Sushi & Sashimi: The Basics 2: Questions & Answers

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Vegan Sushi at Sushi Ko in Shizuoka City

SYNOPSIS:
I already have wrtitten a lot in bits and pieces on Sushi and Sashimi, including in my other blog, Shizuoka Sushi, but I felt it was time to post an article that could be used as general reference by my blogging friends.
The Basic 1: Definitions

Many questions are asked about sushi as there are many misconceptions, which is absolutely normal if you do not live in Japan.
I hope the following will clear up the skies for everyone.
Naturally, if you have other questions, I’ll be glad to answer them!

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Sushi set consisting only of seafood caught in Shizuoka Prefecture. Served at Ginta in Yui, Shizuoka City

Q: Are there “special seats” at a sushi restaurant?

A: The usual misconception is that sitting at the counter automatically proves more costly than sitting at a table or on a tatami floor. The price will vary accordingly to what you have ordered wherever you sit. The fact that customers sitting at tables usually order “sushi sets” will tend to demonstrate that it is cheaper, but you can order the same at the counter. On the other hand, sitting at the counter will entice you to order sushi piece by piece and venture into some exotic requests, hence a higher price. I myself always sit at the counter, especially around the “corner”, because I can enjoy the vital opportunity to converse with the chef, watch his technique and have a good look at the available ingredients of the day.

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Sakura Ebi Gunkan/Cherry Shrimps (caught in Shizuoka Prefecture only) served at Sushi Ko in Shizuoka City

Q:”Nigiri Zushi” should be eaten at once?

A:Yes, for two reasons:
First, the carefully-made “nigiri zushi/握り寿司” will somehow collapse on itself after some time and will not look so appetizing.
Second, the “neta” will dry up and will lose some flavour, tenderness and freshness. That is why I have always strongly felt gainst the very popular “kaiten sushi/回転寿司” (conveyor belt) restaurants!
The trick is to order one “nigiri zushi” after the other and savour them individually, one more reason to choose a counter seat.

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Mini Ikura Donburi served at Sushi Ko in Shizuoka City

Q: What are the prerequisites for a good “shari” (rice ball part of the sushi)?

A: As rice is actually the most important part, only high-quality rice such as “Akita Komachi” should be used.
I’m sorry to say so, but sushi made with Thai or Basmati rice abroad is not sushi. Full stop.
Next, the balance between the rice vinegar, sugar and salt is very important. Too much of any ingredient will leave an overwhelming taste inside the mouth to the detriment of the other ingredients. Not enough salt will also be detrimental. Only experience will dictate the right amounts!

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Local sashimi served at Kansawagawa Sake Brewery in Yui, Shizuoka City

Q: Should you dip the “neta” or “shari” first into the soy sauce?

A: Do as you like!
I myself very often ask the chef to add soy sauce directly onto the sushi!
Actually some sushi don’t need any soy sauce.
One can enjoy sole/hirame/平目with a tiny pinch of salt and some lemon juice on top of the neta, or sakura/raw horsemeat is served with tare, grated ginger and chopped leeks, and so forth.

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Vegetarian sushi in Kyoto

Q: Is there a definite order in ordering and eating various kinds of sushi?

A: That is widely subject to personal taste. The best way is to finish with your special favourites.
I myself start with tuna sashimi (“akami” variety, my preferred part of the tuna) and finish with “natto/ume/shiso (fermented beans+pickled plum meat+green beefsteak leaf. Mind you, I would not order that in Osaka!) maki” with soup, preferably “kanijiru/蟹汁” (miso and crab soup).
In between I shall order all kinds of “nigiri zushi” according to availability. I also make a point to order “chyawan mushi/茶碗蒸し” (Japanese steamed custard) whenever possible.

UNI-GUNKAN
Uni-Gunkan

Q: Is sea urchin (“uni/海栗”) nice to eat as “nigiri”?

A: It should be. If the “gunkan/軍艦” (literally “mother ship”, term taken from the Navy) is properly made! A “gunkan”-style “nigiri zushi” is made with a strip of dry seaweed wrapping the rice ball leaving the top free and securing the topping (“neta”). Moreover I would ask the chef to season it with soy sauce to avoid dropping it into my soy saucer (sorry for the pun!)

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Aburi Sanma Nigiri/Slightly grilled Pike mackerel served at Sushi Ko in Shizuoka City

Q: Should all “neta” toppings be made from absolutely fresh fish only?

A: That is another misconception.
Long ago, sushi “neta” were exclusively made of boiled, pickled or salted fish.
As hygiene, refrigeration and preservation have greatly improved, we have access to better and better fresh fish. But in some cases, such as for “maguro” (tuna), it is best to leave the fish rest in a secure place for a while before eating it.
“Maguro” is at its best after a week left in a cold (not frozen) place.
Actually, Mr. Hara, the chef at Ginta in Yui, explained that he gets his fish (of the day only) from the boat the harbour, gut and dress it within a minute before leaving the fish fillets mature on a piece of cloth in the refrigerator for at least half a day!

KOHADA
Kohada Nigiri

Q:Especially in the case of “kohada” (gizzard shard fish or small sweet sardine) we can see at least 5 ways of cutting and presenting the fish: which is the best one?

A: Well. that probably depends both on the chef’s and the customer’s preferences. With a different cut or presentation, various parts of the fish will offer a different exposure to the eater’s palate with consequent different tastes and flavours.

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Kanpyo Maki

Q: “Kanpyo (dried gourd shavings) maki” is usually cut into 3 pieces and “tekka (tuna) maki” cut in 6. Is there a definite reason for that?

A: No. This is being dictated by two factors:
a) Easy-to-hold or to-eat portions.
b) Sometimes when the “maki” is shared so smaller portions (6) will be more practical and pleasing to the eye.

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Unusual round nigiri topped with ika/cuttlefish in the shape of a tsuru/crane served at Sushi Ko in Shizuoka City

Q: Which is better, a male fish or a female fish?

A: A male fish, because a female loses part of its own nutrients for egg (roe) production, especially in the case of salmon and white-fleshed fish.

The next article will be about Ingredients!

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Sushi & Sashimi: The Basics 1: Definitions

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Rainbow Roll at Sushi Ko, Shizuoka City

I already have wrtitten a lot in bits and pieces on Sushi and Sashimi, including in my other blog, Shizuoka Sushi, but I felt it was time to post an article that could be used as general reference by my blogging friends.
This first article will describe the different kinds of sushi in a basic manner.

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Kawahagi sashimi/Leatherback at Sushi Ko, Shizuoka City

Sashimi or thin slices of fish when put onto some rice could be called “sushi” as long as rice vinegar, salt and sugar have been added to season the rice beforehand.
On the other hand it does not have to be sashimi as almost anything could be used for making sushi: fish guts, roe, shellfish, meat, vegetables. etc.
Even the word “sashimi” does not actually apply to fish only as its meaning is “thin slices” (debatable).

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Sakura/Horsemeat Sushi at Sushi Ko, Shizuoka City

There are 3 basic kinds of sushi:
“Nare Zushi”, or pickled fish sushi.
“Nigiri Sushi” or “Edomae Zushi”,or sliced Fish et al onto small balls of rice.
“Oshi Zushi” or “Osaka Zushi”, or sliced fish et al pressed onto rice inside a wooden box or mould and then cut into equal-sized pieces.
Of course the three above kinds can be divided into numerous sub-varieties.

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Home-made Chirashi Zushi

One important variety is “Chirashi Zushi/散らし寿司”, basically all kinds of (available) ingredients, preferably small, strewn on a layer of rive inside a bowl or shallow Japanese dish. This last variety is commonly encountered at home meals when it is more practical for a housewife to serve to a whole family.

“NARE ZUSHI”

NAREZUSHI

Nare zushi in Wakayama Prefecture envelopped in Bamboo leaves

Nare Zushi (熟寿司, or 馴れ寿司 in Japanese) is the original form of sushi in Japan. One way to preserve fish was to gut it, slice the meat with or without the skin and pickle it (ferment it) in rice. The fish could then always be presented at meals after having taken it out of the pickle jar, cleaned it and served it on a dish as an accompaniment (or main dish) to the usual Japanese fare of rice, miso (fermented beans) soup and pickles.

FUNAZUSHI

Funa Zushi/鮒寿司

Funa Zushi is a typical example.

Then one day, somebody selling fish in Edo (old Tokyo) struck on the idea to serve it wrapped around balls of rice to which vinegar, salt and sugar had been added for preservation. These balls were 2 or 3 times as big as nowadays and
3 balls would be enough for a meal.
This form of sushi is rarely encountered or availabe these days. One modern extension of this technique is “Zuke” whereas tuna (“maguro”) or other fish has been first dipped in hot water for a while, then transfered into iced water to stop it cooking and finally marinated into a pickle brine (“tsuke shiru”) for a while. When cut, the surface is cooked and slightly harder while the inside is still soft and comparatively raw. If it is not dipped in brine it becomes “tataki”.
(Note: “Zuke/漬け” also means leaving the fish slices in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin ans sake for about a certain amount of time begore making any kind of sushi. Each restaurant has its own original secrets and recipes.)

“NIGIRI ZUSHI”/”EDOMAE ZUSHI”

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Kujira Nigiri/Whalemeat at Sushi Ko, Shizuoka City

“Nigiri Zushi/握り寿司”, arguably the most popular kind of sushi, consists of a small hand-formed ball of rice, or more commonly called “shari/シャリ”, seasoned with rice vinegar, salt and sugar covered with a slice of fish or other ingredients (defined as “neta/ネタ” in Japanese).
Moreover, before covering the “shari” with the “neta”, a small portion of grated Japanese green horseradish (“wasabi/山葵”) is applied on top of the “shari” to be in contact with both the the “shari” nad “neta”. But this is not always the rule. Grated ginger and chopped chives can be applied on top of the “neta” or the “neta” could be seasoned with sauce (“tare/タレ” or “tsume/ツメ”) or the horseradish could be applied on top of the “neta” (as in for “anago”=conger eel). In some cases, I myself like the “neta” sprinkled with a bit of salt and lemon juice as for “hirame” ( sole/flatfish).
The “nigiri zushi” can be then be dipped or not, according to your preference, into a small dish of soy sauce before eating it.
A “nigiri zushi” seasoned with “tare” or salt and lemon juice should not be dipped into soy sauce.

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Negi-toro Nori Maki/leeks and toro nori maki at Sushi Ko, Shizuoka City

“Edomae Zushi/江戸前寿司”, apart of “nigiri zushi” comprises “te-maki zushi/手巻き寿司” (a sushi made inside dry seaweed in the form of a cone served in one piece),”ha-maki/葉巻” (the same as “te-maki-zushi” but with lettuce instead of dry seaweed), “nori-maki/海苔巻き”
(a long thin roll usually wrapped in dry seaweed, then cut in 2, 3 or 6 portions), “futo-maki/太巻” ( a thick roll wrapped in seaweed cut into thin slices), “inari zushi/稲荷寿司” (plain or mixed with some finely-cut ingredients seasoned rice wrapped inside fried toofu pouch, also known as “0-inari San”) , or “chakin zushi/茶巾寿司” (seasoned rice plain or mixed with other ingredients inside a pouch made of thin omelette).
The possibilities for “edomae zushi” are almost limitless.

TE-MARI-ZUSHI

Te-mari zushi, kyoto style

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Te-mari zushi, home-style

Ome more variety made in Kyoto called “te-mari zushi” (small round “nigiri zushi”) ought to be mentioned as its shape is particularly beautiful and its size is popular with diet-conscious ladies!

“OSHI ZUSHI”/”OSAKA SUSHI”

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Oshi Zushi out of it press box

This type of sushi is made from rice (“shari”) seasoned as in “edomae zushi” and then stuffed inside small wooden boxes, smeared or not with horseradish (“wasabi”). Finally thin slices of fish or else are carefully arranged on top usually so as to form a pattern. A wooden lid will then be pushed on top of the sushi to press it evenly and firmly. The sushi will be then slid out out of the box and cut into regular rectangular portions to be served accordingly to the chef’s taste and skill.

Next to come: Sushi & Sashimi: The Basics 2: Questions and Answers

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Robert Yellin’s Newsletter: Japanese Pottery by Miyao Masahiro

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Greetings from Mishima,

We hope this finds you well and enjoying the autumn season. Here in Japan it’s the Season of Culture–and great food and drink–with many exhibitions and events planned throughout the islands. Here in Mishima we’re starting our autumn exhibition season with Miyao Masahiro, an emerging-important Bizen ceramic artist who recently fired and unloaded his autumn kiln.

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Robert was the first to see–and select–the newly fired works and we offer here in our preview pages the chance to acquire one or more of the 60 works, ranging from cups to large vessels.

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Miyao Masahiro was born in 1970 in Fukuoka prefecture on the southern island of Kyushu. Even from his boyhood he knew he wanted to ‘play with clay and fire’ and become a Bizen ceramic artist. With that goal in mind he dropped out of university in 1991 and headed to Bizen to apprentice with Okayama Intangible Cultural Property Yamamoto Yuichi (son of Living National Treasure Yamamoto Toshu 1906-1994).

cups-all

Miyao established his own kiln a few kilometers outside of Bizen in 2001. His star has been on the rise ever since with awards won at prestigious events such as the Japan Traditional Arts and Crafts exhibition, which was the JTAC Chairman’s Award and Miyao is only the third Bizen potter ever to win this award. Other awards were garnered at the Contemporary Tea Forms Exhibition at the Tanabe Museum and at the JTAC Chukoku Exhibition where he was awarded the Okayama City Mayor’s Award, and the Okayama Culture Exhibition where he won the Runner-up Grand Prix. All of these in a very short time span.
Easy to see why.

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His forms are fresh and engaging, combined with his superb firings we have a rising star. He does all the classic Bizen styles including the highly prized ‘kiln change’ yohen, dripping sesame goma, scarlet hidasuki rice cord markings and his addition of pine ash on some works to add a new ‘landscape’ to his works; we offer all these styles in this exhibition.

The preview hidden links are below and all details on each piece can be found under the photos in the captions. Additional photos or details on any work will gladly be sent upon request to:
robert@e-yakimono.net
The exhibition will be available for public viewing in a few days, for now those who have signed our guest book—thank you–are offered previews here:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

Our future exhibitions before the year ends include a look Iga’s Fujioka Shuhei, Bizen by Yokoyama Naoki, and a few large Shodai plates by Inoue Taishu that were exhibited at the Kumamoto Prefectural Museum of Art. Also on the horizon Wakimoto and Harada of Bizen with about a dozen works each. Of course, each weekday we continue to offer new works by many various artists working in many styles; we hope you visit us here in Mishima or online

With thanks and appreciation as always and all the best from apan.

Sincerely,

Robert Yellin
HOMEPAGE

3-2-18 Omiya-cho, Mishima-shi, Shizuoka-ken
Phone: 81-559-91-5388
Fax: 81-559-91–5387

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Japanese Cuisine: Karei no Karaage/Whole deep-fried Flounder

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Here continues the mini-series on easy Japanese fish recipes:

Karei no Karaage/Whole deep-fried Flounder!
Have a look at the flounder pic below!

INGREDIENTS:

-Flounders: 1 per person
-salt: to taste
-Black pepper: To taste
-Cornstarch

RECIPE:

KAREI-KARAAGE-2

-Take scales off the fish. Take out innards. Clean the fish under running cold clear water. Dry off with kitchen paper.

KAREI-KARAAGE-3

-make a incision under the gills and take these out cleanly. Sprinkle with salt and let rest for 10 minutes.

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-Wipe water and salt off the fish. Make a cross section cut along the skin as in picture. Season with salt and pepper and leave inside fridge for a while to let the fish suck in the seasoning.

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-Sprinkle both sides of the fish with cornstarch (enough to cover the fish as “thinly” as possible)

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-Heat the oil to 160~170 degrees Celsius. Drop the fish in the oil.

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-When the fish has attained a nice colour and that the tail and fins have become crispy, finish the cooking by raising the temperature of the oil for a little while.

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-Take off excess oil on a piece of kitchen paper.
Apart of the bones around the eyes, not only the flesh, but the bones, fins and tail can be eaten!

NOTE:

Take care not to start the deep-frying at too high a temperature, otherwise the fish will “burn out”!

KAREI-FLOUNDER

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Japanese Cuisine: Mebaru no Nitsuke/Stewed Rockfish

MEBARU-1

I found a bunch of simple fish recipes in my notes and thought that the faster I published them the better.
So after yesterday’s Simmered Turbot, here is a similar recipe for “mebaru” or Rockfish. a very popular fish here in Shizuoka and elsewhere!
Have a look at the pic of the fish at the end of this posting!

INGREDIENTS:

-Mebaru/Rockfish: 1 whole
-Water: 75 ml
-Soy sauce, Japanese Sake, Mirin/Sweet sake: 1 tablespoon each
-Sugar: 1 teaspoon
-Ginger, grated: 1 teaspoon

RECIPE:

-Dress the fish (take out the gills and innards.

-Wash the fish in running clear cold water. Dry it off with a piece of kitchen paper.
In a large pan, drop water, soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar. Mix well. Heat just before boiling point. Lay the fish inside.

-Bring the fire down to low-medium. Keep spooning “juices/soup” over the fish as it cooks.

-Cook until soup is reduced to one third.

-Check the taste of the soup halfway. If too astringent add sugar or mirin.

-The juices/soup having reached a slightly sirupy state, add the grated ginger. It is better to add it at the last minute, otherwise the taste will disappear.

-Consider the size of the fish as regards the ingredients for the soup/stock. It will be ok to double the ingredients quantity anyway.

NOTE:
Youmay increase the quantity of ginger and sugar. If the fish does not seem to be absolutely fresh increase the amount of sake and decrease accordingly the amount of water.

MEBARU-ROCKFISH

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Today’s Lunch Box/Bento (’09/64)

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Today’s was also a “Working Man’s Bento”, and the Missus, grumpy as she was (rain outside and so on) certainly couldn’t help pointing it out (she is working, too…)!

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It was pretty voluminous, too. I wonder why the Missus is always complaining b\about my bulging waist,…

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Not only did she steam the rice this morning (complaining I was just lounging around,…) but she also deep-fried fresh Tonkatsu made with pork fillets. Tender and succulent. She topped the tonkatsu with sauce that helped give flavour to the rice, too. The same was underlaid with some shredded cabbage and white sesame seeds.

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The salad part was the same as yesterday: potato, cucumber and egg salad with plum tomatoes on a bed of lettuce.

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The dessert was the same as yesterday, too, but I’m not to complain as I love those Asian pears/”nashi” and ripe plums, both seasonal and so sweet and juicy!

Did I mention before that the grumpier the Missus, the better?

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Japanese Cuisine: Karei no Nitsuke/Simmered Turbot

KAREI-RECIPE-1

Karei/Turbot or halibut is a cheap and very popular fish in Japan, especially cooked, steamed, simmered or deep-fried.
Here is a very easy recipe found in many homes and izakayas:

Karei no Nitsuke/Simmered Turbot!

INGREDIENTS: For 3 “slices”

-Turbot/Halibut: 3 large cuts
-Soy sauce: 130 ml
-Sugar: 2 tablepsoons
-Mirin/sweet sake: 4 tablespoons
-Japanese sake: 4 tablespoons
-Miso paste: 1 tablespoon
-Garlic, grated: half a tablespoon
-Ginger, grated: Half a tablespoon

RECIPE:

KAREI-RECIPE-2

-In a large pan drop soy sauce, miso paste, sugar, mirin and sake, and bring slowly to boil.

KAREI-RECIPE-3

-Add fish and bring slowly to boil.

KAREI-RECIPE-4

-Add grated garlic and ginger and cook on a low-medium fire until fish is almost cooked.

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-Cover the fish with foil paper and simmer for 5 more minutes. Take care not burn anything.

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-Discard foil paper and keep spooning the juices over the fish util it has reached a nice brown colour and reduced to a nice texture.

KAREI-RECIPE-7

-Serve at once with some lettuce or greens. The fish and the sauce should have a shiny aspect.

The juices might look a bit dark, but that is when it’s at its best. Cooking time is difficult to determine exactly, but make sure nothing “burns”.
Great with plain steamed rice.

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