA. How is that possible? Well, the normal GPA scale is on a 4.0 but attaining an “A” grade will calculate into the weighted GPA as a 5.0

  • For example: I get an A in 2 regular classes and an A in 2 AP class, my weighted GPA is a 4.5

Anyhow, my sister was at the DMV getting her license  and this exchange went down:

DMV Lady: “Do you have a 3.0 GPA?”

“stunned silence from my sister

Sister: “Sorry, what?”

Lady: “A three-point-o. what is your GPA?”

Sister: “…. 4.3”

Later retelling the story to me: “My first through was ‘what the hell am I studying so hard for?’ and almost blurted that ‘If i had a 3.0 i wouldn’t be standing here. Alive.'”

Yeah Mom would’ve murdered us the second it dipped below 4.0 which… never would happen because she stalked/stalks our grade-books. I”m pretty sure that she’s faster with the Blackboard passwords than we are

The hardcore helicopter parent culture is quite intense and we don’t even have the worst of it.

As my sister so colorfully described one classmate’s mom, “you can hear the blades whirring above his head as you get near him. Her presence is that strong even when she’s not physically there. If you tried to give him a hug, you’d feel the down draft… if you didn’t get sniped first.”

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2017 in Short Humor

 

Summer of Squirrel: Preview of Things to Come

I start grad school in midjune June so I’m keeping my laundry list for this blog unambitious, but realistic.

  1. Overview of the Chikuhodo Z Series. Remember the Takumi monster? Get ready for another,  bigger one because there are more brushes in the Z- Series. 
  2. Comparison of the MK-1, MK-2, Z-9 and Z-1 Powder Brushes
  • Suqqu Cheek Brush Review (I’ve grown impatient of waiting for a Kyureido Cheek Brush to compare to so fuck it. Suqqu cheek gets its own review and doesn’t have to share the spotlight) 
  • Houkodou GS-1 Large Eye Shadow Brush Review (been a long time coming)
  • Surratt Smoky Eye Brush Moyenne Review (one more eye brush for balance)

**Not necessarily in that order

The hope is that I get the majority of these drafted, and photographed during the couple of weeks I have inbetween the end of my senior spring semester and the start of the next 2 years of hell the next step in my life.  I’m forcing myself to post it publicly so i feel obligated to complete them as promised. =D The numbered ones are “for sure” and the bulleted ones are tenative.

I may get tired of squirrel in the middle of all that and finally finish what I have to say about the 4 shapes of koyomo brushes available in ototsuho hair (face, cheek, round eye, and flat eye shadow brush). If you would like to see that overview sooner, send me a hint.  I’m also thinking of finally reviewing the Wayne Goss Air Brush and Chikuhodo RC-2 / RRC-2  Let me know. if you rather see one of these substituted for one of the bulleted options. 

 

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2017 in Current Events

 

Afters Ice Cream (Irvine, Diamond Plaza on Jamboree & Alton) – Review & Thoughts on the Flavors

Like with all restaurant and eating extrablishment posts, I’ll be updating this periodically as things change and as I try new flavors to give my thoughts on them. 

The Store

The first thing I noticed is that their ice cream is very…. vividly coloed. Florid almost. They don’t even attempt to hide the fact that colorant is poured in with a liberal hand. 

There are two display cases but only one is in operation. The staff behind the counter wait on each group one by one because of the way the queue works.  even if you go in knowing what you want, you still have to wait in a line behind the unbearable people who DON’T know what they want and are asking for samples of aaaallll the interesting things. *waves sheeishly* It takes a very, very long time basically. 

The three people behind the counter could only handle so much. My peeve is that the other half of the store ()along with the other ice cream case was not being used except as standing space for people who had already gotten their treats. 

I like to consider myself a patient person, but the inefficiency here was ridiculous. they should have had one case open for taking orders and the other open for sampling and backup service. It’s also all sound reflective surfaces in there so it gets unbearably loud very quickly. That probably contributed a bunch to my crankinesss.

Also of note: either the owner of the place is young or the management in general is very young, or the owners have kids that have some role in the store. There were several small flocks of 2-3 people my age going in between the front and back of the store. (Behind and in front of service counter)

The Edibles

The Milky Bun – basically just a glazed doughnut without a hole. I got a milky bun with two flavors, AKA “split” which was an extra 50 cents (so 0.50 on top of $6.00). Skip it and go for the two scoop option ($6.00) in a cone (0.50) which ends up costing the same. Maybe I’m not a fan of it because I’m just not a doughnut person in general. I’ll eat them and I enjoy them, but I won’t go out for my way to obtain one, and I certain atelier don’t crave them. To their credit it is served warm and the toasty temperature of the nread serves as a nice foil to the cool ice cream. 

Cookie Monster: This is a pretty solid choice if you’ve got a serious sweet tooth. A little on the too sweet, and thus cloying side but the ice cream is loaded with sizable, satisfying chunks of cookie pieces that are fun to munch on. 

Mint Monster: good but nothing special . maybe the too bright green color was putting me off along with the fact that it was too saccharine

Vietnamese Coffee -holy shit did they nail this flavor right on the head. it even has that slightest lick of bitterness in the finish like the espresso used as the coffee base and there’s the rich taste of condensed milk in there. if you like coffee, if you like Vietnamese coffee, you gotta try this. 

Jasmine Tea – Another pretty good flavor. tastes like the base flavoring agent was actually brewed from tea. There’s a whisper of grassy tea dust and a whopping amount of Jasmine, but it’s not so strong that it’s bitter or whomps your taste buds into submission and clogs up your nose like some places over dose on the Jasmine component of the flavoring. 

Thai Tea – Good. But the Thai tea flavor is pretty standard. Creamistry does it good too, and I like their texture better. 

In general, the center cream here has a very slick but thick mouthfeel like they’re relying on emulsifiers quite heavy for the creamy texture). It’s not rock hard hard but not whipped and soft either thank good ness.  Sadly, it does not have that slightly chewy texture I like.  

Verdict

This place is pretty expensive for what it is with no novelty factor to at least make up for the cost and long wait. 

There’s another place in the same plaza across from the Kicking Crab that has an amazing Earl Grey Ice Cream. I think I’ll be continuing to go there for my after dinner sugar fix instead. Less of a wait and less gimmicky. I might pop in once in a while for that Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream if I don’t see much of a wait, though.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2017 in On the Fence

 

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Artistique Face Brush by Surratt Beauty – Review, Thoughts, Pictures Galore, and Comparison to the Chikuhodo Z-1 Powder Brush

Preface
If you are interested in the Surratt Beauty Artistic Face Brush,  you are likely no stranger to high end brushes or Fude (Japanese made brushes). If you are new, I think this review will still be easy to digest for you and (hopefully) informative. I think when most people see the price tag ($230 in USD) on Sephora, or where ever there are browsing, they go “WDF, WHY?!” then move on. Brush hounds will look at the price, raise an eyebrow, look for the  brush head material (it’s squirrel) then instantly start tail wagging + salivating, and look for the magic words: made-in-Japan, artisans, hand-crafted, etc. Or maybe that’s just me. >_> As always, feel free to skip the preface to get to the review.

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I’m actually quite surprised that I can’t find that many reviews on this brush. Lately, There seems to be a culture of “@#$%^!!! $$$Obscenely-Priced-Item! See MAH REVIEW!!!!!” (Wow I’m such a hypocrite. Anyways…) It’s even more surprising considering that this brush is quite easy to stumble upon, and buy in the Western market compared to some of the other sticker-shocking brushes out there. The Surratt Brushes also aren’t brand new, though they are newer players in the world of high end brushes. It seems like most of Troy Surratt’s line is a copy pasta of Addiction Beauty’s aesthetic which is perfectly understandable because he says that his brand is inspired by Japanese cosmetics and seems to serve as the bridge between markets across continents. From Surratt Beauty’s website (I normally don’t complain about typography but I haaaate that font):

after visiting japan for the first time, troy fell in love with the unparalleled skill of japanese methods, and began a decade-long journey that led to the creation of surratt beauty, now comprised of 200 bespoke products. while developing surratt beauty, troy traveled back to japan countless times, seeking out the top tier of artisans, materials, and formulas, and then elevated each product to the next level of innovation.

I wouldn’t be surprised if his color cosmetic products have the same OEM as Addition Beauty or Three Cosmetics because things like the blushes and eyeshadows just look so darn similar. The Addiction line of brushes are OEM’d by Chikuhodo, so perhaps his makeup manufacturing contacts are the same as Addiction’s. In case you are confused, Addiction [Beauty] by Ayako is not on that list because the brand falls under the Kose Corporation umbrella. Fun fact. Troy Surratt worked under Kevyn Aucoin. And my favorite foundation from Kevyn Aucoin Beauty, the Sensual Skin Enhancer, is made in Japan. Perhaps, he retained some of his mentor’s contacts. This article suggests otherwise though,

Anyways, I didn’t get this brush at full price thanks to the winter Sephora 20% off sale and some gift cards but I will be reviewing it as if I did. If you think I am being too generous to it, please feel free to tell me off. I am not without bias though I try my best to be.

 

Presentation
Yup, presentation gets it’s own section. The brush may be Japanese made, but the packaging is everything you’d expect from a luxury beauty brand: cardboard. French cardboard to be specific. Hey, an actual box is miles better than the plastic slip that most Japanese brands deliver their brushes in, but I can’t help but wonder how much the fancy box added to the end cost. Then again, Surratt is targeting the Western markets and people here expect a certain level of niceness in presentation when shelling out any more than $50. Let’s be honest. I do too. The brush still comes with the plastic slip that keeps all the hairs in place and prevents the head from rubbing against the lining of the box and getting frizzy when it is brand new. I’ve had mine for near half a year before I even got around to taking pictures so that plastic slip is long gone. These pictures are heavily edited because I took these non-essential pics in the shittiest lighting possible. Sorry.

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Paper Sleeve, Box, Back of Sleeve

Anyhow, the box has a cover that slides off to reveal a velvet lined, slightly plush, removable insert equipped with an elastic band to hold the brush in place, should you choose to store and travel with it. I personally do not use the box because it’s too bulky and takes up too much space on my already chaotic vanity. It’s stored away in an obscure corner of somewhere, probably getting chewed up by moths. The only boxes I use and keep on display are the recycled-paper-shell-with-fabric-lining Koyomo ones and the wooden ones from some special Koyudo’s.

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Brush Specs
The Artistique Face Brush is a medium size powder brush made of grey squirrel hair. On my cheeks, it works as a blush brush. The brush head completely round from the ferrule, starts tapering from around halfway up the brush head, and ends in dome crown.  I’ve previously described the Chikuhodo Z-1 powder brush as an egg on a stick. Well the Surratt Face brush is even more like an egg on a stick as it is more tapered tip and has a pointed dome, like what you would find on the apex end of an egg. (See comparison section) Do keep in mind that I store and wash my brushes with a brush guard so it will be have a smaller width measurement than many other people’s. The Artisque Face Brush can puff up to about 30% more volume if you allow it to air-dry naked.

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Posted by on April 20, 2017 in Brush Reviews

 

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Spotted at Costco: Jumbo Bottle of SK-II First Treatment Essence

Found in the Costco between Barranca and Alton in the South of Irvine, California. This same sized bottle is $290 at Sephora so you save 35% on this.

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I’m seriously considering finding people to split it with then going back to get it.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2017 in On the Fence

 

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