What is Kewpie mayonnaise?

An image of Kewpie mayonnaise
Since its launch in 1925, this mayonnaise has been the most popular mayonnaise in Japan!

Find out why Mayonnaise has become a citizen on the dinner table

Japan is not a large country. Even so, fresh produce from the sea and mountains is abundant. Even without a large-scale distribution system in place, we Japanese have been able to obtain fresh ingredients in fresh conditions easily.

This is thought to have given rise to a raw food culture in which vegetables, eggs, fish, and even internal organs such as horse meat, beef, and liver are eaten raw. Since fresh ingredients are readily available, it is only natural that there is no need to make unnecessary modifications to them. For this reason, Japanese cuisine has become dominated by methods that do not require much modification of the ingredients. In Italy, the ingredients are fresh, and in China and France, cooking techniques have developed to compensate for the lack of freshness of ingredients. This is just my personal opinion.

And speaking of Japan’s unique food culture, we must not forget its rice culture. Japanese rice is japonica rice, which is light and delicate in flavor. Inevitably, the rice is not eaten by itself but is accompanied by a strong-flavored side dish.

This is likely what led to the development of flavorful seasonings in Japan. The traditional Japanese soy sauce and miso, not to mention ketchup and Worcestershire sauce, which are two of the most popular sauces in Western cuisine, along with mayonnaise, are seasonings with a very distinct flavor. Likewise, mayonnaise is a strong-flavored seasoning, so it is assumed that side dishes made with it went well with rice.

In general, the Japanese palate is said to be well suited to amino acids and the peptide umami before it becomes an amino acid, and this amino acid is found mainly in fermented foods. Japan’s mild and humid climate is ideal for the production of fermented seasonings, and it is no wonder that miso (fermented soybean paste), soy sauce, and salted fish, which are fermented foods, have developed.

Interestingly, mayonnaise also begins to mature about a week after it is made, and the protein contained in the egg yolk in mayonnaise is broken down into amino acids and peptides, resulting in the umami that the Japanese like. Mayonnaise is usually not pasteurized because it separates when heated. This phenomenon occurs because the mayonnaise is still alive after being packed in the container.

Compared to the Western type of mayonnaise, which uses whole eggs, the yolk type of mayonnaise is more common in Japan. The yolk has a higher umami of amino acids and peptides than the egg white, and this may be the reason why Japanese mayonnaise has adapted well to Japanese tastes. The combination of this taste backbone and the umami of Japanese-style mayonnaise has helped mayonnaise to firmly establish itself in Japanese food culture.

 

What kind of food is mayonnaise?

I said mayonnaise is a food, but many people may think of it as a condiment. Mayonnaise, as you know, is made from vinegar, oil, and eggs. In Europe, where it originated, it was made from lemon juice, wine vinegar, olive oil, and eggs. However, in modern Europe, mayonnaise seems to be made at home, unlike in the United States or Japan.

Mayonnaise has some notable characteristics. First, the oil in mayonnaise has the effect of masking the bitterness of the food. Furthermore, the oiliness of mayonnaise is reduced by emulsification, making it very easy to eat. The bitterness of vegetables is sometimes unacceptable, but mayonnaise envelops it. Meat marinated in mayonnaise becomes tender. It has the effect of softening the hardened tissues of meat. Mayonnaise quickly removes the odor of raw fish. The sour vinegar flavor overcomes the unpleasant smell of raw fish, and when it is eliminated, it has so many positive aspects that there is no end to it.

Japanese mayonnaise is restricted by JAS standards for consumer safety. Incidentally, JAS is based on the standards of the U.S. FDA. According to the standard, mayonnaise contains 65% or more edible vegetable oil, vinegar and citrus juice, egg yolk and egg white, salt, sugar, spices, chemical seasonings, acidifiers, and citric acid. In Japan, mayonnaise may not contain any preservatives, emulsion stabilizers, food coloring, or soy protein. Yellow mayonnaise is just made with lots of eggs. This is why the JAS standard does not allow the use of food coloring that misleads people into thinking that there are lots of eggs in the product.

 

Why doesn’t commercial mayonnaise go bad?

Japanese standards for mayonnaise prohibit the use of any preservatives or food coloring. It is natural to ask the question, then, why mayonnaise does not spoil when it is made from egg yolks.

Simply put, think of pickles pickled in vinegar. Depending on the method of production, they can be stored for a year or more. The reason for this is that the acetic acid in vinegar has powerful bactericidal properties.

According to mayonnaise standards, at least 65% of the edible vegetable oil does not go rancid. The sterilizing power depends on how much acetic acid and salt are present in the remaining 35% of the ingredients.

Homemade mayonnaise made at home or in a restaurant is used up quickly, so there is no need to think about shelf life, just make it to your own taste. However, this is not the case with store-bought mayonnaise. And since mayonnaise is not heat sterilized, its composition is very important to prevent it from spoiling in its raw state. Of course, it is also important to manufacture it hygienically in a factory. The combination is determined by considering factors such as the fact that it must not separate during transportation and that it must have a taste preferred by the consumer.

According to actual bacterial test data, Escherichia coli is killed in 6 hours in mayonnaise. Staphylococcus and salmonella, which cause food poisoning, are killed in 24 hours. Even the yeast Hansenula anomala, which is relatively acid-resistant, dies in about 8 days.

As a general guideline, raw food is considered hygienic if it contains less than 100,000 live bacteria per gram. Frozen food that is heated and eaten meets the criteria of the Food Sanitation Law with a count of 3 million live bacteria or less per gram. Normally, it is considered that even if there are 100,000 bacteria per gram of food, the food will not spoil, but if the bacteria count exceeds that level, the food will gradually start to spoil or go rancid. In other words, most bacteria die in mayonnaise. Therefore, it is safe to assume that commercial mayonnaise is first of all free of bacteria.

 

Why is vinegar good for your health?

The answer is simple. It is because vinegar lubricates the citric acid cycle. In 1953, Dr. Hans Krebs of England won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research on the pathway of tissue respiration in the human body. This is called the citric acid cycle, which is the only mechanism that produces the energy necessary for life, and without this cycle, organisms cannot live!

The problem here is that during strenuous exercise or illness, large amounts of glucose are burned, creating an abnormally high amount of pyruvate, which is further converted into lactic acid. That lactic acid makes body fluids and blood acidic, causing so-called Acidosis. In addition, lactic acid combines with proteins in body tissues to form lactic acid protein, which causes stiff shoulders and muscle pain, as well as increased deposition of cholesterol, leading to arteriosclerosis and hypertension.

At this time, it is explained that when vinegar is eaten with salads, the organic acids contained in vinegar, such as acetic acid, malic acid, and citric acid, can smoothly advance the citric acid cycle and bring lactic acid back into the cycle. In other words, vinegar has been elucidated to act as a lubricant for the Citric acid cycle.

The vinegar in mayonnaise does more than just accentuate the delicious taste; it also helps to clear away fatigue. The Citric acid cycle explains why the blood and body fluids of healthy people are slightly alkaline and become acidic when tired or ill. It also depends on the diet. Eating only acidic foods, i.e., meat and seafood, will cause the blood and body fluids to become more acidic, and cholesterol will be deposited in the blood vessels more easily. The diet must be well-balanced. This is where vinegar comes into play. Vinegar is burned efficiently in the body and is incorporated into the metabolic mechanism to act as an alkaline food. Other effects include increasing appetite and aiding digestion, and it is also very effective in cleaning the body and activating the body’s internal energy.

Where does mayonnaise’s good taste come from?

Mayonnaise is an oil-rich food. Oil stimulates the brain to release hormones that make us want to eat again. However, oil does not remain in its original state, but is scattered throughout the food, creating a richness. Humans respond to this richness with a sense of deliciousness. In other words, mayonnaise is a synergy between the richness created by the oil mixed and dispersed in the egg and the richness of the egg yolk itself.

What makes mayonnaise different from other seasonings is that it contains the egg itself, rather than food extracts or essences. We believe that mayonnaise itself may be regarded as an independent food or dish, beyond the framework of a mere sauce.

Isn’t too much mayonnaise bad for you?

One of the main components of mayonnaise is egg, a food high in cholesterol. However, since mayonnaise is a food high in cholesterol, it is too early to assume that it is bad for you.

The main functions of cholesterol include “making cell membranes,” “making bile acids,” and “being a raw material for sex hormones and adrenal corticosteroids. The production of cell membranes is the basic building block of the human body, without which the human body would not exist. Bile acids are necessary for digestion, and without normal amounts of bile acids in the body, digestion would be out of balance. The same is true for hormones. Without a certain amount of cholesterol in the body, the human body cannot function normally.

The term “cholesterol” refers to both HDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is necessary for the body, and most of the cholesterol contained in egg yolks is HDL cholesterol. On the other hand, LDL cholesterol, which is said to cause arteriosclerosis, is not in itself bad. It is believed that oxidized LDL cholesterol, which is created when LDL cholesterol is oxidized by active oxygen, damages the vascular wall, causing inflammation and arteriosclerosis.

Cholesterol is not only ingested through diet. About 70% of the cholesterol needed by the body is synthesized in the body, and the remaining 30% is taken in by the diet. Incidentally, the amount of cholesterol synthesized by the body is 600~700mg per day. On the other hand, a 50 g egg contains about 235 mg of cholesterol. The proportion of egg in Mayonnaise is lower than it appears, and the amount of cholesterol contained in a tablespoon (15g) is only 24mg. This is not an amount to be concerned about.

The human body is well designed to maintain balance by reducing the amount of cholesterol synthesized in the body when the amount of cholesterol in the diet is too high. In addition, cholesterol is transported from the liver to each tissue, and conversely, cholesterol is collected from each tissue to the liver, thereby keeping the amount of cholesterol in the blood at a constant level. The problem is not the intake of cholesterol itself, but the imbalance of cholesterol in the blood.

And an experiment has been conducted with surprising results. Healthy subjects and hyperlipidemic subjects were given 15 g of Kewpie mayonnaise per day for 12 weeks in addition to their conventional diet, and the lipid levels in their blood were measured. The total cholesterol concentration in the blood of the healthy subjects was slightly decreased. The hyperlipidemic subjects also showed a decreasing trend. It would seem that a constant intake of mayonnaise would increase the amount of cholesterol, but in the experiment, there was no trend toward an increase. In addition, there was no change in body weight after 12 weeks of mayonnaise consumption, a result that defies the conventional wisdom about mayonnaise. Similar experiments have been conducted elsewhere with the same results.

New Possibilities for Eggs

The amount of choline needed per day is said to be around 450 mg. 1 egg weighing 60~70 g contains 1000 mg of choline. 1 tablespoon of 15 g of mayonnaise contains about 110 mg of choline, which is 1/4 of the daily requirement. One-quarter of the daily requirement of choline can be obtained from a 15 g spoonful of mayonnaise. Incidentally, 200 cc of milk contains 28 mg, and a tablespoon of butter contains 20.4 mg, so eggs are by far the most efficient way to eat.

Mayonnaise contains a lot of salt

Mayonnaise is a sour and salty food, and while one may worry about too much salt if one eats too much, it is much less salty than one would generally imagine. The saltiness is due to the seasonings and spices. It contains less salt than other seasonings. Mayonnaise has 0.3 g of salt per tablespoon, the lowest amount of salt among the major seasonings, compared to 0.6 g of ketchup, 3 mg of soy sauce, and 2 mg of miso. Despite its low salt content, the full-bodied mayonnaise can add a lot of flavors to ingredients even in small amounts, and may be considered a good choice for dieting.

Does eating mayonnaise make me fat?

Usually, a tablespoon of mayonnaise has 100 kcal. One hot dog has about 289 kcal, so three tablespoons would be the same calories. It is certainly a high-calorie food. It is a very oily food, but the vinegar makes it surprisingly refreshing, which is one of the reasons why we tend to eat a lot of it. We should not eat too much of this food just because it tastes good but try to eat about 1 tablespoon per meal. It is not harmful to your body even if you continue to eat it every day, but only if you know how much to eat. It is not recommended to eat so much that you can’t see the salad. Instead of worrying about gaining weight, one should try to eat a well-balanced diet by eating green and yellow vegetables together.

Pairing mayonnaise with other foods

The range of uses for mayonnaise is unlimited. Please listen to this article without preconceived notions that mayonnaise would not be suitable for such foods. First of all, in the case of Japanese food, it is difficult to find foods that mayonnaise does not go well with, such as broiled eel, tempura, yakitori, oden, chilled tofu, soba noodles, and so on. Other than that, it goes well with all kinds of food such as gyoza, ramen, shumai, spring rolls, bibimbap, kimchi, tom yang kung, beef stew, omelets, curry rice, minestrone, edamame, banana, apple, orange, apple pie, pudding, chocolate, donuts, and many others. It can soften the aroma of stinky foods, freshen oily foods with its acidity, and deepen the flavor of overly light foods with the richness of eggs.

The emergence of polyethylene multi-layered containers

When Mayonnaise was launched in Japan, it was in glass bottles. In the 1960s, plastic was developed, polyethylene containers appeared, and bottling containers were quickly converted to polyethylene containers. Glass bottles were used because oxygen permeation would oxidize the mayonnaise oil and form peroxides, which would gradually ruin the flavor. However, the ability to squeeze out without using a spoon seems to have been significant, and it seems to have been replaced.

The difference in preservation effect on mayonnaise between polyethylene containers and glass bottles was that polyethylene alone had the disadvantage of poor preservation compared to bottling due to its oxygen permeability.

In the 1970s, technological advances made it possible to improve the oxygen permeability of polyethylene. A three-layer technology was developed, with polyethylene on both sides and an oxygen-impermeable plastic-like eval resin in between.

The three-layer polyethylene-eval resin-polyethylene container is used today for most food containers. This has greatly improved the shelf life of mayonnaise and has made bottled and polyethylene multi-layer containers nearly identical in terms of quality.

Bottled mayonnaise is more prone to oxidation after opening because of the large area exposed to air when the lid is opened. Polyethylene multi-layer containers have become the mainstream in Japan because of their advantages such as easy squeezability, no risk of breakage, lightweight, and low container cost.

 

Here is a summary of the characteristics of Kewpie mayonnaise.

The main ingredients of Kewpie mayonnaise are also oil, eggs, and vinegar. Of course, each of these ingredients should be carefully selected and good ones used, but the strange thing about mayonnaise is that it does not taste perfectly delicious on its own.

What became clear in Kewpie’s laboratory is that what is important is the compatibility of vinegar and oil, and vinegar is a major key, especially in terms of umami. Surprisingly, vinegar and oil go together better when they are both strong. If one of the habits is weak, the other will win out and instantly become unbalanced.

Let’s look at the history of the oil used in Kewpie mayonnaise. In the postwar period when mayonnaise became popular, cottonseed oil from cotton seeds was mainly used. Since this oil has a strong habit, it was combined with malt vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and other vinegar with strong characteristics. However, with the development of synthetic fibers in the 1960s, cotton cultivation decreased and cottonseed became scarce. This made it difficult to secure cottonseed oil, and other oils with weaker characteristics were used instead. Kewpie has changed the vinegar to match the oil.

These days, Kewpie uses a blend of vinegar made from sake lees and grains. The ingredients of oil that are good for the body are generally considered to be oleic acid, linoleic acid, and α-linolenic acid in the ratio of 60:32:8. Rapeseed oil, for example, is close to this ratio, and Kewpie uses salad oil that is also close to this ratio.

Although oil accounts for the largest proportion of ingredients, vinegar can be said to be the key to flavor. Taste preferences are said to change over time; for example, Kewpie mayonnaise was sourer in the past. The percentage of vinegar is said to be less now than in the past. In the past, there were few homes with air conditioning, and people sweated a lot. Therefore, mayonnaise with a lot of vinegar and a strong flavor was preferred. On the other hand, today, air conditioning is available everywhere, and people do not sweat as much, so the amount of vinegar is less than in the past.

Compared to mayonnaise made overseas, Japanese mayonnaise generally contains almost double the amount of vinegar. This is because mayonnaise is a unique egg yolk type of mayonnaise in Japan, and cannot be heat sterilized like other foods because it decomposes when heated. In addition, mayonnaise with high yolk content is prone to spoilage, and to prevent this, a lot of vinegar, a natural preservative, was used. This ultimately made Kewpie mayonnaise tastier.

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Revision date: March 15, 2024


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Do you know the dangers of eating raw tuna?!

Cutting Tuna
Sushi chefs make sushi toppings from tuna.

We would like to examine this challenging title that appears regularly in the media.

This story has not recently come to a boil; in fact, it is already widely known. However, the reason it is a recurring topic is due to the fact that the assumptions between the writer and the reader do not match. The reason for this is that the writer tends to exaggerate a bit in order to get people to read the article. The readers, on the other hand, are overwhelmingly uninformed and are led to feel uneasy about what they hear. Here’s what we guess.

So, in order to explain this issue properly, we will squash any ambiguities.

There are three major risks.

The first is food poisoning due to bacterial growth. The second is food poisoning by parasites. The third is the medium- to long-term effects on the human body of mercury, dioxin, microplastics, and other substances that accumulate in tunas.

a photo of Food poisoning prevention
The best way to prevent food poisoning is to keep hands clean.

We can say that food poisoning caused by bacterial growth is a very rare and serious matter that can affect the survival of a business, if only in sushi restaurants. Here are some data to support this. According to data from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the percentage of food poisoning cases occurring at sushi restaurants is less than 0.8% of the total number of food poisoning cases. The data shows that food poisoning rarely occurs at sushi restaurants.

 

The reasons for this are largely related to soy sauce, salt, and vinegar. First, soy sauce has bacteriostatic properties, and by marinating tunas and other fish in soy sauce, the growth of bacteria is inhibited. Second, salt has a bactericidal effect, killing bacteria on the surface of the fish. Besides, it uses osmosis to expel the rotting components of fish meat, etc. And vinegar also has a sterilizing effect. Since the ㏗ is 2~4, the bacteria are almost killed when they come in contact with vinegar. Sushi chefs put vinegar on their hands or wipe their knives with a cloth dipped in vinegar to sterilize them. Shari is made with vinegar and salt, so it is also sterilized. In other words, more steps are taken to prevent the growth of bacteria than in any other dish.

 

Next, we will examine food poisoning caused by parasites; Anisakis accounts for 50% of all cases of food poisoning. It can be said that raw seafood always contains parasites, but removing these parasites is the foundation of a sushi restaurant, and Anisakis, which can be visually identified, cannot be overlooked. On July 2, 2021, a method to kill Anisakis with a high current was also announced and will soon be put to practical use.

 

Also, it totally depends on where you eat. Do you buy it at the supermarket or fish market and eat it at home or a sushi restaurant? Even at the same sushi restaurant, there is a difference. Is it a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant with a chain or an individual restaurant run by a master and his apprentice? In our opinion, however, food poisoning caused by Anisakis has not occurred in private restaurants.

 

We will examine the medium- and long-term effects of toxic chemicals. First, let’s look at the effects of mercury. For example, the level of effect is naturally different for those who consume tuna every day and those who eat tuna once a week. Although the Japanese eat a lot more tuna than other countries, the effects of mercury accumulated in tuna have not yet been widely discussed. The effects of mercury on the mother’s body are well known, and the following warning is given by the doctor in charge.

 

In Japan, if you eat more than 160 grams of tuna per week, you need to be careful. Pregnant women do not bother to eat 160 grams of tuna in the first place. In addition, although Kuromaguro (Bluefin tuna), Mebachi (Bigeye tuna), and Minamimaguro (Southern Bluefin tuna) have safe amounts, Kihada (Yellowfin tuna), Binnaga (Albacore), and Mejimaguro (Young bluefin tuna) do not require any restrictions on the amount eaten. Also, there is no need to worry about canned tuna. This is also a well-known story.

 

And, this may come as a shock to tuna lovers, but it is the toro part of the belly that tends to accumulate the most dioxin, which is considered the best part of the fish. The toro is mostly fat, and dioxin taken in from feed and seawater accumulates there. In nature, the toro portion of tuna is normally about 20% of the tuna meat. However, in fattened tunas, 70~80% of the body is toro. The meat of fattened tuna is a habitat for dioxin. According to some research data, the amount of dioxin accumulated in fattened Kuromaguro was about 2 to 3 times higher than that in wild tuna, and in fattened Minamimaguro, it was about 2 to 10 times higher.

The final section examines microplastics’ medium- and long-term effects on the human body.

In the North Pacific Ocean gyre, famous for the Pacific Garbage Belt, plastic fragments have been found in the digestive tracts of 10%-35% of the fish examined. Many researchers have noted that microplastics are vectors that bridge harmful pollutants to fish and marine life. U.S. health officials estimate that less than 0.3% of microplastics taken into the human body reach the body’s lymphatic and circulatory systems from the gut. And only a very small fraction of these microplastics affect the body’s organs. Still, the effects of microplastics taken into the body on human health are not fully understood.

 

In 2014, the Ministry of the Environment’s survey on the actual state of marine debris reported that the amount of microplastics in the waters surrounding Japan was 16 times more than in the North Pacific Ocean and 27 times more than in the world’s oceans. And yet, around 2020, major media outlets are only now beginning to report on the issue. Unfortunately, this is one of the topical issues that Japan is still turning a blind eye to. In fact, this is a more serious problem in the world, and we imagine it will be sensationalized soon. We should put some restrictions on countries and companies dumping plastics into the oceans. Japan must be proactive in this regard in order to achieve the SDGs.

In conclusion, we think this title comes from the media’s self-righteousness.

We are not a researcher and cannot say that it is absolutely safe. It is a medium- to long-term issue that should not be neglected with careful monitoring. But in general, Tuna is an expensive food, so it should be economically difficult to consume it in large quantities. Instead, the media should focus on rice, wheat, corn, and other foods that are consumed daily. For your information.

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Revision date: September 8, 2023


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Authentic sushi toppings only eaten in Tokyo!

a photo of making nigiri sushi
A sushi chef adds wasabi to sushi topping.

Sushi continues to spread throughout the world. Nowadays, not only sushi rolls but also Nigiri sushi can be eaten all over the world. But if you have the opportunity to come to Tokyo, we want you to go home with sushi toppings that you can only eat in Tokyo. Not seafood exported from your country, but sushi made from natural seafood caught in the seas around Japan.

First of all, what kind of sushi do you think of when you hear the word “Nigiri sushi”? Most people think of sushi with Hamachi or Salmon on top of vinegared rice.

This is correct if you only look at the appearance. However, from the essence of Nigiri sushi, it is clearly wrong. In order to make your understanding perfect, we dare to confuse you, but we would like to understand the term “Edomae sushi” as well.

What is Edomae sushi?

Nigiri sushi and Nigiri are words you may have heard before. However, “Edomae sushi” is a word you may not be familiar with, so it is important to understand exactly what it is.

It is quite simple.

Edomae sushi consists of Nigiri sushi and Nori maki. Nigiri sushi originated in Edo (now Tokyo) about 200 years ago, while Nori maki is said to have originated 50 years earlier. And Edomae sushi has remained almost in its original form to the present day. We will skip the explanation of Nori maki here, so you can just assume that “Edomae sushi” and “Nigiri sushi” refer to the same thing.

Now let’s dig deeper into the story of Nigiri sushi. You have probably seen Nigiri sushi and Nori maki before. If you do not like fish and nori, you have probably eaten them.

However, many people, including the Japanese, misunderstand Nigiri sushi.

They think that Nigiri sushi is sushi with sashimi such as salmon on top of vinegared rice. Many cookbooks and other books say this as well, so it is no wonder they understand it incorrectly.

To correct here, nigiri sushi consists of prepared fillets on a bed of vinegared rice. Preparation means sprinkling salt on the seafood, soaking it in vinegar or soy sauce, boiling it, simmering it, etc. This preparation is called Edomae shigoto (Edo-style preparation) in Edomae sushi restaurants. To confirm, sashimi is unheated seafood or other ingredients cut into small pieces.

Why do they dare to prepare super-fresh seafood?

The reason is said to be that in the Edo period, there was no such thing as a refrigerator, and people had to devise ways to keep seafood from spoiling even a little. Then it seems that it is not necessary now. However, this preparation process helps to make seafood more delicious (to give an example, inosinic acid is produced, which, combined with the glutamic acid and other substances that seafood originally contains, produces a synergistic effect of umami). This is why they still use prepared seafood today.

On the other hand, salmon nigiri sushi found overseas uses sashimi. Even in Japan, in regions where fresh seafood is available, sashimi is used. This is because the priority is not the synergy of umami, but rather the texture and security of freshness. And there is no way to know that this is clearly different from Edomae sushi (Nigiri sushi) on the main road.

If you make nigiri sushi with sashimi, you don’t have to be a sushi chef to do it. In fact, to put it bluntly, anyone can do it. There is an experience to make Nigiri sushi for tourists, but you understood that this is only to make Nigiri sushi in appearance, right? And to learn Edomae shigoto (Edo-style preparation), the sushi chefs need a long period of training.

Let’s get to the point here.

Here are 8 sushi toppings you should try in Tokyo. We divided it into 4 so that you can see the opportunity to eat.

The first is the typical sushi toppings at Edomae sushi. It is a sushi topping that can be eaten regardless of the season (of course, there is a season), but it shows the characteristics of the sushi restaurant. The boiled Kuruma ebi, with its beautiful red color, aroma of the sea, and complex umami, is a must-try. Next is not eel but Anago (Japanese conger). The soft- simmered anago instantly falls apart in your mouth, spreading the ummai of the fish, and the restaurant’s unique sauce, called Nitsume, is not to be missed.

Second, sushi toppings are only available at certain times of the year. The season is short, so even if you want to eat it, you will have to wait until the next year when the season is over. For example, don’t you think you can eat Bluefin tuna all the time? The season for fresh bluefin is from around September to early January. This is the time when all parts of the fish are at their best. Shinko, the juvenile kohada, can cost as much as $2,000 per kilogram at the beginning of the season, and sushi chefs are forced to pay a premium for this fish because sushi lovers compete to be the first to eat it. The taste is not as good as kohada, but the aroma may be a cut above.

Chum salmon is not eaten raw in Japan. This is because of problems such as anisakis. Even so, you should definitely try Keiji (young Chum salmon) nigiri, which has a completely different quality of fat. It is very rare and costs more than US$1000 per fish. Then there is Hoshigarei, the king of flounder. The moderate fat and fresh aroma will fascinate you. Next, the Red sea urchin is caught in Kyushu and other parts of Japan. Sea urchin has a rather complex flavor. However, red sea urchin has a refreshing aftertaste. It is a mysterious sushi material.

The fourth is the sushi items that you should eat without grumbling. You should be happy to eat these items in season. Ezobafununi, caught in Hokkaido during the summer, is exceptional. Many people say they can’t eat sea urchin, but if you eat this, you’ll become a sea urchin lover. And then there is Akagai (Ark shell). Many shellfish enjoy the delicate balance of sweetness and bitterness, but Ark shell is a great ingredient to enjoy the scent of the sea.

If you want to eat Hamachi or Salmon, which you often eat as Nigiri sushi, you have to go to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. Buri, which is farmed, is called Hamachi. Salmon is also mostly farmed, with Norway and Chile being the world’s leading producers. There is no point in going all the way to Tokyo to eat them.

Finally, sushi chefs tend to avoid farmed fish. And the same goes for frozen fish. Some fish can only be used for Nigiri sushi if they are live. The chef cooks fish deliciously, but sushi chef is only trying to bring out the true flavor of the fish. In other words, there is no compromise in the selection of seafood. If the fish is too expensive, sushi chefs may not buy it. And sometimes they have to buy it even if it is too expensive. For your information.

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Revision date: August 12, 2023


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What is real Omakase at a sushi restaurant?

Omakase sushi experience
She is very interested in eating sushi toppings for the first time.

We’ll start by breaking down the meaning of this word in Japanese.

The “O” of “Omakase” is a prefix generally used as an honorific expression. The meaning of “makase” refers to a judgment of things and means to entrust a task you were meant to do to someone else, allowing them to perform the task at their own discretion. In terms of sushi, while a customer normally chooses which toppings they want to eat on their own, a customer with limited sushi topping knowledge may ask the chef to prepare his own recommendations.

There are various other ways to order sushi toppings as well. First, sushi restaurants generally have a set menu called “Okimari.” For example, let’s consider an Okimari set that contains 8 pieces of nigiri sushi. This set of 8 pieces will contain the same toppings and maintain the same price throughout the year. In contrast, a customer may choose the number of toppings they like in whatever order they prefer, such as ordering two pieces each of four types of toppings, which is called “Okonomi.” They can even order eight of the same topping. The price for “Okonomi” depends on what is ordered, the more expensive the toppings are, the higher the price will be. For “Omakase,” the chef would select 8 toppings and serve them in his recommended order. However, the customer conveys their budget to the chef in advance so the sushi course can be provided within that budget. The customer can also specify toppings they prefer to avoid. In other words, you need to let the chef know in advance about your budget according to the market, and any requests (For example, I would like to eat the Splendid alfonsino (Kinmedai) in season) that you can’t budge on. You don’t need to leave those two things up to the chef’s discretion.

Now, in actuality, there are many sushi restaurants that stray from the original definition of “Omakase.”

For instance, he/she may include Tsumami as part of the course, rather than only sushi. This would be Sushi Kappo (sitting at the counter to enjoy Japanese food and served directly by the chef). A sushi restaurant was once a place where only Nigiri sushi was served. To explain in more detail, if only Nigiri sushi is served, then even if you were to eat 20 pieces of Nigiri sushi, your time in the restaurant would only be around 30 minutes (this is true the case of the establishment of the famous Jiro). Nowadays sushi restaurants are used for entertaining business clients or going on dates, so the customer may stay for around two hours. In situations like this conversation is the priority, so the actual ordering of the sushi takes the backseat. Incidentally, the practice of drinking Japanese sake at sushi restaurants is said to have begun around 1910.

Next, we’ll let you in on a common misconception that you probably don’t want to hear.

Apparently, people believe that ordering Omakase means that you will be served rare pieces that are not disclosed on the menu. Some are even convinced that they can get more expensive toppings than they would if they ordered with the Okonomi method. However, the restaurant just sets the price for the Omakase course and just adjusts the menu items accordingly (to suit the budget) based on current stock. The benefit to the restaurant is that it only stocks the amount of seafood necessary and will waste less. Unfortunately, rare finds are reserved for customers who know what they like. Go ahead and toss any such expectations out of your mind right now. Instead, acquiring sushi knowledge will allow you to avoid being recommended toppings that are approaching expiration.

Finally, if you just get an expensive Omakase course without understanding where the toppings came from or when they are in season, then it won’t contribute to your deeper understanding of the magnificence of Nigiri sushi.

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Revision date: April 18, 2023


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What is Sashimi?

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A plate of assorted sashimi

Sashimi (刺身) is made by removing the inedible head, bones, skin, fins, and tail from raw fish, etc., and cutting them into small, easy-to-eat pieces.

It is considered the ultimate washoku dish, but why is such a simple and uncooked dish regarded so highly? In Japan, ingredients that are fresh enough to eat raw are considered more valuable, and sashimi preparation in particular requires substantial labor and technique.

Its preparation begins when the fish is first taken out of the sea. The fishermen perform Ikejime, a technique that shuts off the fish’s neurotransmission in order to preserve freshness and texture while the fish matures.

Each fish has its peak, which is referred to as shun (season), and chefs train for years to develop their ability to determine whether a fish is fresh and its peak. The carefully selected fish is cut into smaller pieces in one stroke with a sashimi boucho (knife), which creates a smooth surface. If the meat is cut with an unsharp knife, it will be crushed and the result will be watery and tasteless.

The chefs pursue pleasing texture, ease of eating, and delicious flavors by varying the thickness of cuts and cutting techniques, depending on the type of seafood they work with.

It is popularly served with soy sauce and condiments such as wasabi, and such garnishes as shiso and shredded daikon radish.

As an aside, sushi restaurants offer a variety of sashimi cuisine. You can order them as assortments, not to mention as single dishes of tuna, sea bream, squid, horse mackerel, or shellfish among others. If the shop has seasonal fish in stock, it might be a good idea to leave your order to the chef.

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Revision date: February 3, 2023


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What is Chawan-mushi at a sushi restaurant?

a photo of chawan-mushi
It is typically topped with Kamaboko, Shiitake mushrooms, Ginkgo nuts, and shrimp.

Chawan-mushi (Savory steamed egg custard) is made from eggs and dashi (soup stock) and garnished with shrimp and ginkgo nuts. It is steamed in a cup and often served as a cold or hot appetizer. It is a standard item at the sushi restaurant.

Unlike other egg custard, it is not sweet but it has a savory flavor packed with umami from dashi and topping ingredients. It is velvety feeling on the palate is irresistible.

Then why do sushi restaurants serve chawan-mushi?

That is because sushi is a cold dish, so they basically serve something warm as a garnish.

Another reason is that the ingredients used for chawan-mushi (茶碗蒸し), such as shrimp, shiitake mushrooms, eggs, and kamaboko, are either used daily at sushi restaurants or are readily available at market stores that sell sushi items.

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Revision date: January 20, 2023


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How to eat soups at a sushi restaurant

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How to eat shirumono which is soup in a bowl.

A sushi meal is often completed with clear soup or miso soup. Interestingly, the ingredients in the soup differ depending on the sushi restaurant or the day.

Put all four fingers of your left hand under the bottom of the bowl and place your thumb, gently on the rim. The key is to smell the aroma first. Next hold the rim of the bowl right up to your mouth, and do not make any slurping noises. Then eat between the soup and the ingredients alternately.

Turn the lid over and place it on the right side of the bowl. Do not place the lids on top of each other as this may scratch them. Make sure to drop the water drops from the inside of the lid into the soup.

When asked “Could we serve you a soup bowl now?” at a high-class sushi restaurant, it sometimes is a sign that the Omakase course is about to end. If there are any additional sushi toppings you would like to eat, this is the right time to order. And occasions like having a client dinner imply that your meal has reached the budget you informed in advance.

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Revision date: March 1, 2024


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What is Futomaki?

A photo of Futomaki
Futomaki contain multiple ingredients.

Sushi made by spreading vinegared rice on a sheet of dried laver and rolling it up with ingredients is called “Makizushi” in Kansai and “Norimaki” in Kanto, and the two are basically the same.

In Kanto, sushi rolls are distinguished by their thickness as “Hosomaki (thin rolls),” “Nakamaki (medium rolls),” or “Futomaki (thick rolls),” but in Kansai, the term “Makizushi” often refers to “thick rolls.

Hosomaki, such as Kanpyomaki (Dried Gourd Shavings Sushi Roll), Tekkomaki (Tuna roll), and Kappamaki (Cucumber roll), generally contain only one type of ingredient, while Futomaki (太巻き) contains multiple ingredients such as kanpyo, tamagoyaki, shiitake mushrooms, and cucumbers.

The size of the nori used differs depending on the thickness of the roll. Hosomaki uses a sheet of nori cut in half, Nakamaki uses one half to one sheet of nori, and Futomaki uses one or more sheets of nori. The basic size of nori is 21 cm in length and 19 cm in width per sheet, and each sheet weighs about 3 g. This size is called “Zenkei”.

The filling and hearty Futomaki satisfies your appetite. It has a slight sweetness, intricate flavors, and pleasant textures. Everything appealing about sushi is packed into a roll of Futomaki.

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Revision date: January 16, 2023


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What is Geso?

Geso is not the name of a fish or shellfish.

a photo of squid

Geso refers to the 10 arms/tentacles of a squid.

The reason squid arms came to be called “Geso” is that the shoes that are removed before entering the indoors in Japan are referred to as “Gesoku”. The name comes from a time when restaurants used to hold onto their customers shoes and the cloak would tie them with a string in 10-pair units.

a photo of geso nigiri

Geso can be lightly boiled or grilled. For large squid, a butcher knife is inserted at the tip of the arm to peel off the skin membrane, and then the tips of the arms are cut off so the sizes match. When Nitsume or other sauce is applied and it is made into Nigiri, it has an excellent springy texture and scent of the sea. It is also used as Tsumami when drinking alcohol. In my personal opinion, the Geso child of Sumiika is nice and soft and worlds above any others.

a photo of gesoThis is one of the sushi terms that even most of the general public in Japan knows well.

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Revision date: January 4, 2023


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What is another Kaiseki Ryori?

a photo of Kaiseki RyoriThere are two types of Kaiseki Ryori (懐石料理・会席料理). Both are course meals and have the same reading, but they are expressed in different Chinese characters and the contents are quite different.

In this case, Kiseki (懐石) means a poor meal enough to survive hunger from the anecdote that a Zen priest held a warm stone in his robe to forget the cold and hunger during his training. It consists of soup, rice and three dishes to prepare your stomach before enjoying the strong tea served at the tea ceremony.

As explained earlier, the basis of Kaiseki Ryori at a tea ceremony is one soup and three dishes, but Japanese restaurants, where you are likely to go to eat in person, often have their own arrangements, such as increasing the number of items or changing the order. In a typical menu, oshiki (折敷), wanmono (椀盛), grilled dishes (焼き物), simmered dishes or vinegared dishes (強肴), suimono (吸い物), hasun (八寸), yuto・kouomono(湯桶・香の物), and omokashi・koicha (主菓子・濃茶) are served.

Originally, Kaiseki Ryori was not a sumptuous meal to be eaten with sake, but rather a dish to fill a small stomach before enjoying a more delicious cup of tea.

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Revision date: December 30, 2022


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What is Kaiseki Ryori?

a photo of Kaiseki Ryori

Kaiseki Ryori (会席料理) is a course meal to enjoy banquest style. In a typical menu, appetizers (前菜), soup (吸い物), sashimi, grilled dishes (焼き物), simmered dishes (煮物), deep-fried dishes (揚げ物), steamed dishes (蒸し物), and vinegared dishes (酢の物) are delivered in order, and finally rice and red miso soup (止め椀), pickles (香の物), and fruits (水菓子) are served. Some restaurants add an aperitif (食前酒).

The most familiar example of Kaiseki Ryori is the food served at hot spring resorts.

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Revision date: December 29, 2022


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Why are the teacups at sushi restaurants so big?!

An illustration of yunomi.
The sides of the Yunomi have the names of the fish written in Chinese characters.

This practice’s origins can be found in the street stands leftover from before WWII. It was a natural remedy for the outdoor sushi vendors who set up street booths and needed a way to maintain heat in their drinks in order to make it through the cold. In addition to lack of convenient access to water, these stands were one-man operations and the time that serving tea takes away from his time making sushi were also contributing factors. In other words, the reason the teacups are large is natural wisdom of sushi shops from long ago.

Also, hot tea has the effect of dissolving the fat that remains on the tongue after eating a fatty sushi topping, cleansing and preparing the palette for the next piece of sushi. This is a task that cannot be performed by beer or Japanese sake.

Then, large teacups became one of the special features at sushi restaurants and a favorite feature among customers, so it wouldn’t make sense to go back to small teacups now. However, times change. There are now sushi restaurants that use relatively small teacups that they change with each refill in an attempt at a sort of stage effect. There are even places that have the teacups imprinted with the restaurant name, phone number, etc. and hand them out to favorite customers. This has tremendous advertising effects.

There are various production sites, but most that are mass-producing are located around the Toki area of Gifu prefecture and the more expensive but also relatively more durable tend to be Arita ware from Saga prefecture. There are wide varieties in shape and pattern, but despite the preference for large teacups at sushi restaurants, there is such a thing as cups that are too big and they are also harder to drink from. Also, thicker cups may be more durable, but they are also harder to drink from. Even when made thick, the rim should be thinner. The cylinder shape is hard to clean and the bottom of the cup tends to be stained by the tea. My personal opinion is that it is hard to find what I would call a refined teacup with a nice color and shape. But the worst is when a thin teacup or tea bowl gets too hot to hold.

Related contents:
GREEN TEA THAT PAIRS WITH SUSHI

What is Matcha?

What are Konacha and Mecha?

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Revision date: October 1, 2022


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What is the correct way to address a sushi restaurant owner?

a photo of sushi chef

The names you’ll hear at sushi restaurants include Itasan, Taisho, Oyakata, Goshujin and Master, etc.

Sushi restaurants generally aren’t strict about this sort of thing, so at an easy-going place probably any of these are acceptable. However, the other customers would probably feel more awkward about what you call the sushi chef than the chef himself. This will be a short lecture about the correct way to address a sushi chef.

First of all, “Goshujin (ご主人)” is used for all shops, is correct Japanese and sounds perfectly normal in both Kansai and Kanto. This title means “shop owner.” However, this is not usually used at sushi restaurants. “Master (マスター )” means the same thing as “Goshujin,” but is mainly reserved for places like bars and cafes and is not used at sushi restaurants.

Another common title is “Itamae (板前)” or other versions of it like “Itasan (板さん),” but these all mean “cook” for Japanese cuisine. Sushi is a type of Japanese cuisine, so calling a sushi chef “Itasan” is not a mistake. However, even amidst Japanese cuisine, sushi requires unique techniques, which sets sushi chefs apart from others.

Itamae learn various Japanese cooking techniques while apprenticing, but actually, they rarely make sushi. Therefore, even if a Japanese cuisine cook were to jump into the sushi industry, they would basically have to start over completely. Furthermore, sushi chefs do not just learn the technique of making individual pieces of sushi, they must also acquire the skill of communicating with customers. My personal opinion is that “Itasan” is a way to address cooks who are employed.

Next, there are customers who say things like, “Taisho (大将), make it without wasabi.” Taisho is a term for shop owners, mainly used in Kansai. However, Taisho is not an appropriate way to address an Edomae sushi chef.

So, what should you call a sushi chef then?!

The correct term is Oyakata (親方). Oyakata refers to a full-fledged, independent chef. We believe sumo stable owners (a position that not just anyone can achieve and requires prior results as a sumo wrestler) are also called Oyakata. This is just for your reference.

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Revision date: May 23, 2022


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What is Inarizushi (Inari sushi)?

Inarizushi is made with only two ingredients: fried bean curd and vinegar rice (or vinegar rice mixed with boiled down carrots, shiitake or similar ingredients). , and it is that simplicity that allows the chef to devote their ingenuity to the dish, creating a unique flavor. It is said to have first appeared at the end of the Edo period, but the origin is uncertain. The shape of Inarizushi differs from that resembling a straw bag in the Kanto and Eastern Japan, where rich sweet and salty flavoring is used, and the triangular shape of Western Japan.

Type of Inarizushi

When categorized based on shape, the types of Inarizushi are bale type, triangle type, open type and roll type. They can also be categorized by the type of rice stuffed into the fried tofu (abura-age): either white vinegared rice or vinegared rice mixed with other ingredients. The four elements that make up the flavor are sweetness, soy sauce, soup stock and acidity, and the balance is very important. In the east of Japan the flavor tends to be a stronger sweet and salty while in the west the soup stock is more apparent.

Here we will explain the characteristics of Inarizushi using categories based on appearance.

Bale Type

a photo of Bale Type Inarizushi

Inarizushi seems to be a version of Sugatazushi. Perhaps the Sumeshi is stuffed into the fried tofu instead of into a fish (a hypothesis). When looking at literature from the Edo period, there is Inarizushi in the form of a long rod that was cut up and sold. Someone probably thought that if they were going to cut it up into bite-size pieces anyway, they may as well make it in easy-to-eat sizes in the first place (an inference). There are some shops that still sell Inarizushi in long rod form, but the difference is probably in how the fried tofu is cut. You can find this from Sekigahara, Gifu and further eastward.

Triangle Type

a photo of Triangle Type Inarizushi

Why is the appearance triangular? There are many theories, but the most plausible is that these are meant to be shaped like a fox ear. Inarizushi originated as an offering to the Inari god at festivals. The Inari god is the deity of agriculture and patrons pray to this god at Inari shrines. The head Inari shrine is Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto. Legend has it that fried tofu is a favorite of foxes, who are said to be messengers of the Inari god, so it was made into the shape of fox ears. Another theory is that it is the shape of Mt. Inari where Fushimi Inari Taisha is located. Apparently this is because the triangle type originated at Fushimi Inari Taisha. However, Inarizushi shops in Kansai use lucky bale shapes in order to pray for prosperity in business. On the other hand, Inarizushi made at home or in soba restaurants are usually triangular. This type is found from Sekigahara, Gifu and westward.

Open Type

a photo of Open Type Inarizushi

The open type is a revolutionary style. How it came about is not clear, but perhaps someone just stuffed it too full of ingredients. Since the ingredients are visible, it looks even more delicious than normal Inarizushi. It’s really beautiful when many are lined up. You can imagine how this served as inspiration to those who went on to add a variety of ingredients. It’s also easy to make since all you have to do is fill it with ingredients. this has already become a staple sushi in France, South Korea, Australia, Singapore and other countries.

Roll Type

a photo of Roll Type InarizushiAlmost all roll-type Inarizushi in Japan is made with a dried fried tofu from Kumamoto called Nankanage. Unlike normal fried tofu, it looks like paper in the shape of a sponge and does not form a bag. That’s why the only way to use it was by wrapping it around the rice. Also, this way of spreading out one sheet of boiled fried tofu and then wrapping the rice inside may have been created as a way to avoid tearing the fried tofu when stuffing with vinegared rice

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Summary

Ignoring whether or not it is true that carnivorous foxes really love fried tofu, apparently the foxes that serve as messengers to the Inari god do love it. As foxes were thought to be delivering prayers to the Inari god, their favorite fried tofu was given as an offering to stay on the fox’s good side. After that, they started the practice of stuffing rice that was grown with the blessing of the Inari god. As you can see, Inarizushi is the combination of two ingredients involving the Inari god.

Related contents:

Tips for making great Inarizushi from a sushi chef

TYPES OF SUSHI


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Revision date: May 9, 2022


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What is Shiromi?

Hirame is a high-quality fish that goes for at least US $50 per kilogram. It can even exceed US $80 per kilogram, depending on the timing and the fish’s body.

Hirame is a typical shiromi (white meat fish) when winter is approaching and a great sushi topping to start off a meal. Also, the taste is so delicate that the original flavor can be cancelled out just by adding too much soy sauce. How the chef expresses this delicate taste is a tribute to his skill and something that foodies look forward to.

In the US, Hirame is often written as “halibut” on the menu of sushi restaurants. Technically the English name of Hirame is Bastard halibut. Hailbut (referring to Pacific halibut) is called “Ohyo” in Japanese. In Japan, the engawa of massive Ohyo is often used as a substitute for Hirame engawa at conveyor belt sushi, but the two are not confused for each other. There is no mistake that Hirame is related to halibut, but they are completely different species. Incidentally, the price of Ohyo is US $3 to $20 per kilogram. It is incomparably cheaper than Hirame.

Also, depending on the restaurant it may be represented in a variety of other ways such as fluke, flatfish and flounder. These terms refer to relatives of Hirame (鮃) or Karei (鰈), but do not indicate any certain species of fish. In other words, there is generally no distinction between Hirame and Karei in the US and to go even further, all white fish are thought to be the same species.

The delicious taste of fish is dependent on the distribution of fat and the amount of inosinic acid. Therefore, fish taste better in the seasons when they have fattened up. On the other hand, people have a hard time distinguishing between types of fish when comparing the tastes of the parts with less fat. The free amino acids in fish meat differ only slightly between different types of fish. In other words, the flavor of all fish is mostly the same. It is only the amount of fat and the amount of the umami component, inosinic acid, that differ between fish, so apparently even sushi chefs cannot distinguish between fish just by eating the back part, which has a low fat content.

This is part of the reason why in the US all white fish is all lumped into the same category and to top it off, the common consensus there is that white fish has no flavor.

At sushi restaurants in Japan, generally there are at least two types of white fish on offer. It is practically guaranteed that Hirame will be in stock in winter. The light flavor unique to this white meat that spreads with each bite maximizes the aroma and sweetness of the vinegared rice. Recently, white fish with high levels of fat such as Kinmedai and Nodoguro, have become standard, high-quality white fish.

The difference between how even these sorts of white fish are handled in the US and Japan is astonishing. That said, flavorless Hirame is not consumed as sashimi or sushi even in Japan. It is served in dishes with strong flavors, like carpaccio. It’s possible that delicious Hirame is just not available in the US.

Related contents: List of White flesh fish

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Revision date: July 16, 2022


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