Salmon caught in the chilly rivers of Hokkaidō, Japan’s northernmost island, is utterly delicious and the natives there take great pride in their salmon cookery. Box lunches made from local produce and seafood are sold to travelers in many train stations throughout Japan, and the station of Asahigawa, Hokkaidō, is famous for its pressed salmon sushi, called Daisetsu Oshi-Zushi. The name derives from the station’s location at the foot of Mount Daisetsu, which means “Big Snows.”
Lightly salted lox is very similar in taste and texture to the Japanese shaké (salmon), and although the original prototype of this sushi dish is made in a special wooden box lined with bamboo leaves, a shallow, round tart plate with a removable bottom makes a marvelous substitute for the original mold.
I’ve added dill, a Western herb, to the original Japanese sea herb flakes, since it goes so well with salmon and rice. Unlike other kinds of fish sushi, made from raw ingredients, this dish must be prepared several hours in advance of serving.
Remove the bottom flat circle of metal from a shallow
With a pastry brush, paint one side of the slices of smoked salmon lightly with the lemon juice. Fit these slices, painted side down, into the lined tart plate so that the entire
Mix the horseradish powder with the cold water and stir to make a paste. Spread this paste thinly but evenly over the salmon with your fingertips or a brush.
Dampen your hands in cold water and scoop up half the seasoned rice and press it into the salmon-lined tart plate, making an even layer from it. Dampen the flat metal disk (the bottom of the tart plate that you previously removed and set aside) in cold water and use it to evenly press down and compact this layer of rice. Typically, the rice will be compressed to half its original height. Remove the metal disk.
Mix the chopped dill with the sea herb flakes and scatter this mixture evenly across the flattened surface of rice. Using the remaining rice, fill the tart plate with it and compact it evenly, as you did the first layer. Remove the flat metal disk and cover the rice with clear plastic wrap. Replace the flat metal disk and place weights on top of it. Books, bricks, even potatoes are fine; you should have at least 5 pounds of pressure but no more than 10. Make sure that the first weight you place on the metal disk is small and flat; most paperback books are perfect for this job. Let the sushi tart rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour and up to 3.
In a clean, dry skillet, roast the sesame seeds over medium-high heat for 30–40 seconds until a few pop. Shake the pan to keep the seeds in motion. Set aside.
When ready to serve the sushi, remove the weights and invert the filled tart plate. Remove the rim of the tart plate and peel off the clear plastic wrap. Decorate the outer rim of the sushi with the black sesame seeds. With a sharp knife, cut the sushi “tart” into twelve wedges. Wipe the blade of your knife on a damp kitchen towel between slices to keep the rice from sticking to it. Slip a metal spatula dampened with cold water under each wedge of sushi (leave the clear plastic wrap behind) to transfer the pieces to your serving platter. Provide soy sauce for dipping, if you like.
© 1985 Elizabeth Andoh. All rights reserved.