Chef’s Profile: Mark Oosthuizen of Fushin

Mark Oosthuizen of Fushin. Picture: Salvelio Meyer

WHEN it comes to sushi and inspired Asian cuisine there are few spots in Port Elizabeth where you are likely to find it fresher, and more delectable, than at Fushin  in Richmond Hill.
Owner Mark Oosthuizen, today’s featured chef on The Global Table, is originally from the Bay, having started his career at a small Japanese eatery in the city in 1999.
The desire to expand his knowledge of Asian cuisine took Mark, 29, to Cape Town, where he was soon working alongside the best in the business, among them four Japanese and Singaporean master chefs at the V&A Waterfront’s  Willoughby’s & Co.
During his three-and-a-half year stint there he also catered for film stars like Nicholas Cage, Samuel L Jackson and Vin Diesel during their stay in the Mother City.
“I got married in 2003 and, with much consideration and hard hours behind me, decided to take a leap of faith, without finances and with little knowledge of running a business besides what I’d  learnt during my apprenticeship,” Mark recalled.
Thanks to backing by a friend of his, Fushin opened in 2004, first as  a small catering concern trading from a single garage and then moving to its first premises in Sea Point near the end of 2006. The Oosthuizens relocated to the Bay in 2007, following the birth of their son, and Fushin Sushi Bar opened at the PE Harbour in 2008.
Since August last year it’s had its own sleek premises in Stanley Street, where a full sushi bar serves exotic dishes like Norwegian salmon, Australian eel, soft-shell crab, Alaskan snow crab and Peruvian scallops.
They also do traditional Kobe Japanese-style cooking thanks to a new robata grill, as well as  tempura and Asian tapas like Hoisin Duck Pancakes or  Stuffed Giant Squid – the latter being the recipe Mark is sharing on today’s blog.
Simply scroll down for the recipe and a Q&A with Mark.
* Calling all chefs! Mail  us at liebenbergl@avusa.co.za if you want to be considered for inclusion on the blog.

Fushin's Asian-style stuffed squid. Picture: Salvelio Meyer

Fushin's Asian-style stuffed squid. Picture: Salvelio Meyer

Mark’s recipe: Asian-style stuffed East Coast or “giant” squid

One of the advantages of living on SA’s East Coast is the variety of excellent produce, says Mark – export-quality seafood is also available to the local market if you know where to look.
“Our local harbour (Nelson Mandela Bay) has seafood retailers that can provide the freshest the ocean has to offer, one of these gems being the giant squid.”
You’ll need several thawed East Coast or giant squids, allowing about one large squid per person. Keep the tentacles as you’ll use them later.
Mark has not supplied specific quantities for the ingredients as he believes you should let your tastebuds guide you with this dish.

For the stuffing you will need:
A quantity of cooked basmati or sushi rice depending on the number of squids to be stuffed; par-boiled prawns or scampi; 7-Spice Japanese chili powder; A touch of Japanese mayonnaise or wholegrain mustard; fresh spring onions, finely chopped; carrots, finely chopped; a soya reduction (“just a couple of drops to add colour and a bit of sweetness”).

Method: Gently mix the stuffing ingredients in a large bowl; do not break the grains.
Par-boil the squid in a bit of salt and sugar water (“remember when seasoning to keep original flavours always to use salt and sugar, otherwise you’ll have to balance it out later”).
Use a tablespoon to scoop the mixture into each squid. Very importantly, make sure to work it right down to the base of the tube.
Without breaking the tube, make sure it is nice and full.
Fill a small pot half way with oil and fry the tentacles, which have been lightly dusted in flour. Don’t over-fry them or they’ll become dry.
Take a smooth skillet or cast-iron griddle pan if you have one.
Blend a bit of Cajun spice, garlic butter or lemon butter and fry the squid, lightly browning it on most sides. This should go fairly quickly – don’t overcook.
Garnish a plate with a line of mayo (you can use flavoured variations or sauce) using a customised plastic tomato sauce dispenser.
Gently slice the squid into 1cm rings using a sharp, non-serrated knife, starting at the head and working your way through.
Now place the knife under the squid after cutting and slowly lift up the entire dish and transfer it onto a plate, then slowly pull out the knife.
Garnish the squid with the fried tentacles and a touch of spring onion and red lumpfish caviar – generics are available in most supermarkets.
This makes a great main course but you can also serve individual slices as tapas or canapes.
You can prepare the squids the night before for a better setting result, as they will just take two minutes to finish before serving.

Q&A with Fushin’s Mark Oosthuizen

1. When and how did your love of cooking start?
After leaving school and with funds for studying being limited, I wanted to work in a restaurant to gain some form of experience and income. I fell in love with  Japanese cooking and strived to become a chef. After a few years I decided to seek a mentor and found one in Cape Town. The rest is history. I’ve been a professional chef for 12 years now.

2. What is the best part of running your own restaurant?
Nothing beats the satisfaction of seeing customers’ joy when we do our best. We also have more freedom to experiment with great food.

3. Specialising in sushi means freshness is optimum. How do you ensure you only use the freshest and the best?
Fushin and our team of dedicated chefs strive every day to work with only the best ingredients. The recipe is simple – do homework and more homework; stay on top of your food stock use and order every day for that day. Ninety percent of the stock we use in the restaurant is imported or procured from the bigger cities; due to logistics we have to work through mediators and agents in these cities and rely on them to procure the freshest stock, which is flown in almost daily.

4. Which dishes on your menu do you consider personal favourites?
Starters include traditional age dashi tofu, or Matthew’s salmon roses. I also enjoy our tapas or canape-style dining – the duck pancakes and our stuffed squid are favourites. For dessert, our mascarpone martini or home-made halva ice-cream are a winner.

5. You use some unusual ingredients (by western standards) in some of your dishes. Tell us about a few.

We use a lot of seaweed, which is misconceived as an ingredient as it is in almost 80% of everyday products, from dairy and beauty to medicine and food. Although consisting of many different textures and flavours, they add a unique taste to dishes like our Japanese salads or wonton soup.
Ginger is used quite a lot too, predominantly as a palate cleanser and not really part of the actual meal.
Other special ingredients are fish- and spice-based ingredients like katsobushi or bonito flakes (they look like wood shavings and give tremendous flavour to dressings and sauces).
A lot of our seafood is also quite specialised, such as Alaskan snow crab, soft-shell crab, octopus and langoustines; our Peruvian scallops are also fantastic and versatile.

6. When cooking for yourself, at home, what type of food would you make in a flash?
I love seafood, but anything else can go quickly too as long as I’ve prepared for it – a little planning goes miles towards a great, simple meal. I also enjoy couscous as it’s quick and versatile. When time is not an issue, I like cooking slower dishes too, like lamb shanks in red wine or a thick, spicy tomato and basil-based curry.

7. What is the best advice you can offer someone considering a career as a chef or restaurateur?
Do not anticipate fame and glory. Success is determined by your drive to serve others. Work hard and push yourself and everything will follow.

8. Which three ingredients are your current favourites and why?
If used correctly, Kikkoman soya sauce delivers something wonderful to even the most boring of dishes; I adore its versatility for sauce bases or as a flavourant.
Secondly, fire – yes, raw wood or charcoal in a 400-degree burning fire! Whether it’s done in a wok, pan or on a grid, or like we do with our banana-wrapped linefish on the coals (only served seasonally), there’s nothing like high heat to preserve the natural flavours of food.
Finally, I love Nomu’s spice range – we use it for our cajun-grilled prawns on the coals and it’s chunky and full of smoky aromas. They also do chef ranges – on my Cape Town menu I had a dish for almost every one of their spices. Tracy (Foulks) and her team are very passionate about quality. Also, it’s a lactose-free product, hence no moo (cow; milk – get it?).

9. Which kitchen tools can’t you live without?
You can take it all, just don’t take my knives! I also love my butane gun – if the staff give me problems…

10. Where do you draw the inspiration and ideas for your various dishes from?
From my mentors and from world food leaders like Ferran Adria or Nobu Matsuhisa; also, my local mentors Sam and Arrata Koga, from Genki in Stellenbosch.

11. Would you say a sushi culture has started developing in Port Elizabeth?
Definitely. When I left for Cape Town nearly nine years ago sushi was a myth even to me, and I was in training and working with it daily. It’s become a trend around South Africa and if you take pioneers like Willoughby’s and Tokyo (the restaurant), they pulled through and persevered with a handful of Japanese chefs who know their trade.
Sushi has since become a way of life, particularly for the health orientated. A concern today is that we have many locally trained chefs without sufficient experience – and restaurants that want to follow the trend.
Quality versus quantity can make the world of difference. I want to urge our local sushi community not to lose the quality of our products and serve sub-standard sushi for financial gain. Rather entice consumers into this wonderful world of variation with passion!

12. Do you have any favourite kitchen / cooking tips you would like to share?

Your knife should be an extension of your hand. A dull knife is a dangerous knife; you can keep it relatively sharp by using the back of one of your old ceramic bowls or flat-bottomed ceramic mugs (no ridges).
On the cooking side, reductions are great and very versatile. I love them smoky or with balsamic, soya or red wine. Instead of tossing your old red wine, use it to slow-cook a nice reduction that you can serve on a fillet or in a pasta-based dish; it can even lend a twist to a nice dessert.

Visit fushin at www.fushin.co.za or call Mark on 082-895-2707.

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