Japanese Style, American Flair: New Cookbook Brings Sushi into the Kitchen

During her bout as sushi chef at Tsunami's in Beverly Hills, Tracy Griffith knew she would get customers of all kinds.  But not even being the first female graduate at the California Sushi Academy could have prepared her for the one request that dinner guests asked almost every night.

"I don't like raw fish.  What can you make me?"

Despite the initial shock of the request, Griffith said she tried to appease her guests, sneaking cooked items like steak and chicken into the sushi.  As unusual as the sushi turned out, guests loved her concoctions.  As more requests for non-fishy sushi came in, Griffith found herself getting imaginative with the traditional Japanese cuisine.

As the popularity of sushi started to grow, Griffith decided to bring her creativity to American kitchens in her new book, Sushi American Style. 

"I know so many people who would like to make sushi at home but don't want to deal with fish," she said.  The book, using explicit instructions and colorful pictures, takes potential cooks step by step through the process of preparing sushi at home. 

Most of the ingredients are easy to find in most major supermarkets.  The few specialty ingredients, such as nori (the seaweed used to wrap sushi), can also be found at the supermarket, usually in the Asian section.

Cordon Bleu Roll

Perhaps the most appealing factor of the book is that it contains a variety of recipes that even the most apprehensive sushi eater can enjoy.  "The ingredients are American, but the techniques are still Japanese," Griffith said. 

Although she uses ingredients like fried chicken, green beans and bacon in her recipes, all of her creations use the same basic rice mixture essential to sushi. 

Griffith often faced much criticism for digressing from traditional sushi recipes.  And to top it off, colleagues immensely disliked that she was female.  After a bit of rough training at the sushi academy, however, Griffith finally got her first job as a chef at Tsunami's, which she believed was due more to her bright red hair than her skills.  But it was at Tsunami's that she perfected her sushi style - including her "American" sushi.

In coming up with recipes, Griffith said she tried to think of things that would taste good with white bread or a neutral substance.  The result was American-style sushi like the BLT roll and the Dixie chicken roll. 

Dixie Chicken Roll

Other tasteful inventions include the crunchy catfish roll, with its southern Cajun flavor, and the classy cordon bleu roll with its chicken, ham and Swiss cheese.  For the traditional Japanese sushi lovers, Griffith includes several conventional recipes using tuna and salmon.

Sushi American Style also includes a number of dessert recipes using the versatile sushi rice.  Pastel Delights, a dessert sushi that uses colored rice paper instead of the traditional nori, uses pineapple, honeydew and cantaloupe to turn sushi rice into a sweet treat that is perfect after any heavy meal. 

Other dessert sushi includes one of Griffith's personal favorites, the Elvis roll, created and named after the King's beloved snack combination: peanut butter, bananas and bacon.  Yes, bacon. 

Author Tracy Griffith

For those completely enraptured by the versatility of sushi, Griffith also includes tips for holding "roll-your-own" sushi parties.  She gives advice on what ingredients to provide and how to teach your guests the proper art of sushi rolling.  For the more advanced learners, parties also serve as a way to show off your own sushi skills.

Sushi American Style works for almost anyone who enjoys sushi or anyone who just wants to try something innovative.  Those who have had a bit of cooking experience will find it a bit easier than those who have not, but that's to be expected.  Either way, the book's colorful pictures and Griffith's personable instructions can make even novice cooks try their hands at sushi.

Griffith's book, retail priced at $22.50, is now available at most major bookstores.  For more information, visit www.clarksonpotter.com

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