What is Mazuma wasabi?

So, what is the true meaning of the shocking phrase, “Once you try tuna or flounder with this wasabi, you’ll never be able to eat it without wasabi again”?

Wasabi is assessed by five points: its coloring, fragrance, stickiness, spiciness and sweetness. So does that mean this wasabi gets the highest marks for all these categories? In other words, when wasabi is grated, it’s a bright green color. The fragrance is fresh. It has a strong stickiness. The spiciness has a punch. After some time, it has a delicate sweetness.

The glorious thing about wasabi is that the vivid spiciness that goes through to the tip of your nose never lingers on your tongue or in your mouth. This lack of aftertaste is the biggest feature of wasabi’s delicious taste. The tastes of sashimi and sushi are subtle and delicate. Each cut of fish and each piece of sushi has its own unique and enjoyable flavor. If the wasabi were to linger on your tongue or in your mouth, it would get in the way of the next, new taste.

Furthermore, the potency of this spiciness is not what makes wasabi taste good. Good wasabi is spicy, but it also has a premium sweetness and refreshing fragrance at the same time. This is the true delicious taste of wasabi and it is a specific characteristic. Therefore, it is a superb spice for making good fish even more delicious.

Wasabi is native to the Japanese Islands and Sakhalin, Russia, is a perennial plant that belongs to the Brassicaceae family and is bred both by dividing roots for replanting and from seeds. The potato-shaped part that is normally grated and consumed, is part of the wasabi’s stem and called rhizome, just as potatoes have subterranean stems. Wasabi is broadly divided into red stem, which has a high anthocyanin content in the stems and blue stem, which has a low anthocyanin content. Mazuma (red stem), daruma (blue stem) and Shimane No. 3 (blue stem) are the three major types and it is known that most varieties that are currently cultivated were improved breeding from these. During the Edo period, daruma wasabi that was cultivated in Shizuoka was the most common, but then mazuma was introduced and became widespread, perhaps from degradation due to about 40 years of cultivation. Currently, mazuma seed cultivation only makes up about 30% of the total wasabi, even in Shizuoka, because the cultivation period of mazuma is longer than the seedling type and suitable places for planting have decreased, among other reasons.

The external appearance of mazuma is a dark green color and since there is purple on the base of the leaf, they are easy to distinguish by appearance alone. Since mazuma seeds mostly don’t fruit, the seedlings are cultivated by dividing the roots. It is difficult to ensure high quantity by dividing roots. Furthermore, it takes time to grow, so there is inevitably a rarity value.

The protrusions that occur with the growth of the surface are small and grow very close together, arranged in a spiral shape. This is the best wasabi of which the spiciness includes sufficient sweetness and that has a refreshing fragrance. On the market, it goes for US $50 to $200 per kilogram. Of course, it depends on the size, but one plant goes for about US $20. Wasabi is mainly produced on the Izu peninsula right now, but Yugashima, Amagi and Gotemba are known for mazuma. However, mazuma is actually native to Wakayama prefecture. It started in the Kawamata area of Inami Town in Wakayama, formerly known as Mazuma Village.


We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: March 10, 2021

What is the trick to super cheap Ikura at conveyor belt sushi restaurants?

Immature salmon eggs still wrapped in ovarian membrane and salted are called sujiko. Ikura is salmon roe in which each mature egg is separated from the ovarian membrane before laying the eggs and then salted or marinated in soy sauce. The ikura of Chum salmon going upstream in the Kushiro River and Tokachi River in Hokkaido From October to December are considered to be premium ikura.

For cheap ikura, roe broken up inside the ovarian membrane in a fish that is approaching spawning time called “barako” is used. When the ovarian membrane of barako is torn, the eggs will fall out and scatter, so while they don’t take much work to prepare for serving, they also don’t taste particularly good. Even cats turn up their noses at barako, so they are also called “neko-matagi”, which literally means “the cat walks over it” and is used to refer to unpalatable fish. However, each egg is large and they look very appealing, so they are used at higher-end conveyor belt sushi. Unlike the 100-yen (US $1) restaurants, these higher-end restaurants don’t use disguised fish or substitute fish. This is because their basic business strategy is to differentiate themselves by attracting customers with authentic toppings. Generally they market the high quality of their toppings, but the ikura is actually this cheap “neko-matagi”.

Beneath this strategy of attracting customers with authentic toppings is this “Deceptive business strategy”. Salmon also swims upstream in the rivers of Tohoku and Hokuriku. However, the taste of ikura tastes inferior to that in Hokkaido. This ikura is also served at the higher end restaurants. That’s because although it doesn’t taste as good, it’s orthodox ikura. In case of orthodox ikura, the roe is used within one hour of the catch. But, if time passes and the freshness drops, the eggs will dry out and the surfaces will dimple, wrinkling. This is the type of ikura that is cheaper and often served at the cheap conveyor belt sushi restaurants.

The most commonly used roe in conveyor belt sushi restaurants is ikura from cheap Alaskan or Russian Chum salmon. An even cheaper type is masuko. Besides the masu roe, raw materials included soy sauce, salt, fermented seasoning, amino acids, reduced sugar syrup, enzymes, fish sauce, and fish and shellfish extract. For homemade versions, only soy sauce, mirin (sweet cooking sake) and sake are used.


We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: March 9, 2021

What is Salmon caviar?

In Japan, salmon roe that has been separated from the ovarian membrane and then salted is called ikura. At sushi restaurants, this is also marinated in broth that includes soy sauce, mirin and sake. This is called ikura marinated in soy sauce, or simply ikura. Worldwide, caviar is considered to be of more value than ikura. Therefore, in an attempt to improve the impression of soy sauce-marinated ikura, it is sometimes called ‘salmon caviar’. This is behavior especially seen among manufacturers selling soy sauce-marinated ikura.


We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: March 9, 2021

What is Red caviar?

Not to belabor the point, but the following is dependent on the following. In Japanese salmon is referred to as “鮭” (sake/salmon) or “鱒” (masu/trout). The characters look different, but they are part of the same family and there aren’t clear biological categories to separate them into. Incidentally, in English the type that makes their way into the sea are called “salmon,” and those that remain in freshwater their entire lives are known as, “trout.” They are all considered to be part of the salmon family. Now, foreigners who know about Japan may imagine Japanese sake (the alcoholic beverage) when they hear the word “sake” so we spell sake/salmon as “shake”, which is close to the sound pronounced by Japanese people.

First of all, shake is mainly Chum salmon, caught in the seas near Japan. Masu caught in the seas near Japan are mostly Pink salmon (Humpback salmon) and Sakura masu. Masu caught in rivers and lakes are generally Char or Rainbow trout.

Now we finally get to the topic of this article, shake roe that has been removed from the ovarian membrane then salted or marinated in soy sauce is called ikura while masu roe is called masuko and they are clearly distinguished. This is because masuko can be bought at just 20-40% of the cost of ikura. However, the difference is really that each egg is smaller than that of ikura and in general people can’t taste a difference.

Over the past 10 years or so, the masuko made from the roe of Rainbow trout farmed in France and the masu farmed in Japan have been called ‘red caviar’ by manufacturers. Of course black caviar made from the roe of sturgeon and tobiko made from the roe of flying fish are distinctive. Certainly there is no problem in calling fish roe caviar according to the Product Labeling laws, but it’s extremely clear that they are only trying to get a higher price out of it.


We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: March 9, 2021

What is ken?

Ken is considered to be better the longer and thinner it is, but this is a mistake. Not only is Ken tangled and difficult to eat, but it also doesn’t give any sense of the flavor of the materials. It’s long been said that 10 cm is a reasonable length and this is also the length that looks the most refined.

Many people believe that the thinly cut daikon radish strips that accompany sushi are tsuma. That is not tsuma. It’s called ken. Besides daikon radish, udo, pumpkin, cucumber, carrots and turnips are also used. It is cut into thin strands and stood up next to sashimi like a sword (which is called “ken” in Japanese). However, when the sashimi is laid on top of it, it is called shikitsuma. While it is a bit confusing, in that case it is a type of tsuma. Since the Meiji era, combos of many different types of sushi have become popular, and with it larger dishes have become necessary. Therefore, there has also been a tendency to make it more showy. It’s only natural that the types of tsuma increase to place focus on the highly valued seafood, but if there is too much ken, it will take over the space meant for the sashimi.


We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: March 8, 2021

 

What is Tsuma?

There are a few types of Tsuma. One is Shikitsuma (pronounced ‘shikizuma’ in Japanese) which consists of things like green shiso and cucumber leaves that sashimi is laid on. Another is Metsuma (pronounced ‘mezuma’ in Japanese) which is made from aome and murame. The final is Tatetsuma (pronounced ‘tatezuma’ in Japanese) used to prop sashimi up like hanahojiso and hanamaru kyuri. All Tsuma is served to bring out the charm of sashimi.

One point of note is that the most commonly used shikitsuma, green shiso, is occasionally used to obstruct fragrances that are too strong for white fish and shellfish like flatfish and flounder. Furthermore, it’s a rule that shikitsuma, which is a leaf, is not used on plates shaped like a leaf, but what is served and how it is arranged is ultimately up to the chef.

Image of Metsuma

Image of Hanahojiso


We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: March 8, 2021

What is Toro salmon?

You probably already know this, but “toro tuna” is not the name of a type of fish. “Toro” is the name of a fatty part of the tuna. The fat content and attributes of the belly side of the tuna are completely different from that of the dorsal side. Toro is the name of the part near the head, mostly on the belly side.

In the same way, there is no fish called “toro salmon”. Just like tuna, “toro” refers to the fatty part on the belly side of the salmon. It is also called “harasu” in Japanese. This is how the word is used at some scrupulous sushi restaurants. This description of “toro salmon” is correct.

Most salmon used at conveyor belt sushi restaurants is either trout salmon or Atlantic salmon. The reason this salmon can be served at the cheap price of US $1 or $2 per plate (2 pieces of sushi) is that these particular fish are all farmed and are available in bulk quantities from overseas. This salmon is mainly imported to Japan from Norway, Chile, Scotland and Canada.

Actually, the popular “toro salmon” topping is made from these imported items and the fat content is three times that of wild salmon. Feeding farmed salmon plenty of solid compounded feed that is high in protein and high in fat, turns the entire body to toro.

Salmon, which are born in freshwater and migrate downstream to the sea are called “sea-run fish” and they may be farmed in either seawater or freshwater. Trout salmon is “former” rainbow trout that was raised in a fish cage in the sea. In the wild, the sea-run rainbow trout grows up to 1 m in length, its body turns silver and the meat takes on a red color. The wild version of these are called “steelhead” and fetch a high market price, so they are not used in conveyor belt sushi restaurants.

Just like other aquaculture, salmon farming faces some difficult issues. It may surprise you that salmon is actually a white fish, originally. In the wild, the salmon meat gets a red color from feeding on crustaceans such as crab and shrimp that contain the red pigment astaxanthin. However, in the fish cages where the salmon are surrounded by nets, the food chain is also restricted. The compound feed would be plenty if the goal was only to raise bigger fish, but that results in a grey color or light yellow meat that doesn’t even resemble the salmon pink (orange?) that everyone wants and they don’t sell.

Therefore, when making the solid compounded feed, artificial coloring is mixed in. One of the colorings is called canthaxanthin. This is a synthetic chemical derived from petroleum. There is a color chart with 10 different, detailed levels of red coloring and buyers can even indicate which color they would like and the farmers can achieve it. It’s kind of like an industrial product that is being manufactured. Japanese people prefer a dark red color for salmon in the same way they do for tuna, so the coloring for Japan’s market is adapted to that.

When light is shone on wild salmon, the red coloring looks faded, but the light makes farmed salmon that have been fed coloring, look brighter. Artificial coloring is a necessity in farmed salmon and this is true for the trout salmon and Atlantic salmon that are used as the ingredients for toro salmon as well. All of the farmed salmon in circulation have been colored in this way, so much so that it wouldn’t be surprising if the insides of their stomachs were stained red. The flamingos at zoos also get their beautiful pink feathers from these chemicals.

Trout salmon is rainbow trout that has been farmed in the sea. On the other hand, rainbow trout farmed in freshwater is called Donaldson trout. Of all the large rainbow trout gathered at each location, those with small heads and fat bodies were selected and bred over many years to create this type. The objective of choosing a small head is to make more meat. They are characterized by their fast growth and while normal, farmed rainbow trout grow to about 30 to 40 cm, Donaldson trout grow up to nearly 1 m. The name is taken from the American who developed this variant.

The Donaldson trout is farmed throughout Japan and is used as toro salmon and aburi salmon at conveyor belt sushi restaurants. Since they are supplied directly to the processor (of the salmon) from the farmer without going through the market, they may be sold cheaper than the import price. Just like the imported salmon, this farmed salmon is also fed artificial coloring. There are also already new variants improved from the Donaldson trout being bred. Trout made from breeding Donaldson trout females and steelhead males are called Donaldson steelhead, for instance. They grow even faster.

Ample use of the latest biotechnology has been made in salmon farming and some of these technologies include creating young fish without functioning reproductive organs, “triploids” which means increasing the size of the fish up to triple and “all female populations” where males are converted into females. The triploid fish grow large in correlation to the lack of energy exertion. The objective of all-female populations is to get more masuko (ovaries). Masuko is used for the ikura (salmon roe) at conveyor belt sushi, and since the fish that the roe is harvested from have an inferior flavor, they are used for aburi salmon. Now, there are even triploid, all-female farm populations. No wonder the restaurants can serve a plate (2 pieces) of salmon sushi for US $1.

The simple phrase, “toro salmon” contains so much meaning.


We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: March 8, 2021