What is Kakushiaji?

Kakushiaji refers to a technique where a single seasoning (For example, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, salt, etc.) is added to a dish. The Kakushiaji contrasts with the finished dish’s flavor, and is added in an amount too small to notice when served. This produces a clear improvement in flavor.

Examples include adding a little salt to heighten sweetness, or adding a little vinegar to a simmered dish. Sometimes these combination of flavors can be quite surprising, like adding a touch of chocolate to a curry.


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Revision date: November 7, 2018

What is “Sute-shari”?

Shari (vinegar 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” 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 a three Michelin stars for 11 consecutive years.


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Revision date: May 14, 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

Prior to WWII, there were chefs whose only job was making vinegar rice!

From the end of the Edo period through the Meiji period, rice was cooked using firewood and a pot. It is not easy to get the fire at the right temperature and the rice has to be cooked to the same texture regardless of where it came from or the size of the grains, so at the time the task required a skilled chef. Therefore, there were “Shari-ya” employed by sushi restaurants who specialized in cooking rice. “Shari-ya” focused on this single task and were not involved in the actual making of the sushi after the rice was passed on to the chefs.


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Revision date: January 29, 2018

The real way of making shari (vinegared rice) by a sushi master. There are 4 tips!

In order to bring sushi to life, it is extremely important how shari is made. Let me introduce a cooking method, a top grade sushi master uses.

First, wash the rice gently. Leave it to soak for about half an hour and let it fully absorb water. The first tip is to keep the water level of the rice even in this way.

The rice should be cooked with water with a ratio of 10 to 9. A little less water than the regular rice, so that it is cooked slightly hard. This is the second tip.

While you wait for the rice to cook, make awasezu* by adding salt and sugar in vinegar. Also, set up hangiri (rice-cooling tub) for mixing the rice. Don’t forget to wipe the inside with a wet kitchen towel to prevent the rice from sticking to it.

Once the rice has finished cooking, leave it to steam for about 15 minutes and dump it out into hangiri. Pour awasezu immediately and let it sit for 30 seconds or so. Because the rice absorbs vinegar only while it is hot, managing this process quickly is the third tip.

After letting it sit for 30 seconds, spread the rice out with shamoji (rice spatula) as if cutting it down. Make sure that vinegar goes around using a cutting motion vertically. Additionally, fan the rice using a uchiwa (fan) to remove the moisture of vinegar and mix the rice with a cutting motion horizontally this time. Fanning with uchiwa is not to cool down the rice (Do not put the rice in the fridge to cool it down.), but to dry up the excess moisture of vinegar. Moving both hands as you consider it is the fourth tip.

After the rice is vinegared evenly, assemble it in one place and cover it with a damp kitchen towel. In about an hour, it is ready when shari is settled. (Body temperature) Even in a hurry, if you don’t give at least 30 minutes, it won’t help the taste of course, and also won’t make it easy to form the rice for sushi. If you rush at the end, all the delicate attention up to this will be in vain.

*A professional recipe for awasezu is as follows. This is a recipe for short grain rice species such as Koshihikari and Sasanishiki. Slightly sticky rice like calrose is not suitable for sushi rice.

9 cups rice

8 cups plus 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp water

8 tbsp plus 1 tsp vinegar ~ 12 tbsp vinegar

2 tbsp plus 1 tsp salt

1 tbsp plus 1 tsp sugar ~ 2 tbsp plus 2 tsp sugar


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Revision date: May 18, 2017