Nutritional and Functional components of unagi

According to Japan’s Fisheries Agency, based on their consumer’s behavior survey, Unagi (Eel) always ranks number one under, “Fish Japanese people want to eat.” The highest consumption of unagi throughout the year is in the hot summer months. Since long ago, Japanese people have been captivated by unagi as a food with high nutritional value and have loved it as a measure against heat fatigue. Here We would like to explain the nutritional and functional characteristics of unagi.

Unagi distributed domestically in Japan used to include European eel, but currently, it is mostly Japanese eel. In Japan, the overwhelmingly most popular way to eat unagi is “kabayaki”. Kabayaki mainly refers to a grilled fish cuisine in which unagi or anago (conger eel) is prepared by slicing open along the spine and removing the bones and guts, then skewering it, and grilling without any seasoning, steaming it (Some area, unagi is just grilled longer without steaming. This results in the unagi a little crispier and chewier) after that, and finally dipping it in a sauce made from a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, sugar, sake, etc.

The interesting thing is that the level of free amino acids, deeply related to flavor, is relatively low compared to other seafood. The fatty acid composition and volume don’t change even from heating and it also doesn’t significantly alter the free amino acids, so the flavor of unagi itself is light compared to the flavor of other kinds of seafood. Therefore, this is a big factor in Japanese people thinking of kabayaki sauce when they imagine the unagi flavor.

When the general components of unagi are compared with other fish (flounder, horse mackerel, sardines and bonito) and when they are compared with livestock (cattle, swine, chickens), unagi has the highest caloric content of 255 kcal per 100 g fortis edible parts and it also has the highest fat content (19.3 g per 100 g). Furthermore, it has significantly less fiber than beef or pork, so it is easier to digest. Collagen is present in all vertebrates, but the content is particularly high for eel. Of the minerals contained in the muscles, there is 130 mg calcium for every 100 g, which is much higher than other foods, even higher than milk. There are also abundant amounts of vitamins A, E and B in the meat. 50 g of kabayaki contains more than the recommended daily intake of vitamin A for an adult male and prevents oxidation of the fat, along with vitamin E. Especially high amounts of vitamin B1 are found in all seafood, and vitamin B2 and pantothenic acid contents are also relatively high. Meanwhile, the unagi is also known for having extremely high levels of vitamin A and folic acid in the internal organs.

We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: February 9, 2021

What is the difference between denbu and oboro?

Oboro and Denbu look the same, and the ingredients are also pretty much the same. In other words, there are no clear differences between them, but what it is called differs depending on the restaurant’s policy and the locality. There are various theories for this, but there is no clear line distinguishing oboro and denbu.

Denbu (田麩) is mainly boiled white fish that is then loosened and made into fibers, then seasoned with sugar, mirin, salt, etc., then roasted until the moisture is gone. Some are colored with red food coloring (called sakura denbu) while others are left as the brown color similar to tsukudani. The appearance is as if only the fibers of the original ingredients remain. This is why it was written with the kanji “田夫” (the literal meaning of kanji: rice patty+husband). The word “田夫” means “someone from the countryside” or “rough-cut” and refers to the way the fish is turned into a coarse form by pulling the meat apart. It is also used as a coloring for chirashizushi, futomaki (large sushi rolls), bento boxes, etc.

On the other hand, Oboro (朧) is made by using a grinding bowl to break down the meat of shiba shrimp or white fish, then seasoning with sugar, mirin and salt before removing the moisture over low heat. Oboro is used for bara-chirashi, futomaki (large sushi rolls), etc., and is also sometimes used between the topping and shari (vinegared rice) in nigiri sushi. This gentle sweetness and the shrimp aroma are essential for Edo-style sushi. Making oboro is laborious work, so there are fewer and fewer Edo-style sushi restaurants that make their own oboro.

We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: February 1, 2021

What is Fugu poison?

In most cases, Fugu (blowfish) poison is found in non-meat parts of the fish such as the liver, ovaries, stomach, intestine, skin and eyes. There are Fugu that do not contain poison in these parts, but most of the Fugu in the waters near Japan are poisonous. A mistake in preparations that allows the meat to touch the poison of the liver or ovaries results in immediate death. Therefore, the general rule is to only eat Fugu at restaurants with an expert licensed in Fugu preparation. Cases of poisoning by Fugu are nearly always a result of an amateur trying to prepare the fish.

The toxin in Fugu is a chemical substance called tetrodotoxin and even heat from boiling or frying can’t detoxicate it. Even Torafugu (Japanese pufferfish) that we find so delicious (we eat the meat, skin and testes) has poison in the liver, ovaries and intestines. The toxicity is said to be at least 1,000 times that of potassium cyanide. They say 10 people would die from the organs of a single Torafugu. In the case of Fugu poisoning, the first poisoning symptoms occur between 20 minutes and three hours after eating the Fugu. It starts with numbness in the lips, the tip of the tongue and fingertips. This is followed by headache, stomachache and severe vomiting. The victim will stagger when trying to walk. Soon they will experience sensory paralysis, speech disturbance and difficulty breathing, accompanied by a decrease in blood pressure. After that, the entire body becomes paralyzed and the victim can no longer move even a finger. Finally, they will fade out of consciousness and eventually both breathing and heartbeat cease, resulting in death. If the consumer doesn’t notice they are experiencing poisoning symptoms, they will surely die.

The strength of the toxin of the fugu also varies depending on the season. Even on an individual basis, some fish have toxins while others don’t. It’s not possible to determine this based on appearance, so it’s better to never eat the organs and eyes, which have a high probability of containing poison.

Fugu has already been successfully farmed and is on the market. No toxins have been found in this farmed Fugu. If farmed Fugu has no toxins, it’s only natural to question what factors generate toxins in wild Fugu and apparently it‘s a cumulative effect of toxins from the food chain. Fugu’s main sources of nutrition are starfish and shellfish. Starfish and shellfish accumulate poison in the body by eating zooplankton with vibrio attached to them. This vibrio creates poisons. Then, Fugu accumulates toxins in the body by eating starfish and shellfish that have toxins accumulated in their bodies. Therefore, farmed Fugu are raised on man-made feed that doesn’t contain Fugu toxins, and since they don’t ingest Fugu toxins and there is no bioconcentration, so the Fugu does not contain poison.

We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: February 1, 2021

What is Shusseuo?

During the Edo period, samurai would change their names at Genpuku (coming-of-age ceremony and career stages. Fish that are called by names as they grow older/larger are called “shusseuo (出世魚)”, are considered lucky and are used in cooking to celebrate milestones in life.

Shusseuo doesn’t just change in name, they also change in taste. The bigger the body, the more fat. However, young fish also have their own delicious, refreshing taste unique to their age. For example, using the young fish for deep-frying and fatty fish as sashimi is an interesting way to put it.

Shusseuo is not the only fish called by different names as they grow. According to the “Study of Japanese Fish Names”, there are 82 types of fish that are called by different names as they grow. Kuromaguro and kanpachi are popular examples. Kuromaguro changes from Komeji to Meji to Maguro and then to Oomaguro. Kanpachi changes from Mojako to Shiwoko to Akahana and then to Kanpachi. Even konoshiro, sawara, unagi, shake, koi, etc. are not shusseuo. Generally, it’s not those fish that are called by different names according to their growth stage that is called shusseuo. Fish that taste better as they grow, that changes little over time, and have been valued since eras when preservation and transport were not well-developed, are called shusseuo.

A good representative fish of shusseuo is the yellowtail. Its name changes as it grows and there are various forms of their names depending on the region. In the Kanto region, it changes from Wakashi (15-20cm) to Inada (30-40cm) to Warasa (60cm) and then to Buri (80cm or greater). It is said to be most delicious at 40 cm or longer and even if the body is plump, inada often has little fat.

Even if the name is the same, depending on the region, it may be referring to a different size. For example, inada is a fish up to 40 cm in Kanto but in Tohoku and Tokai, it refers to small fish of 15-20 cm. Further, although it is not related to its growth, those caught in Tohoku during summer are called “ao”. In Toyama, they are called “gan” and “gando”.

Finally, the changing names of fish demonstrate the breadth of culture. We should cherish this local diversity present in the names of our fish that capture the abundant food culture and importance of the seasons.

We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: January 5, 2021

What is engawa?

Engawa has both a unique, crunchy texture and delightful fat distribution and is said to be the most delicious part of hirame.

But what exactly is engawa?

Engawa is the generally used name for the meat muscle that moves the soft ray of the dorsal and ventral fins of flatfish (such as hirame and makogarei). Most people in Japan think of the hirame version when they hear the word ‘engawa’.

To go into a more advanced level of detail, there are three types of muscles that move the dorsal and ventral fins in fish: the erector spinae, the depressor and the scalene muscles. These muscles are well-developed in fish that move their dorsal and ventral fins often, like flatfish and flounder. Actually, not all three of these types are always consumed. If we look at the way hirame and makogarei are cut for preparation, the slanted muscle is taken to be used for engawa while the erector spinae and depressor are left, affixed to the fin ray, etc. In other words, to be exact, engawa is the slanted muscle of the dorsal and ventral fins.

The unique, crunchy texture comes from the high content of collagen, which is a scleroprotein. “Kakushi boucho” is used to make the crunch pleasant and is one of the skills a sushi chef must perfect. The delicious flavor is related to the high amount of fat compared to body meat. There is also a sense of elegant sweetness. Only four pieces of engawa can be taken from a single flatfish, so it makes sense that foodies love it.

The name “engawa” comes from its resemblance to the unique veranda structure of Japanese-style homes. This veranda is called “engawa” in Japanese.

Incidentally, substitutions have become common at kaiten sushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurants, and the topping is especially popular among women lately. So the question is, how is it possible to eat this valuable topping that is only rarely available at expensive sushi restaurants, so cheaply at kaiten sushi? Actually, Greenland halibut engawa and Kamchatka flounder engawa are used as substitutes to hirame engawa. The proof of this is in a menu that lists only “engawa” and not “hirame engawa”.

We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: December 3, 2020

What is Jukusei sushi?

The fish used in sushi is generally salted or soaked in vinegar then matured for several days while the umami Inosinic acid component increases. This is called “Jukusei” (aging). Sushi made with toppings that have been aged in this way is called “Jukusei sushi”. The aging period depends on the type, individual size and origin of each fish, and some are even aged for over four weeks. However, the preparations are not only difficult and time-consuming, but the discolored parts and inedible parts must also be trimmed, so these toppings tend to be expensive. If gone too far, the Inosinic acid converts to hypoxanthine and rots. The ability to make this judgment is important. In the end, Jukusei is an evolved version of the culture of “maturing toppings” which existed in Edo-style Sushi.

How to Jukusei? (How are sushi ingredients matured?)

In order to mature seafood, after completing advance preparations (removing the head and internal organs then washing thoroughly; all blood must be removed), more than adequate considerations must be made for the fat content of the fish and management of the bodily fluids. Specifically, this includes processes like dry-aging at a low temperature, removing moisture using salt, utilizing enzymes and fermentation, wet aging by putting the item in a vacuum pack, and wrapping in aging sheets, which were developed thanks to Foodism. These processes may be used alone or in combination, whichever process is most suitable for the fish.

In the initial stage of ‘jukusei’ (maturing), the increase in inosinic acid (the umami component) improves the taste. After that, the inosinic acid starts to decrease, and once the long-term maturing stage (two weeks or more) starts, free amino acids such as glutamic acid and aspartic acid really start to affect the flavor. This has all been learned in research.

Let’s take a look at specific aging methods.

For example, for white flesh fish, a somewhat high amount of salt is sprinkled on the fish before it is stored in a refrigerator set at 3 to 4℃ with a humidity of at least 85%. The fish is not wrapped at this time. The fish is flipped over 3 to 4 times a day so that the moisture is extracted evenly. Several days later, the salt on the surface of the body and the body fluids that have seeped out is washed off with water (or thin saltwater). The fish is then wrapped in paper towels and then plastic to avoid contact with the air, and it is stored in a refrigerator at 1 to 2℃. Once the chef deeps the fish is ready, it is trimmed. Excess moisture is removed and then the maturing process continues.

We would like to take this time to point out that fish like Tai (Red seabream) and Buri (Japanese amberjack) are clearly more delicious when matured. However, when farmed tai and farmed hamachi are matured, the scent of the feed they were raised on comes out, so these are better eaten fresh, as sashimi, instead of maturing.

Blue-backed fish like Aji (Horse mackerel) and Iwashi (Japanese sardine) are also not suitable for mature. Blue-backed fish lose their freshness quickly and judging the maturity is extremely difficult. Furthermore, if the fish is matured without sufficient advance preparations, bacteria breed in the remaining blood and organs. This may cause food poisoning.

These fish can be matured using the following method. The fish is put in salt-ice (water-cooled with ice and salt) as soon as it is caught. It is sent to the sushi restaurant in this state and left in the refrigerator to rest for several days. Unfortunately, what happens after this is apparently a trade secret.

The easiest method is to wrap in an aging sheet and put it in the refrigerator. After that the chef trims the fish, checking the state. An aging sheet is a cloth made from purely breeding a ‘mold’ that is harmless to the human body, and putting cultures of its recovered spores into the cloth. Originally, it is intended to be used to age meat, but it’s just started to be used for seafood too.

Finally, in a method used for ages by sushi chefs, the akami and toro (tuna) portion are taken out and the chiai* portion is removed to be matured. This is then wrapped in paper towels, put into a plastic bag in order to prevent drying out, then put into the refrigerator to rest. The temperature setting is the most important part of this process and, obviously, this is an industry secret. The chef needs to check the state of the tuna (for example whether the white lines are soft and whether the oil has risen), and any discolored portion is trimmed. After that it is refrigerated. This process is then repeated.

*“Chiai (血合い)” is the part with the most veins, so it is a dark red color. It has a strong odor of blood and has multiple times the acidity of the lean meat, so it is not used as a sushi topping.

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Revision date: June 2, 2020


What makes a “good” sushi restaurant?

It is probably cutting fish just before serving. For a big size fish, keep its skin on the meat during the process of preparing and cutting into half, and at every serving use sogigiri* as much as customers eat. Protected by the skin, the fish flesh will expose to air for the first time as it is cut. The skin blocks the oxidation process significantly because the fat in fish centers right under the skin in general. Needless to say, even with any amazing fish, it loses flavor if the fat gets oxidized.

*Sogigiri-A method of cutting makes a slice thinner with a greater surface, by holding the knife diagonally and cutting in line with the cutting board. Usually used for white fish with firm flesh because it is easier to be eaten when served thin.

Hirazukuri-A method of cutting gives thickness to each slice so that the texture of sashimi can be enjoyable. This is used for akami like tuna.

We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: April 1, 2020

What are side dishes at sushi restaurants?

A side dish at a sushi restaurant is a wonderful experience. It’s best when they serve seasonal sashimi, grilled items, or sake and fish that are fit well in sushi restaurants, but some places serve dishes that are easily mistaken as the main dish, such as deep sea bass hot pot. Eating an exaggerated dish like that doesn’t leave much room for sushi. Side dishes at sushi restaurants are only meant to be an appetizer to the sushi. A sushi restaurant that serves small dishes that don’t fill you up, but help tickle your appetite, transitioning into the sushi pieces, is a good restaurant.

We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: March 2, 2020

A technic to freeze tuna is quite amazing!

Once tuna caught in the open sea is processed by draining its blood on the ship, it is flash-frozen at ultra-low temperatures (-60℃). Ultra-low temperatures stops the enzymatic hydrolosis of protein, oxidation of fat and cultivation of microorganisms so it can be stored over a long period of time. The process can prevent discoloration for over two years and maintain a freshness worthy of being served as sashimi. Therefore, skillful sushi restaurants mature the thawed tuna in the refrigerator for about one week to attain the perfect balance of umami and change in color.

We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: February 4, 2020

Are Hamachi and Buri the same thing?

In the United States and other countries, “buri : right image” is called yellowtail, but this word refers to fish like “buri” and “hiramasa” and actually can be applied to a large number of fish. Actually, it isn’t far off since a layman can’t tell the difference between a “buri” and “hiramasa” just by the pretty yellow line on the side of the fish’s body.

In Japan, “buri” is the most well-known fish that goes by different names depending on its stage in life (shusse fish). Actually “buri” has many different names even depending on the region you are in. For example, in the Kanto region, it may be called wakashi (0 to 30 cm) → Inada (30 to 60 cm) → Warasa (60 to 80 cm) → Buri (80 cm or more), and from Kansai on further west, it is called, Tsubasu (0 to 30 cm) → Hamachi (30 to 60 cm)→ Mejiro (60 to 80 cm) or Buri (80 cm or more).

This is where the term “hamachi” came from West of Kansai, full-grown buri, at about 30 to 60 cm is called Hamachi. In other words, Hamachi is a young buri.

Of course, it’s not that simple. You can get hamachi sashimi at grocery stores all over Japan, all year long. Hamachi is not only used from Kansai westward, it is also used at grocery stores throughout Japan. This may lead you to believe that hamachi is a different fish and not the same as buri, but you would be mistaken.

Behind the curtain, buri cultivation is thriving in Japan (and throughout the world). More than 80% of the buri on the market is said to be farmed. Because it is not apparent by appearance whether the buri was raised in the wild or by aquaculture, the wild-raised fish is called buri by market affiliates in order to make it easier to understand. That means farmed products have come to be called hamachi.

Also, in the Setouchi region, people preferred to eat the young hamachi rather than the adult buri. Kagawa Prefecture became the first in the world to successfully cultivate hamachi in 1928, and that is what led ‘hamachi’ to become synonymous with ‘farmed fish’. Of course, that would be one reason that people call farmed buri, hamachi.

What is the difference in taste between wild buri and farmed hamachi?

Buri (yellowtail) is a fish for which the name changes according to the stage of growth. We would like to start this article by reviewing the definition of “hamachi”.

Jumping right into it, medium-sized (30-60 cm), farmed “inada” or “wakashi” class buri is called “hamachi”. Even in Kanto, the names inada and wakashi are only used for wild fish, while hamachi is used for farmed fish.

The accepted theory is that the delicious flavor of Kanburi (buri caught during cold months) (referring to wild buri that have grown fat, fished from the end of November to February) depends heavily on the condition of high-fat content. The two major brands of Kanburi are caught on the Noto Peninsula and Himi in the Hokuriku region, and buri caught in Hokuriku has a higher fat content and also tastes better than buri caught in other places. This may be because fish that live in the frigid sea have higher fat content than those that live in warm seawaters.

You don’t know the true taste of buri until you’ve had Kanburi. It is especially popular as sashimi. The fat of the buri enters the muscle tissue, turning the fat into an incredible texture that practically melts in your mouth. Whether farmed or wild, the lipid content reaches its peak from December to January. This is 10% lipid content in the wild fish, but 25 to 30% in the farmed version.

The peak season of the medium-sized class of buri is summer, and the fat content for that season is 5 to 7% in inada and wakashi. and around 8 to 15% in hamachi. While the fat content in farmed buri is overwhelmingly higher than in wild buri, unfortunately, this does not translate to better taste. Throughout the world, buri with soft meat that has fat that glistens above the meat like hamachi sashimi, is popular, but after years of eating it, the wild buri always ends up tasting better.

Winter is the season for wild buri. The lipid content during winter is only around 10%, but this makes both the taste and the aftertaste better. The reason that the lipid content of farmed buri is higher than wild buri, is that sardine fish meal and farmed fish feed oil are used in the formula feed, or sardines, which are high in fat content, are fed as-is to the buri. However, in recent years there has been researched in formula feed for hamachi and buri with higher meat quality, which has improved the results.

When comparing flavor, wild buri has a higher content of umami, such as inosinic acid, in the meat than farmed buri. It is especially high in nitrogenous extractives, histidine, trimethylamine oxide, etc., which makes the flavor richer. In contrast, the meat of farmed buri is soft without much umami. This is probably one of the reasons that it feels greasy.


As an aside, three cousins (closely related species) of buri are often used as sushi toppings in sushi restaurants. In the Fish Name Dictionary, the translations of these cousins are Goldstriped amberjack (Hiramasa : right image), Greater Amberjack (Kanpachi), and Japanese amberjack (Buri). Sushi University also adopts these terms.

But if you dive deeper into the fish name dictionary,
Hiramasa is known as amberjack or yellowtail or hiramasa kingfish. Kampachi is known as amberjack or yellowtail. Buri is known as… you guessed it: amberjack or yellowtail.

When lumping them all together, they are called yellowtail, as is common in the U.S.

I’m sure you’re interested in the price, and while the price of the seasonal winter buri varies, it is generally around $10-20 per kilogram. Since there is very little distribution of hiramasa, the price is said to be about double that of buri. The price of kampachi : right image is somewhere between that of buri and hiramasa. These prices refer to the wild-caught fish.

Finally, if you eat and compare buri, kampachi and hiramasa in sashimi form, most people can’t tell the difference in fat distribution. When made into sushi (buri sushi, hamachi sushi, hiramasa sushi, kampachi sushi), the sweetness of the fat and the flavor of the fish emerge splendidly, and the taste of each fish becomes distinct and obvious. Even the still-developing inada, with very low-fat content, is used as a sushi topping and its refreshing taste is unforgettable. This showcases both the depth and greatness of Edomae (Edo Style) sushi.

We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: October 23, 2020

Sushi restaurants are a place for conversation!?

Even Japanese people can be overwhelmed by the somehow special atmosphere when they sit down at the sushi counter. This continues even when starting to eat. Other customers are concentrating on eating, quietly. You kind of get the feeling that if you utter anything, you will be asked to leave. If you don’t end up mustering up the courage, you just end up paying the high price for your meal and going home without much more to say of the evening.

Eating sushi at a counter is not inherently this dull. So why do sushi meals so often end up this way? The problem is knowing so little about the sushi, and feeling like you’re the visiting team on the field.

For example, it is taboo for new customers to take the seat positioned directly in front of the sushi chef. This is a special seat reserved for regulars. Even if the seat is empty, a newcomer will be shown to a seat in the back. This is an unspoken rule.

Contrary to their countenance, most sushi chefs are actually friendly and experts in the art of conversation. They especially value the back and forth with regular customers. For example, they have a keen memory, and can reiterate to the customer that their last visit was on the way home from a baseball game and they ordered a second helping of Chutoro fished in Oma. Of course this pleases many customers. A master sushi chef prepares sushi while standing in front of the customer. If there was to be no conversation with the customer, they can make the sushi back in the kitchen and have it served. Sushi restaurants are a place for conversation.

The customer ends up not remembering which fish they ate. For example there are very few people who can name the order of the 15-piece Omakase course they ate. You may be sure you ate tuna. But where was it caught? Was it the belly side or the back side? How long had the fish been matured? To be a bit more frank, how much did it cost? If you ask the chef these questions, next time you visit, you’ll be able to compare different taste based on the fishing location. Knowing the difference in taste based on the part of the fish, and difference in flavor depending on where it was procured, and different taste depending on the preparations will certainly improve your sushi literacy remarkably. It will also lead to a better awareness of your own taste preferences.

But there are limitations to the time allowed for personal conversation. For example, in a normal 2-hour Omakase course, there may be five minutes or so available for conversation. It might not sound like much, but that is also the amount of time allocated to regular customers. Newcomers often can’t find a time to get a word in and end up with only the initial greeting, which takes about 10 seconds.

Of course that’s for Japanese customers who speak Japanese. What about foreign customers who cannot speak Japanese? First of all, conversation is impossible, so this cuts the enjoyment factor of the sushi restaurant in half. But the sushi is delicious, right? Perhaps, but you’ll end up satisfied with the small-world view cultivated for you by the media, limited to whether or not the fish is fatty, or if the meat is fresh and firm. This is something you can experience anywhere that sushi is served in the world.

What we offer is a totally different experience.

You get a seat in front of the master sushi chef, a knowledgeable interpreter is seated by your side, and the Omakase show is presented right in front of you. The obliging chef explains each piece of sushi as you eat with a gentle demeanor. He will also answer any questions you think of on the spot. You won’t be able to say that you don’t know what you ate. We prepare a translated list of your Omakase menu. You are also welcome to take pictures whenever you’d like to preserve the enjoyable memory. All you need to do is forget time and immerse yourself in the Edo-style sushi, one of the staples of Japanese food culture.

We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: November 27, 2019

What is the ideal temperature for sushi toppings?

Tokyo Health Centers stipulate that refrigerated cases where sushi toppings are stored should be kept at 5℃ or lower. This is to maintain the temperature of the toppings at below 10°C at which point bacterial growth is slowed.

However, sushi chefs will remove the topping from the refrigerator and leave it standing out for a while (in the case of tuna, the fat will melt at around 23℃). They do this because if the topping is cold, it becomes difficult to taste the essential nature of the fish. The temperature of the shari is best at human skin temperature (around 36℃) to maximize the taste and sweetness of the rice. However, the ideal temperature differs very slightly depending on the topping.

For example, conger eel which is often lightly grilled or prepared in another, similar way, should have a slightly higher temperature (around 42℃) than the shari, and kuruma prawn, which are boiled, should be the same temperature as the shari.

Overseas, there are laws that state that sushi must be served at 10℃ or lower. This ignores that sushi is best enjoyed at skin temperature. Serving it straight out of the refrigerator makes it no better than purchasing takeout sushi from the supermarket.

We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: November 18, 2019

Why does it taste a little bland when you had tuna at high-class sushi restaurant?

Tuna at top-end restaurants is light in flavor. Its Akami (red meat) has an indescribable acidity with a delicate harmony between the shari vinegar, the nikiri soy sauce, and wasabi. However, on the other side of the coin, it feels almost like a waste to eat it without a sense of luxury. Of course tuna with delicious akami, also has delicious fatty tuna (toro). And you’ll never get tired of it. It would be easy to polish off 10 pieces as a light snack. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the high fat content that makes it so easy to eat. However, it is because of that popular belief that many people feel that the big chain store farmed fish with lots of fat is more delicious than luxury natural fish.


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Revision date: April 16, 2019

What is Red Snapper the same as “Tai” (Sea Bream)?

In the United States, Sea Bream is often called a Red Snapper. However, strictly speaking, this is not correct.

Biologically, Snapper is a generic term for all species in the snapper family (Lutjanidae). Over 100 different species of snapper inhabit tropical coastal waters. Red snapper is mainly fished in the Gulf of Mexico.

So, what is the fish that Japanese sushi restaurants call “tai”?

They say there are over 300 different species of fish with “tai” in the name, making up 10% of Japan’s fish. When we say “tai” in Japanese, we are referring to “madai” or red sea bream. Red sea-bream is categorized in the “madai” family (Sparidae).

Incidentally, relatives of the sea bream often served at sushi restaurants include red sea bream (madai), crimson sea bream (chidai) and yellowback sea bream (kidai). While “kinmedai” (Splendid alfonsino) and “amadai” (horsehead tilefish) have the name “tai/dai” in them, they are not part of the same family as “tai”. Splendid alfonsino is a type of deep-sea fish.

Red sea bream and red snapper look similar, but when served as sushi, their texture and flavors are entirely different. So if you come to Japan, please try and eat natural madai. There is no “zatsumi” (overpowering bitterness) and it has a slight sweetness to it. This is the taste of tai, known as the king of the white fish. Just for your own reference.

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Revision date: April 28, 2020

Why do we use the counter “kan (貫)” for sushi?

When you sit at the counter and order nigiri a la carte, they will come out in pairs.* There is nothing wrong with counting these in the regular Japanese way “ikko,” “niko.”

*It is said that nigiri-sushi in the Edo period was bigger than it is today, and too big to eat in one bite. In the Meiji period, the custom emerged of splitting this one big portion into two to make more easily consumed portions, and this is why it is common to get sushi in sets of two. However, nowadays making one piece of nigiri-sushi at a time is not very efficient. We think it’s actually easier for the sushi restaurant to make them in sets of two. Of course, you can order them one by one.

But the sushi restaurant won’t count them like that. Formally, sushi is counted in this way: Ikkan (one), Nikan (two).

We have absolutely no idea where the custom of using the “kan” counter came from. It’s also not clear when use of that counter for sushi started.

Of course, there are theories. For example, there is a theory that back at a time when a single unit of money was called “kan.” The price for one piece of sushi was around 1 ‘kan’, and the counting method gained popularity. There is another theory that one sushi roll was counted with the counter for roll “巻” (also pronounced “kan”), then a different kanji was used for it later. However, these are just theories that were created after the fact and the mystery remains unsolved.

Even if you ask the owner of a sushi restaurant, they’ll probably cock their head to one side, think for a moment, and tell you that the “kan” mystery may never be solved.

Sushi rolls wrapped in seaweed rolls are counted in units of 本 (hon/bon/pon) in the wrapped state, and when cut with a knife, the units change to 切れ (kire). While these units are fairly straight-forward for Japanese language speakers and easy to understand, only the enigmatic 貫 (kan) remains a mystery.

We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: April 29, 2020