What is “Sute-shari”?

Shari (vinegared rice or sushi rice) used for making sushi is kept in a rice tub and normally placed by the hand the chef uses to shape the rice. The chef places his shaping hand in the tub and takes out several hundred grains of rice. It is said that a skilled chef can consistently grab the same number of grains with an error of only a few grains, every time. This is the result of many years of training.

If the chef lacks such training, they may take too much shari and you’ll see them return some to the rice tub. This is called “sute-shari (捨てシャリ)” or “discarded shari”. This sute-shari is not a very appealing sight. But the reality is that even the world-famous Jiro* can be seen discarding shari in this way.

*Jiro Ono is the owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a sushi restaurant in Ginza that has earned the status of three Michelin stars for 12 consecutive years.


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Revision date: May 14, 2018

What is “Hagashi”?

There is a part on the tuna belly called “Sunazuri (gizzards)” or “Zuri” . Normally “Jabara,” with the diagonal white lines is the king of tuna, but the fatty tuna is spoiled if the white lines are left in your mouth.  Also, on the dorsal side there is a part that produces chutoro called wakaremi.  This part is also complex with hard, white lines throughout that we want to avoid eating. Instead, the knife cuts along those lines, gently removing the fish meat from them, making “Hagashi.” If the chef is not skilled, this cut will take time and extra meat is left behind. This is delicate work, making for a delicious and satisfying experience.


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Revision date: July 16, 2020

10 pieces of sushi we recommend for May

Chicken grunt (Isaki)

Japanese whiting (Kisu)

Bigfin reef squid (Aori ika)

Lean meat of tuna (Akami)

Medium Fatty Tuna (Chutoro)

Benito (Katsuo)

Squilla (Shako)

Japanese icefish (Shirauo)

Broad velvet shrimp (Shira ebi)

Japanese egg cockle (Torigai)

Common orient clam (Nihamaguri)


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Revision date: November 6, 2020

Does the taste of wasabi differ depending on the grater?!

There are two tools used to grate wasabi, one is a metal grater and the other is called “Samegawa” (sharkskin), which has a layer of shark skin. When something as fine as shark skin is used for grating, the spicy flavor is enhanced and when a coarser metal is used, the sweetness is enhanced.

The taste of the wasabi even changes depending on whether it is turned clockwise or counter-clockwise while grating.

Learn about wasabi


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Revision date: April 23, 2018

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Strong belief that fish is only about freshness

In some cases, the strong belief that fish is only about freshness, may prevent you from tasting the true value of the fish. For example, slicing up a fish that was just swimming, in front of the customer. The umami flavor is weak at first so while the texture is tough (a unique, crunchy feeling), the flavor is lacking. But the idea that freshness is equivalent to deliciousness continues still. This is a typical case of faith in freshness overtaking the actual taste.


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Revision date: April 16, 2018

What is the difference between the taste of marbled and lined fatty tuna?

Marbled tuna (shimofuri) is the part in which it looks like the fat has fallen like a frost and melts like snow on your tongue then leaving only the umami taste.

The lined fatty tuna (Jabara) is the part that has white fat lines running through it. When you first take a bite, surge of aroma and umami flavor fills your mouth. After that, the potent fatty umami fills your mouth. The way the fat melts in your mouth differs between Jabara and marbling, so which you like better depends on preference.


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Revision date: May 4, 2021

10 pieces of sushi we recommend for April

This is a list of 10 must-try sushi toppings in April. Sayori has long been loved the Japanese as an ingredient in Edomae sushi, and its appearance ushers in the start of spring. And katsuo (bonito) is recommended for this day, and of course, this is the time for “Hatsugatsuo” (the first bonito of the season).

Bastard halibut (Hirame)

Japanese halfbeak (Sayori)

Bigfin reef squid (Aori ika)

Lean meat of tuna (Akami)

Medium Fatty Tuna (Chutoro)

Japanese icefish (Shirauo)

Broad velvet shrimp (Shiro ebi)

Rediated trough-shell (Kobashira)

Japanese egg cockle (Torigai)

Common orient clam (Nihamaguri)


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Revision date: April 2, 2018

Can’t-miss Tokyo sushi toppings (Meji Maguro)

Meji Maguro (AKA: Meji) caught in fixed net fishing is one type of sushi topping that you really should try. Meji is the larval fish of Pacific bluefin tuna, made and served at expensive restaurants, but not usually available as Edo-style sushi. Its fat is lighter and it doesn’t have the impact that fatty tuna has. Efforts are put into seasoning to avoid this. Using a pinch of ginger, Japanese basil or onion between the topping and rice, along with the wasabi, really brings out the fresh flavor of the young fish as well as the sweetness of this fatty part.


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Revision date: March 26, 2018

Why doesn’t rice stick to the sushi chef’s hands?

One of the pleasures of sitting at a sushi counter is watching the sushi master work his craft.

He holds the topping between the index finger and thumb of his left hand while simultaneously grabbing the shari (vinegar rice) with his left hand. He gently squeezes the shari and then moves the topping from his left hand to the top of that shari in a fluid motion. This entire process of shaping the shari to the finished piece of sushi takes less than six seconds. Every movement is precise and purposeful.

However, no matter how many pieces the chef makes one after another, you’ll never see a grain of rice stick to his hands. If you or I were to make even one piece of sushi, our hands would be covered in rice. So why doesn’t it happen to them? Their hands don’t look oiled. Perhaps sushi chefs have especially smooth or slick hands compared to us average Joes?

Of course not. This is actually thanks to the vinegar.

The chefs keep a bowl of vinegar close by, which they constantly use to wet their hands. This procedure is called “Tezu” or vinegared water, which both disinfects the hands and cools their palms. When the vinegar evaporates, it takes the heat from the hands with it.

Normally hands reach temperatures of 33-34 degrees Celsius (91-93 degrees Fahrenheit), but sushi chefs cool their hands to approximately 30 degrees Celsius (86 F). This transfers the heat from the hands to the shari, keeping it from getting sticky. In other words, not a single grain of rice sticks to their hands.


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Revision date: March 19, 2018

Why is freshly-caught fish allowed to age?

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


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Revision date: March 12, 2018

Why does the bill more when ordering sashimi at a prestigious restaurant?

Thicker cuts of fish are used for sashimi than for sushi. Depending on the restaurant, the equivalent of three pieces of sushi may be used in one cut of sashimi. In other words, two pieces of sashimi is the same as six pieces of sushi. At a restaurant where one piece of medium fatty tuna sushi is priced at JPY 1000, simple arithmetic prices medium fatty tuna sashimi at JPY 6000. Just a small order of assorted sashimi often costs more than JPY 10,000. Be careful.


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Revision date: March 5, 2018

10 pieces of sushi we recommend for March

This is a list of 10 must-try sushi toppings in March. This is the season when early cherry blossoms start to bloom. On the spring equinox, fishing for Japanese egg cockle (Torigai) opens.

Bastard halibut (Hirame)

Japanese halfbeak (Sayori)

Golden cuttlefish (Sumi ika)

Lean meat of tuna (Akami)

Medium Fatty Tuna (Chutoro)

Japanese icefish (Shirauo)

Striped marlin (Makajiki)

Pen-shell (Tairagi)

Ark shell (Akagai)

Rediated trough-shell (Aoyagi)


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Revision date: November 6, 2030

Why are two pieces of nigiri sushi made at once?

One theory is that this practice is leftover from back when pieces of sushi were made larger and then cut in half. But, there are also some toppings that are better to eat in pairs.

For example, conger eel tastes completely different when one piece is eaten with salt and the other seasoned with sweet sauce. Serving the piece with the head skin-up and the piece with the tail belly-up also offers different textures. Since the back and belly of bonito have different fat content, it can be better to order two pieces at a time in order to fully experience each of the individual qualities of the fish.


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Revision date: February 26, 2018

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

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

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


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Revision date: February 19, 2018

Why is sushi with tuna topping so expensive?

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

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

This is why the price is high.


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Revision date: February 5, 2018