This is a list of 10 must-try sushi toppings in November. This is when Zuwaigani (Snow crab) fishing season opens. Kanbirame is caught in mid-winter. Its meat is so firm that when bitten into your teeth almost bounce back.
If you visit a premium sushi restaurant, such as one that places piles of salt by the entrance for good fortune, you’ll notice there are no price displays.
There’s not even a menu. All you find is a slab of wood hanging down the wall with names of the daily offerings such as Conger Eel (anago) or Spotted Shad (kohada).
This is not a place to get angry and ask how customers can order without knowing the price. First time customers may not know the market price and worry about budget, resolving to pay with a credit card if they don’t have enough cash in their wallet.
I guess you could say that sushi restaurants that don’t display prices are accepted by customers as being more traditional, like the old days. But actually, at pre-war sushi restaurants, there were wooden panels that listed prices such as “Fatty Tuna: 2000 yen”. It was during the 1960s that they stopped displaying prices.
The 60s was the start of an era of high-growth in Japan. Prices were rising rapidly and sushi prices also went up drastically. At the same time, the business practice of entertaining clients was gaining popularity and suddenly about 80% of the clientele of high-quality sushi restaurants were these types of business groups, rather than individual customers.
In situations like these, if there was a sign that read “Medium Fatty Tuna: 3000 yen” then it makes it difficult for the business guest to order what they like, without worrying about the price. Considering the total bill, they may also order fewer dishes than they want. As you can see, this practice of not displaying prices at sushi restaurants was in consideration for the business customers who were entertaining clients, as well as those being entertained as clients. At the same time, the well-known “Omakase” was created, the “chef’s choice” system in which the customer orders a menu created by the chef on the spot.
There are many different things all over the world that are share the name “sushi”. However, when Japanese people hear this word they think of “nigiri sushi”. Of course outside of Japan, it probably more commonly refers to sushi rolls.
Similarly, the way soy sauce is used also differs greatly between people in Japan and those in other countries. The soy sauced used for nigiri sushi is not used to add salty flavor to the sushi. The reason it’s used is to subdue the fishy odor of the fish and to add the many amino acids contained in soy sauce to nigiri sushi, which brings out the umami synergistic effects. Think of it more like an important background role to the sushi that isn’t meant to stand out. Meanwhile, since sushi rolls and other sushi dishes overseas are generally eaten after being cooled, the flavor is subdued, leading to using large amounts of soy sauce.
There is also a big difference in the concept of sushi sauce. In Japan, there is no such word as “sushi sauce”. Neither chefs nor the general population has heard this term. However, the term is easy to imagine what it would be, so hearing the word “sushi sauce” would probably lead Japanese people to assume it meant nikiri shoyu or nitsume, which are used in nigiri sushi. Also, soy sauce, or “shoyu” as it’s called in Japanese, is not considered to be a type of “sauce” in Japan. But what about in other countries? Sushi sauce has a distinctive, assertive flavor and is added to bring out multiple layers of flavor. There are also many types of sushi sauce such as sriracha sauce, spicy mayo, mango sauce, ponzu sauce, tonkatsu sauce, eel sauce, tamari sauce, teriyaki sauce, dynamite sauce and others. They each play an important role in bringing out the flavors of sushi rolls that otherwise wouldn’t be apparent.
In other words, as the definition of sushi definition changes across borders, the definition of sushi sauce changes too. However, what both sushi sauce overseas and Shoyu in Japan have in common is that they complement the sushi they are used for.
Now we would like to explain a bit about the Shoyu used in nigiri sushi.
Edo style sushi was created during the Edo period in Japan (1804-1830). The expansion of the soy sauce culture of the Edo area (currently Tokyo) had a big influence on the creation of Edo style sushi. In a time when refrigeration and other technology had not yet been developed, soy sauce played an important role not only in taste, but also in preservation. A surprising number of tasks in the Edo style utilize the scientific effects of soy sauce.
First of all, lightly applying just a small amount of Nikiri shoyu (sushi sauce) on the sushi topping, brings out its flavor and creates a glaze. To put it scientifically, this a clever use of the odor eliminating effects of soy sauce, eliminating the raw odor.
Also, long ago zuke (soaking in soy sauce) was also used for fish other than tuna. This was a way to utilize the bacteriostatic effects of soy sauce, which stop the growth of Escherichia coli (E. coli).
Tsume (sushi sauce) represents the thermal effects of soy sauce. By adding soy sauce, mirin and sugar then boiling down, the amino acids in the soy sauce and the sugar react and the goal is to create a delicious glaze and a nice scent that stimulates the appetite.
Adding a small amount of soy sauce when making rolled egg omelets has the effect of enhancing and bringing out the flavor and sweetness of the ingredients.
Soy sauce is generally overshadowed by the sushi topping and vinegar rice, but soy sauce plays an important role in bringing out and enhancing the delicious taste of the sushi.
Sushi Sho (in Yotsuya) is a restaurant where you cannot make a reservation easily. Its founder, Keiji Nakazawa, can be described with a keyword of having raised so many disciples. And the point, they run sushi restaurants that are also hard to make reservations, leads to how Nakazawa’s ideal sushi master should be. Having such a great intriguing personality, Nakazawa left his safe haven “Sushi Sho” in the hands of disciples. September 2016, he opened up Sushi Sho (in Hawaii) in The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach on Oahu. We can’t take my eyes off that now.