I'm quite a fan of sushi, as long-time readers may be aware, so when I popped into my local Iceland today and discovered they now stock a seemingly heretical frozen variety, I was surprised, not to say utterly dumbfounded.
But this is occasionally a blog about convenience foods as well as about making things from scratch, and this appears to be a convenience food (until you read the instructions, that is). It's also a rare day that I'll say no to the idea of eating sushi.
The first thing to remember about sushi is that, ideally, it's prepared fresh, and preferably right in front of you. Most folks in the UK with experience of sushi will have eaten in at the likes of Yo! Sushi, though London is certainly not lacking proper sushi restaurants. The very idea of freezing this form of Japanese cuisine is surely anathema to those who spend years training to prepare it in a restaurant, but I'm hardly going to let that stop me, am I?
Well played, Iceland - challenge accepted.
And so, first, we address the elephant in the room, the disparity, the downright oxymoron that is 'fresh frozen'. The Kanikama Luxury Sushi Collection describes itself as "Authentic Hand Crafted Sushi" and, more specifically "Ready to eat cooked rice with raw salmon, cooked shrimp, crab flavour surimi, wasabi, soy sauce and vegetables." The basic instruction is to "Defrost & Serve", but therein lies the first problem. According to the detailed instructions, it takes 2-3 hours to defrost the product "at room temperature" (and one has to wonder which room, and at what time of year they use for their definition of 'room temperature'). Alternatively - and especially for high summer - the set can be defrosted by storage in the fridge, but this takes between 6-8 hours, followed by 5-10 minutes at room temperature. For those who just can't wait, it can also be defrosted in the microwave, in about 2 minutes on Medium power... followed by 10-15 minutes at room temperature.
All the while, the condiments - wasabi paste, soy sauce and pickled ginger strips - must be defrosted separately "under cold running water for 5-10 minutes" or "at room temperature for 20-30 minutes"... so, even when using a microwave, this is hardly a quick snack. It's also worth noting that the instructions basically caution against using a microwave, on the grounds that it's likely to start cooking the salmon which, as everyone but Sainbury's seems to know, is not what you do with sushi. I used the microwave for mine as I didn't fancy waiting 2-3 hours for my dinner when I got home this evening, and I must confess to deliberately overdoing it in the microwave, just to ensure it was properly thawed.
The end result, perhaps surprisingly, is not as vile as one might expect. The rice isn't waterlogged, the fish has a decent texture though it's very light on flavour versus what you might experience in a restaurant. The salmon is ridiculously easy to overcook by microwave thawing, but that's true of just about any piece of frozen salmon you'd care to risk defrosting in a microwave.
In each pack, you get 3 California Pinwheels (small rolls with seemingly random content), 3 Salmon Nigiri (fairly bland, but not offensively so), 2 Shrimp Nigiri (never my favourite, not least because of the tails), 1 Salmon Hosomaki (which looked suspiciously blobby) and 1 Surimi Hosomaki (essentially fake crabstick pieces in a seaweed-wrapped roll). It's a decent selection, but presents only a light snack for one. The set also includes its own chopsticks, for convenience, and, while there's a reasonable quantity of wasabi (which was, for my preference, of better than reasonable quality), the sachet of soy sauce was insufficient, and hand to be topped up from my own supply. I didn't try the pickled ginger because I'm not a fan... and because I accidentally left it in the packaging during the microwave thawing, so it ended up a bit soggy.
I certainly wouldn't recommend this to anyone as an introduction to sushi. Please, try it first made properly fresh from a halfway decent restaurant (or, failing that, Yo! Sushi). For a sushi connoisseur, this would probably be inadequate in every sense, if not outright insulting... but, for £3, this is certainly better than I'd expected. I'm not sure I'll ever choose to have it again, given that I work near a Yo! Sushi and have access to the myriad sushi restaurants in and around London, but I suppose it's nice to know it's available in Iceland's cabinets, should one find oneself craving a better brand of junk food.