Why is freshly-caught fish allowed to age?

The most delicious time to eat fish differs depending on if it is served as sashimi, as sushi, or boiled. Fresh does not necessarily mean delicious. For example, Japanese Amberjack should be used in sashimi 3-5 days after being caught, in sushi a week after being caught and it can be used in a stew or boiled once it turns black around the edges. This is because the inosine acid, which is responsible for the umami taste, increases after rigor mortis ends and understanding the timing of the peak in flavor is up to the skill of the sushi chef.


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Revision date: March 12, 2018

Why don’t I notice the fishy smell in sushi restaurants?

Many overseas visitors who aren’t used to eating fish have an aversion to fishy smells. This is actually the smell of a substance called trimethylamine and is generated by the breakdown of the umami component called trimethylamine oxide found in large amounts in fish by bacterial growth. The smell also gets stronger with the generation of ammonia as more time passes.

Bacterial growth can be controlled with refrigeration so toppings at sushi restaurants are kept cold. Trimethylamine is an alkaline, so smells can be eliminated by washing with vinegar, which is acidic. It is also possible to kill bacteria on the surface of the fish by soaking it in vinegar, reducing the number of bacteria. Basically, sushi restaurants are constantly taking measures to prevent bacterial growth and avoid fishy smells.


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Revision date: February 19, 2018

Is sushi eaten with your hands? Or should you use chopsticks?

Sushi was originally a food eaten with your hands. Even, for example, if you are in a prestigious sushi restaurant in Ginza, you can still eat with your hands. You can actually use your hands to eat the ginger too. Restaurants that prefer you to eat with your hands will provide an extra, smaller towel for cleaning your hands between sushi, along with the normal hand towel. Even then, feel free to use chopsticks if you prefer.


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Revision date: February 12, 2018

Why is sushi with tuna topping so expensive?

A purchase of raw tuna costs at least JPY 30,000 per kilogram. Furthermore, good tuna is judged not only by taste, but appearance is also highly regarded.

The surface is gradually oxidized by letting it sleep (mature) and the sushi chef makes sure that parts are cut of as they change color, when the timing is perfect for both the taste and appearance. In other words, skin is taken from the freshly purchased tuna, the meat of the fish darkened by blood (the blackened area that can’t be used as sushi toppings) is removed, the parts that have changed color are shaved off and then only the remaining, best parts used as toppings are left.

This is why the price is high.


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Revision date: February 5, 2018

Where should I grab the sushi when eating with chopsticks?

Laying the chopsticks sideways as if scooping up the sushi distributes the strength and the sushi won’t break easily. If you grab it in the middle then there will be too much force on that part and it will break in two pieces. Make sure to eat this beautifully formed piece of sushi in one bite.


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Revision date: December 4, 2017

Is there a certain order for eating sushi?

Generally, start by eating fish with a lighter flavor like white fish and move onto fish with a heavier flavor such as Toro, Uni, Japanese conger (Anago), and then Egg (Tamagoyaki). Finishing with Seaweed rolls at the end is a typical way.

The following menu is an omakase style at one famous restaurant in Ginza. Begin with white fish?

Marbled flounder (Makogarei)

Striped jack (Shima aji)

Golden cuttlefish (Sumi ika)

Akami

Chutoro

Ohtoro

Gizzard shad (Kohada)

Common orient clam (Nihamaguri)

Horse mackerel (Aji)

Kuruma prawn (Kuruma ebi)

Japanese halfbeak (Sayori)

Common octopus (Madako)

Mackerel (Saba)

Ark shell (Akagai)

Uni

Salmon roe (Ikura)

Japanese conger (Anago)

And Egg (Tamagoyaki) comes last, just along the general order. Perhaps the way this owner serves might have become common.

To maximize each flavor of toppings, have some pickled ginger or hot tea between different types of sushi for cleansing your palate. You don’t really have to stick to the specific order, though. It seems like having customers eat freely is the idea held in common by most sushi chefs. However, it is true that you won’t be able to taste the next flavor after eating something rather sweet. Japanese conger (Anago), Egg (Tamagoyaki), and Kanpyoumaki should be eaten at the end.


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Revision date: August 28, 2017

Why is Zuke used for lean meat?

Zuke is one of the traditional Edo-style sushi methods. It is said that it was started in the Edo period to stop tuna from rotting when there were large amounts of the fish in the market. Now that there has been advances in refrigeration technology, it’s no longer necessary, but maturing the fish gives it a completely different taste and brings out its umami. Zuke is divided into two broad methods. Here we describe the characteristics of each.

Recently, most sushi restaurants incorporate the “Single Zuke”.

Each slice of tuna is soaked separately, so it can mature quickly. The immersion time is only a few minutes. The idea is to marinate just enough so that the tuna’s aroma remains and the soy sauce doesn’t overtake it.

On the other hand, the old Edo-style method is to perform Zuke after parboiling.

Parboiling means to wrap the fish in a wet cloth, and poor boiling water on the wrapping until the color of the tuna changes color, then turn the fish over and repeat the process. The fish is then put in ice water so the heat doesn’t go too deep in the meat. It is immediately removed once it cools so that it doesn’t get too watery. The tuna is then put in Zuke soy sauce and left to marinate for about half a day. In this method, the soy sauce only soaks into the surface part where the color changed from the parboiling, so the flavor of the tuna remains.

Both methods keep the maximum tuna flavor possible. Tuna is an essential part of Edo-style sushi. There is great diversity between sushi restaurants in the parts, marinating time and flavor of Zuke, which creates a new, original flavor when the lean meat of the tuna soaks up the soy sauce. The fattiest cuts of tuna are most popular. The lean meat has only become more popular due to a rekindled interest in zuke, but in fact during the peak of the bubble economy, there was a time when high-end restaurants in Ginza didn’t know what to do with all their leftover lean tuna meat. It’s almost unbelievable to think of it now.


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Revision date: August 1, 2017

Why is sushi served with Gari?

Gari is pickled ginger.

This ginger includes Zingerone, a pungent component, and Gingerol, a spice component that changes to Shogaol when heated. Zingerone and Shogaol combine with the components that cause the fishy smell of fish and can eliminate that smell from its source. It makes sense to use ginger as a condiment for fish known for a stronger smell, like horse mackerel and bonito. The Gari served with sushi utilizes the effects of these components effectively for enjoyment of the delicious taste of the sushi.

On the other hand, wasabi works by numbing senses of taste and smell with a stimulating spice so that the consumer doesn’t experience the fishy smell.

Furthermore, when you try to eat a light sushi topping after a strong one, a bit of Gari will cleanse your palette so you can fully enjoy the lighter fish. The pungent component also accelerates saliva production, assists with digestion and enhances absorption.


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Revision date: June 26, 2017

Drinking tea makes sushi taste better!

Even if you order beer or sake at sushi restaurants, your meal will always end with a cup of tea. But if you’re going to go out for sushi, you should really start drinking that tea earlier instead of saving it until the end. The tea at sushi shops is far more significant than a simple beverage. Especially when eating fatty tuna or bonito, tea plays a role that beer and sake simply cannot fulfill.

The key is in its hot temperature.

Hot tea works to dissolve the fat left on the tongue. Traces of fat is left on your tongue when you eat fatty sushi. It covers the taste buds like a film, subtly inhibiting your sense of taste. It would be a shame to miss your chance to experience the full range of flavors on your visit to a delicious sushi restaurant. No matter how much you drink, beer and sake can’t do anything about this thin film.

But drinking hot tea dissolves the fat and washes it away. Tea can also be considered a type of preparation for enjoying the next piece of sushi.

Another fun fact, sushi teacups are bigger than traditional tea cups because sushi chefs used to man their food stands alone. They just didn’t have enough hands to be constantly refilling tea while also pressing the sushi. The stands used large teacups so they wouldn’t need to be refilled as often.


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Revision date: June 12, 2017

Best supporting role for wasabi that magnifies the umami in sushi many times over

Back before there were refrigerators, wasabi was indispensable for Nigirizushi, eliminating the fishy smell and also providing bactericidal effects to prevent the fish from spoiling. Wasabi is originally from Japan and it has been used in Edo-style sushi from the very beginning. Even with all the advancements in technology for storing sushi toppings, wasabi is still used today to remove the fishy smell and prevent spoiling. However, nowadays the flavor and aroma of wasabi and the way it brings out the flavor of the sushi topping is the main focus.

When wasabi is grated and exposed to the air, its unique heat is made enhanced by enzymes. Using a coarse grater gives the wasabi a rough, fibrous texture that spreads the spicy flavor through to the back of the throat. On the other hand, if Sharkskin wasabi is grated finely, it foams up with tiny bubbles and makes a creamy taste. The type of wasabi depends on the personality of the shop.

However, the powdered wasabi and wasabi paste you find at kaiten-zushi (conveyor belt sushi) is primarily made from horseradish and is colored and scented with additives. It isn’t dried wasabi and it is significantly cheaper.


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Revision date: June 6, 2017

How do you order at a sushi restaurant?

The sushi restaurant is unusual in that the customer sitting at the counter can see the seafood (neta) from which individual servings will be made, and can watch the chef deftly perform his art while enjoying lively conversation. Sushi restaurants also differ from other restaurants when it comes to menus.

Typically there aren’t any.

If the customer is inclined to worry about what the bill will come to, he orders Okimari (combination set)*. This consists of 7 to 10 pieces of nigiri-sushi and nori-maki selected by the proprietor in such a way as to allow them to offer an affordable price. It is cheaper because, like ready-made clothes, Okimari is not necessarily made piece by piece to fill individual orders. Of course, it will not be of inferior quality. Okimari is prepared by the chef and his assistants in the same way that everything else the shop is prepared. If the diner still wants more, they are always free to order sushi of their choice (Okonomi). Generally Japanese customers eat no more than 10 pieces of nigiri-sushi.

People at the counter most often order Okonomi (a la carte)**, which may be likened to having suits tailor-made from the finest fabrics. The customer who orders only the best will find that the check at the end can get a little expensive. But this is worth remembering (sushi worth eating is never inexpensive).

Long ago people used to say that first ordering Okimari and then ordering Okonomi after was the best deal for eating sushi, but that is a thing of the past. Actually, there are more and more shops that don’t allow Okonomi orders. The only choice is Omakase***. In some cases, all customers sitting at the counter take their seats at the same time and eat the same dishes and the same sushi in the same order. Even if you know nothing about sushi toppings, if you leave it to a master sushi chef, they will provide you with a combination boasting a good balance of early, peak and late season sushi. Omakase is great as it allows you to concentrate on genuinely enjoying the sushi and, especially if you’re visiting a shop for the first time, there will be no confusion regarding the best dishes.

*Okimari-The price and menu content are easily understood when ordering “Okimari”. The rank of “Tokujou”, “Jou”, “Nami” are often used. Order additional sushi as you like for a more fulfilling experience.

**Okonomi-A way customers choose and order sushi they want to eat. If you clearly know what you like and want to enjoy eating at your own pace, ordering “Okonomi” your choice of sushi, would be best.

***Omakase-If you don’t have any preferences, and you are happy to have a professional choose the most delicious toppings from that day’s catch, then ask for Omakase.


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Revision date: December 3, 2018

Why is it important to avoid wearing too much perfume?

It is often said that the taste, texture and fragrance of sushi should be enjoyed. For example, the striking scent with traces of acidity that gives you a sense of the iron content in tuna. Abalone has a salty fragrance with an abundant seaweed smell. Don’t let perfume get in the way of your enjoyment of the joy of smoked straw scent that penetrates your nose the moment when you put dried bonito in your mouth.

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Revision date: April 3, 2017