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

This is a list of 10 must-try sushi toppings in August. This is the peak of summer. This is when the blazing summer sun is beating down and the Kochi (Bartail flathead) caught at this time is called Terigochi. “Teri” is from the term ‘teritsukeru’, which is used to describe the hot sun blazing down.

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) 

Purple and Northern sea urchins (Kitamurasaki uni)


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Revision date: Novemer 6, 2020


 

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

Is it polite to use Gari as a brush to apply soy sauce?

Using too much soy sauce spoils delicious sushi so make sure to only put a bit of soy sauce in the special dish. Make sure to tilt the sushi to the side and put just a dab on the end of the topping. Gari can be used as a brush to apply soy sauce to sushi rolls since they cannot be tilted. However, there are differing opinions as to whether this is a refined way to eat or not. Many people say it was basically made up by a publishing company. You just need a few drops in the soy sauce cruet. Actually at very fancy establishments the sushi is served with Nikiri so normal soy sauce is never used for dipping.


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Revision date: July 26, 2017

Isn’t it true that fish is all about the freshness??

It’s a well-known fact among professional chefs that some fish don’t rely solely on freshness. Of course there is importance in freshness, but that’s just one element. It’s generally understood that flavor and taste improve with time (maturity).

The umami* found in the meat of the fish is essentially inosinic acid and glutamic acid. After a certain amount of time has passed after a fish has died, the body stiffens and not long after that the rigor lets up. The inosinic acid, which the umami is composed of, comes after the fish has stiffened. It then accumulates in the process of the body relaxing. This is the same in beef and pork in which there is no umami in the meat unless it is hung and matured for a time.

Therefore, ikizukuri sashimi that is still twitching usually won’t have the taste or depth of umami. However, the firm texture of sashimi is also an undeniable enjoyable aspect. It is not all about the umami.

*Glutamic acid, Inosinic acid and Guanylic acid are representative components of umami. Guanylic acid is found in kelp and vegetables (tomato, Chinese cabbage, green tea, etc.) as well as Parmesan cheese, inosinic acid is found in fish (bonito, macheral, sea bream, etc.) and meat (pork, chicken, etc.) while Guanylic acid is abundant in mushrooms (especially dried shiitake mushrooms).


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Revision date: July 17, 2017

Which wines pair well with sushi?

Fermented beverages such as sake and wine pair well with sushi. Sake is made from rice. So it only makes sense that this would pair well with sushi – also made with rice. It is also the only alcohol that eliminates the smell of fish and shellfish.

On the other hand, when considering compatibility with wine, toppings that use strong seasonings like Nikiri, including tuna and conger eel with sweet filling, match superbly with matured red wines such as Pinot Noir.

For example, Bourgogne Chambolle Musigny, Cote de Beaune, Morey-Saint-Denis, etc.

White wines such as a lighter Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling go well with white fish flavored with Citrus sudachi and yuzu or squid eaten with salt.

For example, Bourgogne Chablis.

However, neither red nor white wine goes well with herring or salmon roe. The iron specific to wine is said to contribute to the fishy smell of fish roe.

In the research of one wine manufacturer, the factor that generates the smell of fish and shellfish is the iron (ferrous ion) found in wine. Wines with relatively low levels of iron such as Sherry (Spain), Champagne (France) fermented twice in the bottle, Cava (Spain) and Franciacorta (Italy) mature without adding sulfite, which prevents oxidization. This reduces the ferrous ion in the wine and the fishy smell is virtually unnoticeable.

Either way, the research of wine and sushi pairings is still insufficient and there haven’t yet been any reports of unexpected compatibility. If anyone out there has found a wine that does pair well with herring or salmon roe, please be sure to share that information with us.

See Best Wine For Sushi?


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Revision date: January 17, 2018

Why are the prices at fancier sushi restaurants and Conveyor belt sushi so different?

In some cases a two-piece sushi dish you can get for JPY 100 at Kaiten-zushi (Conver belt sushi) can cost up to 2,000 for half the volume at a fancy restaurant. Many Kaiten-zushi establishments are part of large chains so costs are kept low by buying in bulk.

Also, unlike the fancy restaurants, which procure the best seasonal catch from fishing grounds all over the country, Kaiten-zushi uses a combination of frozen and farmed fish as well as substituting some fish for certain toppings.

For example, Engawa is often thought to be from Japanese flounder, but Pacific halibut or Greenland halibut is used instead as a substitute.

While different from fancy sushi restaurants that serve various seasonal fish and edomaeshigoto, Kaiten-zushi has its own merits and offers sushi at a much lower price. It’s really up to the customer what they hope to get from their sushi experience.

 


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Revision date: July 3, 2017

Why is sushi served with Gari?

Gari is pickled ginger.

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

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

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


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Revision date: May 4, 2021

Drinking tea makes sushi taste better!

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

The key is in its hot temperature.

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

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

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

GREEN TEA THAT PAIRS WITH SUSHI


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Revision date: June 12, 2017

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

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

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

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


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Revision date: June 6, 2017

Judge a chef’s ability and quality of the shop by its Anago

Sushi restaurants that advertise “Edo style” on the sign somewhat fear customers who order Anago (conger eel) right off the bat. If the customer then eats as if they are really taking the time to taste the sushi, then any chef not fully confident in their skills will want to hide under the sushi counter.

Anago is a topping that really demonstrate a chef’s skills (or lack thereof).

Edo-style sushi chefs work on many toppings. Anago is a perfect example of these toppings. It is actually first steamed to remove the fat. However, it’s a difficult balance to remove the fat while still leaving the umami. The steamed Anago is then boiled and flavored. Since the fish is plain, the flavoring is also a subtle skill and not an easy task.

Depending on the shop, the chef may make the sushi with the boiled fish, use Nitsume (boiling down) to bring out the flavor or lightly roast the fish before combining it with the rice. The chef’s ideas and abilities are apparent in the final dish. If the sushi is made from the freshly boiled fish, it should be soft and melt in your mouth…if the chef knows what they are doing! Lightly roasted Anago will have an aroma that fills your entire mouth.

The work this topping takes to serve is a chance for sushi shops to show off their specialties, but it is also a clear indicator of the quality of the shop. The level of the chef and quality of the sushi shop will be revealed as soon as you place Anago in your mouth.


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Revision date: May 27, 2017

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Kohada (Gizzard shad) flavor is refined by exquisite salt seasoning!

According to most sushi masters, salt is the defining factor in the taste of gizzard shad (kohada).

Before seasoning gizzard shad with vinegar, the process starts with salting the spread open shad. It is the length the fish is salted that makes or breaks the fish. The reason for salting the gizzard shad is not just for flavoring, but also to draw out the umami of the fish. Salting for too long results in a briny taste; too short and the umami won’t come to the fore. The timing must be perfect in order to achieve that emotional “umami” moment.

This timing can be compared to boiling eggs: 3 minutes gets you soft-boiled eggs but five minutes gets you hard-boiled eggs. With eggs you can follow this rule of thumb, but no such rule exists for the spotted shad. The conditions for the salting time differ depending on the temperature, humidity, size of the fish and the degree of fat.

For example, a more slender fish in the middle of summer may be salted for 30 minutes, but a fatty fish in the winter needs to be salted for four hours. Just a few minutes longer or shorter than the perfect salting time completely changes the taste of the final dish.

Skilled chefs adjust the time on a daily basis according to the weather and the quality of the fish. Shops that can provide precisely the same spotted shad taste every day of the year are truly the best of the best.

TYPES OF EDO-STYLE PREPARATIONS


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Revision date: May 29, 2017

How do you order at a sushi restaurant?

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

Typically there aren’t any.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related contents:

What are Omakase, Okonomi and Okimari?


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Revision date: January 26, 2021