The art of making sushi is a special and well guarded craft in Japan. It takes anything between 8 – 10 years to become a fully fledged Itamae, or sushi chef. You learn the ropes from the ground up and often start with cleaning the kitchen floors. It takes years before you are actually allowed to the touch the fish and even then, you begin with the cheaper fish and work your way up to the premium stuff. I respect their craft but I don’t know if I have that kind of patience. For me, it is just nice to be able draw inspiration from a meticulousness that is so far removed from the Nigerian style of cooking, and see where the two cultures can meet.
In the context of this dish, on this occassion, this means thinking about the ratios of the components. Too much rice will make it too bland tasting, and too much red goat will bleed into the bright white rice and disrupt the colour parity. The avocado is there for balance. It is to act as a creamy emollient; a tool to unite the mild piquancy of the rice and the emphatic heat of the goat meat or asun.
Speaking of asun, I recently realised that I like my mine cooked a little differently to most people. ‘How do you mean,’ I hear you ask. LOL. Here’s what I mean:
a) I like it a tad more moist and stewy than the traditional grilled version
b) I prefer it without all the wobbly, hairy, gnarly bits because frankly those just freak me out
c) I enjoy it incorporated into other things, not just on its own
d) I like it gamey but not too gamey so I avoid buying male goats as they stink more. Your butcher will confirm that this is true.
That said, I will still happily order asun when I am out. It’s just that when I am cooking it myself, I like to tailor it to exactly what I want. I find that my method also makes it a little bit more versatile to experiment with. Case in point, this recipe. Admittedly, when I am making this recipe, I tend to shred/pull the meat quite finely to make it easier to roll. When I am making asun to eat, I leave the pieces as larger, perhaps 1-inch cubes of meat. Both ways, I like it slathered in my special sauce.
Here is my recipe which works whether you are making simple asun cubes or these rolls.
1 kg goat meat
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 small tomato
3 tatase peppers (or bell peppers if you are abroad)
3 scotch bonnet peppers
Stock cube (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
5 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 Avocado, thinly sliced
1 cup of cooked sushi rice, cooked according to package directions. I always add a tiny bit of sugar and a splash of rice wine vinegar to mine
1 pack of nori (that’s the seaweed paper that sushi gets wrapped in)
- Wash the goat meat, cut it into cubes, discarding all the creepy bits, and place in a pot.
- Add one of the onions, a couple teaspoons of salt, the bay leaf, and dried thyme. Boil until the goat is very tender, then remove from the heat. If you have a pressure cooker, use it, it is quicker! Set the goat aside once cooked.
- While the goat is cooking, blend the remaining onion, the scotch bonnets, and the tatase in a blender or food processor with a tiny bit of water to help it move around, but try not to water it down.
- Next, heat the oil in a frying pan, and then pour in the blended onion and pepper mixture.
- Season with salt and let this mixture fry until a delicious sauce is formed. Add a splash of the goat stock to loosen and add further flavour. Cook this until the flavours meld and then take off the heat.
- Now take the goat meat cubes out of the stock, and place it in a bowl.
- Pour over the delicious pepper sauce and mix well.
- If you are in need of asun, then you can enjoy and serve it just like this, however, if you are keen to make these delicious rolls then get two forks and begin to pull the saucy goat meat cubes apart into fine shreds. This is to make it easier to roll in the nori.
- Place 1 sheet of nori on your sushi mat and then place a small amount of the sushi rice down one side. Wetting your fingers before you handle the rice helps it not to stick as much to your fingers.
- On top of the rice, place a a line of avocado strips and then a line of the spicy pulled goat meat.
- Using your mat, roll the nori gently but firmly and when you get to the end, use water to glue down the end of the nori. Slice the roll and serve.