For a seafood feast, Tsutomu Hoshi batters up some crab tempura
Tsutomu Hoshi has been making sushi for over 40 years, but he still remembers his days as an apprentice in Japan. While seated at Hoshi’s Sushi Bar, located at the entrance to the Sandbar Seafood Restaurant on Granville Island (1535 Johnston Street), the chef recalls the decade of training he was required to complete in order to master the Japanese art.
“In the first year, all you make is rice,” Hoshi tells the Georgia Straight of his training as a sushi chef. “The next year, you get to cut the fish. After more than three years, you finally start to make sushi. It’s a long time, about 10 years.”
In the 1970s, Hoshi moved to Vancouver with his family and began working at Aki Japanese Restaurant. Eventually, he opened his own, eponymous restaurant in Chinatown, which he operated for six years before closing it in 1993. Since 2001—a year after the Sandbar was launched—the chef has been overseeing Granville Island’s sole sushi bar.
Hoshi takes pride in his straightforward menu and in making the same traditional type of sushi he learned as an apprentice. Although he uses some local seafood and produce, many of his ingredients are imported from Japan.
“Some chefs like to use a lot of sauce. They fill the sushi with a lot of things. I prefer mine simple,” he says.
In 2012, Hoshi was featured in the local documentary Oh! Sushi: From the Land of the BC Roll With Love, demonstrating the process of making sushi from scratch. While he often makes sushi when he isn’t at the restaurant, Hoshi admits that it can be difficult for home cooks.
Instead, he advises those interested in Japanese cooking to make tempura with their favourite ingredients— anything from seafood to vegetables—and pair that with a lightly dressed salad for a satisfying meal. Hoshi says the soft-shell crab tempura below pairs well with light beers, crisp white wines, and cold sake.
Tsutomu Hoshi’s soft-shell crab tempura
3 soft-shell crabs, about 1.8 oz (50 g) each, fresh or frozen and defrosted
2 large eggs
2 cups (500 mL) canola oil
3 Tbsp (45 mL) potato starch or cornstarch
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 cup (250 mL) ponzu sauce
1 tsp (5 mL) sambal sauce
Lemon slices for garnish
- Clean fresh crabs by holding the crab in one hand and cutting the front of the crab (directly behind the eyes) using scissors. Lift one side of the top shell to locate and remove gills. Repeat on opposite side. Flip crab over and tug on the central apron to remove it. Rinse crabs well under cold water and pat dry. Once cleaned, they should be used immediately. If using frozen crabs, rinse well and pat dry. Gills and central apron should already have been removed.
- Using two small bowls, separate egg whites from yolks. Whisk egg whites with a hand whisk until they form soft peaks. Refrigerate yolks for another use.
- Pour oil into a large pot and, using a candy thermometer, bring oil to 350 ° F (180 ° C) over high heat. Once the target temperature is reached, monitor heat to ensure oil temperature stays consistent.
- Place potato starch in a small bowl. Dip each crab into egg whites and then potato starch. Crabs should be well coated.
- Carefully place crabs into hot oil, cooking about 5 minutes on each side, or until batter forms bubbles.
- Remove crabs from pot and place on paper towel to soak up extra oil. When crabs are cool to the touch, slice each in half.
- Mix green onion, ponzu, and sambal sauce in a small bowl. Serve this dipping sauce with the crabs and garnish plate with lemon slices.
Yield: 2 to 3 servings.
Recipe has not been tested by the Georgia Straight.