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Sushi for kids, with Makiko Sano

Restaurateur and author dishes up her life in food and the secrets of tempura-loving toddlers

Posted: 23 August 2013
by Fiona McKim

Makiko Sano
Verity, 7, showing the adults how it's done

I was born in Tokyo to quite a big family, I had 13 cousins and seven days a week we would all eat together round a big table. Everything we made was from scratch and we used a lot of vegetables that grew on my grandfather’s estate.

I learned sushi and tempura from my grandma, and I learned salads and side dishes from my mother. My mother was very strict about eating - I never tried a fizzy drink until I was a teenager.

I’m not too strict with my children (Verity, 7, older children Leon, Ellie and Pheobe) but I would rather give them sushi rolls than crisps. My children ate sushi from a very young age, but they don’t eat everything – they don’t like mushrooms and Leon’s not sure with broccoli!

Children are put off sushi because of the colour and the raw ingredients, they think it might be a bit alien. If parents want to encourage their children, I would say try not using seaweed, as the colour is not really appetizing to them, or have a little bit of rice with something on top but not necessarily a roll.

I used to run an after school club, I would bring all the ingredients, rice and the rolling mat, then show children how to make their own sushi. Children are quick learners so they can make loads, and they loved making it for their mums or dads to take home. I gave them lots of different vegetables and fish and they would be really creative.

If children weren’t sure, I would ask them to help me to make it – one boy would sit there not touching anything, so I said, 'I am going to make this for my children, can you help?' Gradually he could see other children eating it as well. So he said “I’m going to try one” and he loved it! If they don’t like sushi I won’t push it but give them a positive environment and at least they might try.

I would like to try writing a children’s cookbook, not only sushi, but other hot and cold that dishes my children love. Japanese food is so healthy as it’s less oily, we don’t use much fat and rice is so easy to digest. My family like making chicken katsu together so I fillet the chicken, verity does the salt pepper and flour, Sam the eggs and Leon the breadcrumbs. Interacting with children is what helps – try to make something that they like.

Sushi Slim by Makiko Sano is out now (£12.99, Quadrille)


chefs, sushi, eating, kids

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