Japanese-Style Lobster Cooking in NYC

lobster sashimi

I’ve been writing a book on food and travel, which I have mentioned briefly in prior posts. It will be released in the fall, and I cannot wait to share it with you. It’s full of practical tips for travel and finding food as you do so, many food photos (of course!) and narrative threaded throughout. As a reward for what has been several months of self-imposted hermitage (I noted to a friend that I was a “filthy blogger living in a pile of words,” which is pretty much what it felt like these last weeks), I took a lobster sashimi cooking class in New York. We each made maki rolls topped with sashimi from the tail, lobster miso soup and lobster claw hand rolls with shiso leaf, avocado and cucumber.

cooking class in new york
Lobster white miso soup with scallions.

Unsurprisingly, it was delicious.

Step-by-Step: My Lobster Cooking Class in New York

We started with the live lobster. Of course, I had to name mine, despite the advice of my classmates who suggested I not name an animal I was about to kill. I named him Lester.

cooking class in new york
Sorry Lester…

Step one was cutting off the tail with a swift incision. The swiftness was to ensure the quickest death, though I quickly learned that while the lobster was technically dismembered, he still thought he was alive – both claws and tail kept moving, separately. Yes, this is as creepy as it sounds.

cooking class in new york
Removing the lobster tail.
Lobster cooking class
The 6 of us working on our lobster tail skills.

Step two was removing the tail meat itself, cutting away the cartilage and scooping out the raw lobster. The meat was blanched for a short few seconds, then immediately dunked into an ice bath. We dried the meat off in paper towels and set aside.

Lobster tail and head
Yes, I only included this photo because it looks as though the lobster is about to take the knife and get back at all of us…

The heads of the lobsters were cut into two and boiled in water for 20 minutes, to use as a base for our miso soup.

Lobster claws and head before
Lobster claws and head before….
Lobster claws and head after cooking for 20 minutes
Lobster claws and head after cooking for 20 minutes.

In the interim, we sliced avocado, set out our accoutrements for the maki – rolling bamboo mats, shiso leaf, thinly sliced cucumbers (Persian cucumbers preferred, said our instructor Misako) and nori.

Shiso leaf
I love the wavy edges of shiso leaf.
Sushi-making accoutrements
Sushi-making ingredients.

We rolled up mini-maki of shiso, avocado and cucumber, topped with our lobster sashimi.

Lobster maki
My very own Lester-lobster-maki.

Finished product:

Jodi Ettenberg
A great evening.

And one more of the miso soup:

Lobster miso soup
Finished soup!

After centring my energy on writing for so long, I was very happy to have found out about this course at the last-minute.

Some notes from the course.

  • According to Misako, lobsters get “quiet” when you  put them on ice, but you should be careful never to put them in or under tap water. Ice only to sedate them prior to using.
  • For buying sushi rice, she suggests a Japanese or Asian grocer where turnover is quicker, and recommends either Kagayaki Select or Tamaki Gold brands.
  • For sushi vinegar, instead of making her own she used Mitsukan-brand sushi vinegar, pre-mixed for us. If you have an issue with MSG, then making your own with 4 tbsp rice vinegar, 4 tbsp sugar and 2 tsp of salt is recommended.

More soon, but I wanted to post an update on the book’s progress since it figures so largely in my own head and schedule.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer!

41 thoughts on “Japanese-Style Lobster Cooking in NYC”

  1. You are so so so brave to cut the tail off while it was living. I can’t even pick the fish out of a live tank for the cook to eat because we’ve made eye contact. Nor can i eat lobster if it’s head is attached. It makes me sad.. The closest i’ve gotten is eating live shrimp in Japan called Drunken shrimp which i didn’t know were alive. I almost died..

    1. Our relationship with our food is a very personal thing. I don’t have an issue with those things but I also really want to know where my food comes from, and I know not everyone feels that way. Thanks for reading!

  2. A lobster post is never a bad post. [Drool.] Congratulations on the book! The 2nd to last picture would make a great photo to accompany the author bio.:)

  3. If the lobster took hold of that knife and exacted revenge, I think you’d have a high-quality B horror movie on your hands.

    Congrats on finishing the book–can’t wait to read it!

  4. Congrats on finishing the book! Look forward to checking it out in the Fall. Does your book cover destinations all over the world, more SE Asia…what’s the focus?

    And love the lobster! :)

  5. The soup and the rolls look delicious!

    I did not know that lobsters still think they are alive after you cut off the tail, so imagine my surprise when the tail curled around my wrist as I was holding it! Not a lovely moment :)

    Congratulations on your book…I am thrilled for you!

  6. Congrats on finishing the book and that cooking class sounds awesome! I love to cook and would happily take cooking classes in the US but they’re just so expensive here! I’m looking forward to traveling through Asia and taking market/cooking classes everywhere since it’s so much more affordable over there!

  7. I love lobster and this seems like a super fun -and delicious – class! And congratulations on your book!

  8. Japanese cuisine is my favorite and the food is what I miss most from my time living in Japan. I’ve never actually had miso soup with lobster, but I really should. Like right this moment. Thanks for sending me off on a fruitless search for a good Japanese restaurant here in Kathmandu.

  9. I am glad it was killed fast not boiled.. I ate a lobster recently but i felt so guilty about tearing it apart limb by limb i wont eat another one – you look so sweet – hard to imagine you tearing into an innocent animal

  10. Ooh that’s exciting news about the book, Jodi! Travel + food = LOVE. Can’t wait to read your tips :)

    Lobsters do kind of creep me out a little bit and that face shot of Lester (R.I.P.) doesn’t help things either. At least he turned out to be delicious on the inside as the shots of the finished product go to show.

  11. Jodi,

    I only just found your website via twitter, and have been going back and reading many of your outstanding adventures from the past several years. Your book sounds like it is going to be amazing – as a new blog reader, I am excited to the finished product, and look forward to your commentary. Congratulations on a major accomplishment!

  12. Heya Jodi,
    I recently discovered your site and have enjoyed my hours going through your trips, tips and interviews! Really looking forward to the book when it’s all dusted…
    Just a couple of questions about your photography (which is epic by the way)…
    Do you only use the pancake lens for your food shots?
    Also, how many other lenses do you use regularly? (I presume one is the 14-42mm that seems to come standard with the E-P3…)

    1. Hi there – thank you for reading. I primarily use the pancake lens for food photos, though it’s all I brought with me on my trip through morocco and turkey – I tend to use it as my main lens, even though it’s not the right pick for landscapes. I also carry at 14-42mm which was the kit lens. That’s it! Used to keep an S90 with me (canon) as a small P&S but recently gifted it to my mum; I might pick up the S100 as I quite like it.

  13. Hi Jodi! I met you at The World Domination Summit in 2011 where you “allegedly” had your first public speaking engagement…allegedly b/c I am still not sure I believe you hadn’t done public speaking many times before. :-) Anyway – if your first book is anything like your first speech, it will definitely be a big hit. Can’t wait to see it in the stores.

    As for the lobster sushi class, it looked so delicious, but yeah – I’m too much of a softie. I never would have made it past seeing the little guy eyeball to eyeball. Glad you have more guts than I do.

  14. Congratulations on finishing the book! Cannot wait to pick it up. I am sure you will post when it is available, off to Indigo I will go! Thanks for letting me arm-chair travel with you.

  15. Congrats on finishing your book! I have been following your blog for quite sometime now, and I’ve finally got the courage to post a comment! The lobster maki looks delicious.

  16. My Travel Affairs

    It looks like a cool thing to do, not that I have much passion for cooking but definitely eating is ha ha ha
    Congratulations on making it right, looks quiet complicated…

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