Why do some sushi toppings have ginger instead of wasabi?

Ginger is used for toppings with a strong, distinct taste and strong fishy smell such as bonito, horse mackerel and sardines.

Wasabi has a spicy taste and stimulates the senses of taste and smell and works to dull the senses so the fishy smell is not felt, but ginger is effective in actually extinguishing the fishy smell.


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Revision date: December 11, 2017

10 pieces of sushi we recommend for December

Red seabream (Tai)

Red gurnard (Houbou)

Golden cuttlefish (Sumi ika)

Lean meat of tuna (Akami)

Medium Fatty Tuna (Chutoro)

Japanese pufferfish (Fugu)

Japanese spanish mackerel (Sawara)

Ark shell (Akagai)

Sakhalin surf clam (Hokkigai)

Splendid alfonsino (Kinmedai)


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Revision date: November 27, 2017

You know toro tuna and akami, but have you heard of the more rare parts of the tuna?

A single bite of the same bluefin tuna differs greatly depending on the part of the fish it came from.

The body of the fish is broadly categorized into the dorsal (back) and the ventral (belly) sides, which taste completely different. Of course the meat near the head tastes completely different from the meat near the tail. If you dig even deeper, there are parts that aren’t as well-known as the Otoro (fatty), Chutoro (medium fatty) and Akami (lean) tuna meats. We’d like to explain those now.

Hachinomi (ハチの身) or Tsunotoro Nouten” is the meat from the crown of the head. It is fatty and rich and also called “Head Toro”. Only about 1kg of this precious meat can be taken from even a very large fish, and it is only shared with regular, loyal customers.

 

Kamatoro (カマトロ)” is taken from behind the jaw. It is known as “shimofuri (霜降り)” or marbled meat. There are no veins in this part so the meat is soft and the marbling is more detailed than Otoro, so it is sticky and melts in your mouth. The balance of fat and sweetness in this part is unparalleled.  It can be said that otoro (such as shimofuri and jabara) of tuna is the representative part of toro tuna. This is an image of the shimofuri on the right, and the jabara (蛇腹) on the left.

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.

 

 

Chiai Gishi (血合いぎし)” -Located right next to chiai, this is the meat you can taste umami of the rich red meat and the sweetness of toro fat at the same time.

 

 

Wakaremi (分かれ身)” is a precious part with very little meat found on the next to the dorsal fin. The part especially close to the dorsal fin is popular and called “Setoro (背トロ)” or back toro. The light taste is a combination of the deliciousness of both the lean meat and that won’t fill you up. However, this part is hard to get, even in high-quality tuna and is not available except to regular customers in almost all sushi restaurants.

A sushi chef, Hiroyuki Sato, serves a tossaki hand roll as the first sushi piece of the course. “Tossaki (突先)” is an exclusive cut of tuna that goes well with sushi rice using red vinegar, which is less sour but has more umami and flavor compared with white vinegar. Because tossaki is the base of the tuna’s head and it moves a lot, there are a lot of muscular striations. Therefore it needs to be prepared using the back of a knife carefully as if peeling it off (Hagashi). It is said that tossaki is a high-tuna-flavor cut. A couple of Sato’s apprentices also offer a hand roll to open up the meal in the same way.

The meat of tuna gets leaner and muscular striations are fewer towards the inner center of the body. “Tenpa (天端)”, surrounding the spine, is deeper in color and tastes stronger. It features the tender texture coming from the finest meat quality. This is also called Tenmi (天身).

Hohoniku (ホホ肉)” or cheek meat is taken from below the eye, seasoned, grilled and made into gun-kan rolls. The taste is enhanced in this part by grilling.

 

 

“Hireshita (ひれ下)”-Located right above the first pectoral fin. Characterized with the tender meat which is relatively low in fat content but rich with umami flavor. This truly is the valuable part whether there will be even enough for 10 pieces of sushi from an over 200 kg tuna.

If you are fortunate enough to get an opportunity to taste these , you can take it as proof that you have been accepted as a regular and loyal customer. It is difficult to distinguish these parts by appearance alone, so make sure you try them at a sushi restaurant you can trust. Just for your reference.


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Revision date: June 19, 2020

We will explain fishing methods which could affect the quality of caught tuna.

There are mainly five methods for tuna fishing. “Ipponzuri” (catching fish with fishing poles) in Oma, Aomori prefecture, you see a lot through the media, is well known. However, the fact is that Long line fishing method and Purse seine fishing method are the ones catching the most tuna. The rest is Fixed net fishing method and Hikiami (Seine fishing method).

<Long line fishing method>

To hang a long line (Mikinawa) in the sea, covered with about 3000 fishhooks attached to branch lines (Edanawa), aiming at a path of schooling tuna.

<Purse seine fishing method>

A large-scale method of fishing by encircling a school of tuna with a net. Although it is efficient, there is a demerit of lowering the quality of fish because they struggle while getting caught. In addition, other kinds of fish and immature fish can be caught without distinction and that leads to overfishing.

<Fixed net fishing method>

Tuna have a habit of migrating to the same ocean area at the same time each year. A coastal fishing method called Fixed net fishing consists of placing a net in the sea and wait for a school of tuna. The advantage of this method is to be able to capture the fish alive without causing any injury or damage.

<Ipponzuri (catching fish with fishing poles)>

This method has the longest history and uses a pole of 4 – 6 meters to fish from a boat. Using a machine that winds up lines automatically and also using human hands, pull up tuna that weighs more than 100kg and lastly catch it by piercing gills with a harpoon.

<Hikiami (Seine fishing method)>

To catch fish by towing a bag-shaped net from a boat.


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Revision date: March 20, 2018

Today you will learn how to easily identify artificial salmon roe!

The natural salmon roe season is the autumn. Does this mean that most of the roe eaten during the off-season is artificial Salmon roe. Not necessarily. As stated in his biography, even at the famous sushi restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro, frozen roe is thawed as necessary.

Long ago this was an extremely expensive topping that ordinary people couldn’t afford, so artificial roe was used. There was a time when this was the case. But nowadays salmon roe is regularly imported from overseas and can be obtained cheaper, eliminating the need to use artificial roe instead.

However, we cannot overlook the commercial law for passing off artificial roe as natural roe. In Japan, the non-perishable properties of artificial salmon roe made from chemical substances (mainly sodium alginate) is utilized and used mainly in hospitals, but not sold to the general public. I’ll also tell you that it is very rare to find a sushi restaurant that serves artificial roe. Cheap roe is generally made from eggs of trout, other related species, or imported from Canada and other countries.

Unfortunately I’m not familiar with the state of things outside of Japan, but I can tell you how to tell the difference. All it takes is hot water and a moment of observation. Artificial salmon roe will show no changes in hot water, but natural roe will start to turn white on the surface. This is due to the protein reacting and changing with the heat. That said, this is not an experience you can just set up at the sushi restaurant.

As an aside…

What are the fish eggs on sushi called in Japan?

There are eight types of fish eggs served at Japanese sushi restaurants. However, not all of them are used for Nigiri sushi. Some are served as side dishes. Uni is sometimes translated as sea urchin’s roe, but it is actually the sea urchin’s genitals (testes and ovaries). Most people also don’t know that Tobiko and Tarako are not served at 99% of Edo-style restaurants. In other words, these toppings are only served at kaiten-sushi (conveyor belt) restaurants. The one type of roe topping that can probably be found at all sushi restaurants is Ikura. Even more types of fish eggs, such as Masago, Paddlefish roe and Hackleback roe are used in sushi overseas, but Japan remains more conservative. Of course, it’s only natural that fish substitutes are not well-received in the place where sushi was born.

Types of fish roe

What is Ikura? - It is Salmon roe.

What is Kazunoko? - It is Herring eggs.

What is Sujiko? - It is Salmon roe that is still within its egg membrane.

What is Tobiko? - It is Flying fish roe.

What is Tarako? - It is Walleye pollock roe.

What is Caviar? - It is Sturgeon roe.

What is Karasumi? - It is Dried mullet roe.

What is komochi konbu? - It is Herring spawn on kelp.

What is Msago? - It is smelt roe.

Just for your own information.


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Revision date: April 25, 2020

10 pieces of sushi we recommend for November

Bastard halibut (Hirame)

Filefish (Kawahagi)

Japanese amberjack (Buri)

Lean meat of tuna (Akami)

Medium Fatty Tuna (Chutoro)

Gizzard shad (Kohada)

Whelk (Tsubugai)

Mackerel (Saba)

Common octopus (Madako)

Snow crab (Zuwaigani)


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Revision date: October 30, 2017

Why aren’t the prices included on the menu at sushi restaurants?

If you visit a premium sushi restaurant, such as one that places piles of salt by the entrance for good fortune, you’ll notice there are no price displays.

There’s not even a menu. All you find is a slab of wood hanging down the wall with names of the daily offerings such as Conger Eel (anago) or Spotted Shad (kohada).

This is not a place to get angry and ask how customers can order without knowing the price. First time customers may not know the market price and worry about budget, resolving to pay with a credit card if they don’t have enough cash in their wallet.

I guess you could say that sushi restaurants that don’t display prices are accepted by customers as being more traditional, like the old days. But actually, at pre-war sushi restaurants, there were wooden panels that listed prices such as “Fatty Tuna: 2000 yen”. It was during the 1960s that they stopped displaying prices.

The 60s was the start of an era of high-growth in Japan. Prices were rising rapidly and sushi prices also went up drastically. At the same time, the business practice of entertaining clients was gaining popularity and suddenly about 80% of the clientele of high-quality sushi restaurants were these types of business groups, rather than individual customers.

In situations like these, if there was a sign that read “Medium Fatty Tuna: 3000 yen” then it makes it difficult for the business guest to order what they like, without worrying about the price. Considering the total bill, they may also order fewer dishes than they want. As you can see, this practice of not displaying prices at sushi restaurants was in consideration for the business customers who were entertaining clients, as well as those being entertained as clients. At the same time, the well-known “Omakase” was created, the “chef’s choice” system in which the customer orders a menu created by the chef on the spot.


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Revision date: October 23, 2017

Why is sushi eaten with sushi sauce (shoyu)?

There are many different things all over the world that are share the name “sushi”. However, when Japanese people hear this word they think of “nigiri sushi”. Of course outside of Japan, it probably more commonly refers to sushi rolls.

Similarly, the way soy sauce is used also differs greatly between people in Japan and those in other countries. The soy sauced used for nigiri sushi is not used to add salty flavor to the sushi. The reason it’s used is to subdue the fishy odor of the fish and to add the many amino acids contained in soy sauce to nigiri sushi, which brings out the umami synergistic effects. Think of it more like an important background role to the sushi that isn’t meant to stand out. Meanwhile, since sushi rolls and other sushi dishes overseas are generally eaten after being cooled, the flavor is subdued, leading to using large amounts of soy sauce.

There is also a big difference in the concept of sushi sauce. In Japan, there is no such word as “sushi sauce”. Neither chefs nor the general population has heard this term. However, the term is easy to imagine what it would be, so hearing the word “sushi sauce” would probably lead Japanese people to assume it meant nikiri shoyu or nitsume, which are used in nigiri sushi. Also, soy sauce, or “shoyu” as it’s called in Japanese, is not considered to be a type of “sauce” in Japan. But what about in other countries? Sushi sauce has a distinctive, assertive flavor and is added to bring out multiple layers of flavor. There are also many types of sushi sauce such as sriracha sauce, spicy mayo, mango sauce, ponzu sauce, tonkatsu sauce, eel sauce, tamari sauce, teriyaki sauce, dynamite sauce and others. They each play an important role in bringing out the flavors of sushi rolls that otherwise wouldn’t be apparent.

In other words, as the definition of sushi definition changes across borders, the definition of sushi sauce changes too. However, what both sushi sauce overseas and Shoyu in Japan have in common is that they complement the sushi they are used for.

Now we would like to explain a bit about the Shoyu used in nigiri sushi.

Edo style sushi was created during the Edo period in Japan (1804-1830). The expansion of the soy sauce culture of the Edo area (currently Tokyo) had a big influence on the creation of Edo style sushi. In a time when refrigeration and other technology had not yet been developed, soy sauce played an important role not only in taste, but also in preservation. A surprising number of tasks in the Edo style utilize the scientific effects of soy sauce.

First of all, lightly applying just a small amount of Nikiri shoyu (sushi sauce) on the sushi topping, brings out its flavor and creates a glaze. To put it scientifically, this a clever use of the odor eliminating effects of soy sauce, eliminating the raw odor.

 

Also, long ago zuke (soaking in soy sauce) was also used for fish other than tuna. This was a way to utilize the bacteriostatic effects of soy sauce, which stop the growth of Escherichia coli (E. coli).

 

 

Tsume (sushi sauce) represents the thermal effects of soy sauce. By adding soy sauce, mirin and sugar then boiling down, the amino acids in the soy sauce and the sugar react and the goal is to create a delicious glaze and a nice scent that stimulates the appetite.

 

Adding a small amount of soy sauce when making rolled egg omelets has the effect of enhancing and bringing out the flavor and sweetness of the ingredients.

Soy sauce is generally overshadowed by the sushi topping and vinegar rice, but soy sauce plays an important role in bringing out and enhancing the delicious taste of the sushi.


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Revision date: June 19, 2020

10 pieces of sushi we recommend for October

Bastard halibut (Hirame)

Young Japanese amberjack (Inada)

Swordtip squid (Kensaki ika)

Lean meat of tuna (Akami)

Medium Fatty Tuna (Chutoro)

Gizzard shad (Kohada)

Alaskan pink shrimp (Ama ebi)

Mackerel (Saba)

Pacific saury (Sanma)

Japanese conger (Anago)


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Revision date: October 1, 2017

10 pieces of sushi we recommend for September

Bastard halibut (Hirame)

Gold Tilefish (Amadai)

Lean meat of tuna (Akami)

Medium Fatty Tuna (Chutoro)

Gizzard shad (Kohada)

Benito (Katsuo)

Mackerel (Saba)

Greater Amberjack (Kanpachi)

Salmon roe (Ikura)

Red sea urchin (Aka uni)


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Revision date: September 1, 2017

Is Nigiri sushi made by a Master Really Transparent?!

Some of the shari drops off of the sushi placed in front of you by the chef saying, “Sorry to keep you waiting.” You may be served this kind of nigiri sushi at restaurants that have lines out the door. Of course sushi that falls apart before it even touches your lips is a failure.

Good nigiri sushi looks solid, but once you put it in your mouth the shari naturally loosens. Next the loosened rice absorbs the taste of the topping and it doesn’t stick to the roof of your mouth. On the other hand, with shari of sushi that has been pressed too strongly, the taste of the topping is left in your mouth, getting in the way of new flavors.

In other words, the sushi looks hard on the outside, but it soft on the inside. This is the perfect recipe for sushi.

When first learning, chefs are only concerned with shape and press the pieces too firmly. Next they let up on the force a bit and once they find the perfect amount of pressure, they become a real sushi chef. A master sushi chef is one rank above that and makes sushi that light can pass through. The sushi must be pressed gently enough for light to pass through, but firmly enough so that the sushi holds its shape.


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Revision date: August 28, 2017

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Is there a certain order for eating sushi?

How to eat sushi properly

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

The following menu is an omakase style at 3 michelin star restaurant in Ginza. Begin with white fish?

Marbled flounder (Makogarei)

Striped jack (Shima aji)

Golden cuttlefish (Sumi ika)

Akami

Chutoro

Ohtoro

Gizzard shad (Kohada)

Common orient clam (Nihamaguri)

Horse mackerel (Aji)

Kuruma prawn (Kuruma ebi)

Japanese halfbeak (Sayori)

Common octopus (Madako)

Mackerel (Saba)

Ark shell (Akagai)

Uni

Salmon roe (Ikura)

Japanese conger (Anago)

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

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


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Revision date: April 22, 2020

10 pieces of sushi we recommend for August

Bartail flathead (Kochi)

Spotted halibut (Hoshigari)

Striped jack (Shima aji)

Shin-ika Golden cuttlefish (Shin ika)

Southern Bluefin tuna (Minamimaguro)

Gizzard shad (Kohada)

Kuruma prawn (Kuruma ebi)

Horse mackerel (Aji)

Disk Abalone (Awabi)

Northern sea urchin (Kitamurasaki uni)


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Revision date: August 31, 2017


 

Once you try Kuruma ebi sushi, you’ll never want any other shrimp.

Cultured shrimp like Black tiger is imported to Japan from India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and other places and it used in a lot of nigiri sushi. The shrimp used in sushi rolls is generally the giant tiger prawn. It is used because the price is cheap and it becomes a beautiful vermilion color when boiled. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the sweet taste normally associated with shrimp.

On the other hand, the Kuruma prawn (kuruma ebi) that is offered at Edo-style sushi restaurants has a rich aroma and sweetness than spreads over your tongue. It is also becoming more popular to boil it just before serving it to the customers. By doing this, the warmth enhances the sweetness of the shrimp.

The old Edo-style sushi restaurants will also ferment the shrimp in eggs scrambled with sweet vinegar (yolk soaked in vinegar) for several days. When the Kuruma prawn is soaked in the egg, its umami is enhanced and its pleasant acidity is delicious.

By the way, when you boil the shrimp, it normally bends towards the belly. Crooked shrimp cannot be used for sushi, so a few cuts are made in the ventral to stop it from bending and it is cut along the muscles or from head to tail and skewered before boiling. You still have to be careful it doesn’t bend when you peel off the shell. Therefore, even just the way a Kuruma prawn is boiled demonstrates the skill of a sushi chef.


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Revision date: August 7, 2017

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Why is Zuke used for lean meat?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Revision date: August 1, 2017