Daily Egyptian

Sushi class expands on traditional culinary art

By Chase Myers, @chasemyers_DE

Whether it is made with salmon, shrimp, squid or just plain veggies, sushi is not only a tasty Japanese tradition, but also a self-sufficient food item. 

With April marking Asian heritage month, the student center has held events throughout the month to celebrate the many traditions in past and present Asian culture.

One of the more popular events of the month was the weekly sushi-making class, in which anyone could learn the basics of preparing the seafood dish. 

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“People get tired of eating the same old steak and potatoes,” Ron Dunkel, coordinator of the Craft Shop in the student center said. “It’s easier to explore international food than to fly to a different country.” 

This is Dunkel’s 10th year as head chef and instructor for the class.  The first class began when a graduate student with a knack for cooking enrolled in a pottery class at the Craft Shop and began cooking sushi during the class, Dunkel said.

Unfortunately, due to safety regulations, the class had to use imitation crabmeat instead of authentic raw seafood, leaving the class to utilize various vegetables such as avocado, carrots, cucumber and radish, he said. 

“We had endless combinations of sushi,” he said. “Everybody made it how they wanted to make it.”

He said the class focused not only on preparing sushi, but also the food’s history in Asian culture. 

The early forms of sushi began as a raw seafood preservation method, where the fish would be wrapped in rice that would ferment over time as a starch and produce vinegar, keeping the seafood fresh.

The rolls we recognize today became popular in Japan after World War II when street vendors would serve quick meals to factory workers who were on a time crunch, he said.

“[Sushi] is evolving very fast in a lot of ways,” he said. “People are putting things in sushi that were never in sushi before…you can be creative with sushi and make it any way you want.”

A.J. Soriano, president of the United Asian American Council, oversaw the sushi making class as well as many other events for the month, working close with Dunkel as an advisor, Soriano said.

“I don’t think [the class is] going to get any smaller with people loving sushi,” he said.  “We’ve changed it up every year.”

One of the goals of this year’s sessions was to add some context behind actually crafting the sushi, he said.

“Sushi is fabulous without having that context,” he said.  “Once you add that context to it, it becomes more enjoyable … because you have that other appreciation for it.”

Tali Gleiser, a sophomore studying psychology and English from Gurnee, was one of the attendees. She said she feels the entire month is beneficial in preserving Asian culture.

“Events like that make people want to be more engaged, because a lot of people like sushi,” she said. “Then they threw in the heritage, so you learned a lot too.”

The future of the class looks bright, he said, with sushi becoming a more popular food and art form in America, especially among college students. 

“It really is kind of an art and each time you do it, you become better and better,” he said.

The events scheduled for Asian Heritage Month will conclude with a pesentation titled The Chinese Heroine Mulan at 4 p.m. on Thursday at the Guyon Auditorium. 

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