The secret life of: Shasha Liu

Annie Bartholomew/Sun Star Reporter
Sept. 17, 2013

Sushi chef Shasha Liu stands in front of her sushi bar at the Wood Center food court. Annie Bartholomew/Sun Star

During the Friday lunch rush, UAF students sort through bright packages of sushi in the cooler where Chinese immigrant Shasha Liu prepares the Japanese food. Liu’s hands move swiftly to chop and serve over 25 different sushi rolls, all freshly prepared at Wood Center Food Court.

Lui has operated the sushi bar for the last eight years, working with her father. Lui helps prepare the sushi that is sold at the university and the Fort Wainwright Commissary. Known simply as “Sasha” to her patrons, Lui speaks to anyone curious about sushi. “I love to talk to customers and try to help them,” Liu said. Unlike some sushi bars, Liu takes special orders for customers when they’re out of a certain roll, even when they’re busy. “All the time I make it for them, because I want to make my customers happy,” Liu said.

For the Lius, 7 a.m. in the morning isn’t early enough to start making sushi. Students who prefer sushi for breakfast pick up their product around 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. each day. “You never know, sometimes people want a wrap,” Liu said, “I get those ready so if they want some they can grab some because at 7 we’re already open.” The sushi bar goes through 160 packs of sushi, salads and dumplings in one day. “It’s really convenient just grab and go, and fresh daily,“ Lui said.

Liu moved to Alaska in 2003 with her 2-and-a-half year-old daughter. Her husband, who had been the top seller for the sushi chain, AFC Franchise Coporation at West Fred Meyer, taught her how to make sushi. According to Lui, she wasn’t always an experienced cook. Before she left China,  Liu grew up as an only child who never was interested in  cooking. When her parents visited Alaska two years ago, they were surprised to see her preparing food. “‘Shasha we can’t believe you are holding a knife cutting the sushi,’” Lui recalled.

Seismology student Adriana Rodriguez who’s worked at Polar Perk for the last seven months says Liu is very helpful.  “If I’m busy, and I’m here by myself she’ll come over and ask where things are and put them out for my customers.”

Lui believes anyone can make sushi and for students interested how, Liu is eager to share her trade. “I don’t mind whatever you ask I’ll tell you,” said Liu, “There’s no secret to keep.”

“The Secret Life…” is a series that will explore different people, organizations and lifestyles at UAF.

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