A mainstay of the Asian diet has found a place in a Lawrence supermarket.
Lawrence's menu of low-fat, low-cholesterol eating has added an Asian dimension by making fresh sushi a carry-out option.
Every morning in SuperTarget's meat department, Mi Sang prepares an assortment of sushi for a stream of customers that has grown steadily since the concession opened with the store last year.
In addition to satisfying a craving for devotees of Asian food, Sang believes the sushi rolls she makes from rice, seaweed paper, fish and fresh vegetables answer the American infatuation with diet and demand for lively flavors.
``It's a very good food for diet and health,'' she said. ``The taste is very complicated because it's made of many things.''
Chuck Gonzales, the store's meat team leader, said he's been impressed with the public response to the sushi bar, the only one in Lawrence.
Sang is an employee of AFC Corp., a California-based company that runs in-store sushi concessions across the country.
``A lot of people from the university come in here and say, `Wow, you have sushi,''' Gonzales said.
Others, who are at first reluctant to try it, often let Gonzales appeal to their sense of adventurism.
``When I'm out there schmoozing with the guests, I tell them it's brain food. It makes a nice light lunch,'' he said.
Only three things truly are necessary to make sushi: a sushi roller, sticky rice and seaweed paper. The roller, which looks like a small, handheld bamboo window shade, creates tight, uniform logs from the rice-coated seaweed and whatever combination of fresh vegetables and fish is rolled up inside.
The presentation of well-made sushi can be dramatic. In addition to the sharp contrasts in color created by the deep green of the seaweed paper, the stark white rice and the filling, which might include a splash of red from crab meat or the orange of carrot, sushi also is a celebration of texture.
Soy sauce, a green horseradish called washabi and pickled ginger are the prescribed condiments.
Sang, a native Korean, says Americans have a negative perception of sushi, starting with the seaweed paper, which really has no cognate in local cuisine. Although sushi is a gift of the Japanese, it is appreciated throughout East Asia.
``Some people think it might be the skin of a fish but it's not,'' she said.
Newcomers to sushi also may take some comfort in the knowledge that the sushi Sang prepares contains no raw fish. Like the salmon, crab, shrimp and tuna, which are either smoked or steamed, even the eel has been cooked.
Sanghoon Lee, a Korean who is working on a doctorate in marketing at Kansas University, is a regular at Sang's sushi bar. He would just as soon be eating raw fish but even so is delighted to have sushi available locally. Sang's sushi is an authentic variation of what he eats at home.
``Some people make it sweet -- the rice is more sweet, some people make it less,'' he said. ``Some people put more stuff on the top. Everyone has their own secret recipes with special sauces.''
Before SuperTarget opened, Lee was making sushi runs into Kansas City at least weekly. Now, he said, ``I usually get the sushis more than seven times a week.''