Using too much soy sauce spoils delicious sushi so make sure to only put a bit of soy sauce in the special dish. Make sure to tilt the sushi to the side and put just a dab on the end of the topping. Gari can be used as a brush to apply soy sauce to sushi rolls since they cannot be tilted. However, there are differing opinions as to whether this is a refined way to eat or not. Many people say it was basically made up by a publishing company. You just need a few drops in the soy sauce cruet. Actually at very fancy establishments the sushi is served with Nikiri so normal soy sauce is never used for dipping.
It’s a well-known fact among professional chefs that some fish don’t rely solely on freshness. Of course there is importance in freshness, but that’s just one element. It’s generally understood that flavor and taste improve with time (maturity).
The umami* found in the meat of the fish is essentially inosinic acid and glutamic acid. After a certain amount of time has passed after a fish has died, the body stiffens and not long after that the rigor lets up. The inosinic acid, which the umami is composed of, comes after the fish has stiffened. It then accumulates in the process of the body relaxing. This is the same in beef and pork in which there is no umami in the meat unless it is hung and matured for a time.
Therefore, ikizukuri sashimi that is still twitching usually won’t have the taste or depth of umami. However, the firm texture of sashimi is also an undeniable enjoyable aspect. It is not all about the umami.
*Glutamic acid, Inosinic acid and Guanylic acid are representative components of umami. Guanylic acid is found in kelp and vegetables (tomato, Chinese cabbage, green tea, etc.) as well as Parmesan cheese, inosinic acid is found in fish (bonito, macheral, sea bream, etc.) and meat (pork, chicken, etc.) while Guanylic acid is abundant in mushrooms (especially dried shiitake mushrooms).
Fermented beverages such as sake and wine pair well with sushi. Sake is made from rice. So it only makes sense that this would pair well with sushi – also made with rice. It is also the only alcohol that eliminates the smell of fish and shellfish.
On the other hand, when considering compatibility with wine, toppings that use strong seasonings like Nikiri, including tuna and conger eel with sweet filling, match superbly with matured red wines such as Pinot Noir.
For example, Bourgogne Chambolle Musigny, Cote de Beaune, Morey-Saint-Denis, etc.
White wines such as a lighter Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling go well with white fish flavored with Citrus sudachi and yuzu or squid eaten with salt.
For example, Bourgogne Chablis.
However, neither red nor white wine goes well with herring or salmon roe. The iron specific to wine is said to contribute to the fishy smell of fish roe.
In the research of one wine manufacturer, the factor that generates the smell of fish and shellfish is the iron (ferrous ion) found in wine. Wines with relatively low levels of iron such as Sherry (Spain), Champagne (France) fermented twice in the bottle, Cava (Spain) and Franciacorta (Italy) mature without adding sulfite, which prevents oxidization. This reduces the ferrous ion in the wine and the fishy smell is virtually unnoticeable.
Either way, the research of wine and sushi pairings is still insufficient and there haven’t yet been any reports of unexpected compatibility. If anyone out there has found a wine that does pair well with herring or salmon roe, please be sure to share that information with us.
In some cases a two-piece sushi dish you can get for JPY 100 at Kaiten-zushi (Conver belt sushi) can cost up to 2,000 for half the volume at a fancy restaurant. Many Kaiten-zushi establishments are part of large chains so costs are kept low by buying in bulk.
Also, unlike the fancy restaurants, which procure the best seasonal catch from fishing grounds all over the country, Kaiten-zushi uses a combination of frozen and farmed fish as well as substituting some fish for certain toppings.
For example, Engawa is often thought to be from Japanese flounder, but Pacific halibut or Greenland halibut is used instead as a substitute.
While different from fancy sushi restaurants that serve various seasonal fish and edomaeshigoto, Kaiten-zushi has its own merits and offers sushi at a much lower price. It’s really up to the customer what they hope to get from their sushi experience.