Sushi and sake, served with a side of humor |

Sushi and sake, served with a side of humor

Jeanne McGovern
The Aspen Times
Jeanne McGovern/The Aspen Times

Chef Ming Tsai makes throwing a sushi-rolling party seem easy. Of course the party you throw would be missing one key ingredient — Tsai himself.

With his trademark sense of humor (including a few off-color but hilarious “tasteless chef jokes”), Tsai walked an audience at the St. Regis through the ins and outs of rolling its own sushi during a Friday afternoon Food & Wine seminar called “Sushi Rolling Party.”

And a party it was. In signature Tsai fashion, the chef started off his show by mixing himself a cocktail, in this case, a crisp cucumber sake-tini, shaken to perfection and served in a martini glass. In fact Tsai, who owns two wildly popular restaurants in the Boston area — Blue Ginger and Blue Dragon — says sake is a must on your sushi menu.

“Anyone can throw a sushi party. They’re fun. Just start with the sake and …” he said, raising his glass to the crowd.

And to the sushi side of the shindig, Tsai — whose public television program, “Simply Ming,” offers hands-on cooking lessons — noted the most important parts of the sushi-making process: the bamboo rolling mat, nori sheets, sticky rice and just about anything you might want to include in your rolls.

For kids, he suggested panko-crusted chicken fingers; for adults, fresh fish and vegetables are the call. Serrano chiles are also a tasty addition and, Tsai joked, the perfect way to spice up a party.

“So you take a bite,” he said, pointing to the very tip of the chile, “and then have your friends take a bite.” The bite to this story: the chile gets notably — if not unbearably — hotter beyond that first nibble.

Keeping the momentum rolling for the entire 45-minute class — including a shout-out to chef Mario Batali in the seminar room next door (Batali did not respond, leading Tsai to dub him a “prima donna”) — Tsai wrapped it up by plating several different rolls, cut in different styles, and taking questions from the audience. Among them, what sauces to serve with sushi rolls (aioli is always good); what to drink besides sake (beer or sauvignon blanc); and a request for more jokes (which Tsai accepted but wondered if next year, organizers of the Classic might move him from cooking on the food stage to the telling jokes on the street corner).

Not likely, as Tsai’s “Sushi Rolling Party”was a highlight of the seminar schedule, as usual.

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