‘The Sushi Experience’, the sushi book, which I wrote with Judith Jones at Alfred Knopf as editor, was published in the year of 2006. To make sure of my own skill, before writing the manuscript I went to Japan to be trained as a sushi chef. The purpose of the book was to offer the American audience, both avocational and vocational community, a work about authentic sushi, not just preparations, but also about the varieties of fish used in the Japanese sushi kitchen and sushi dining etiquette. The book also presents the fascinating history and culture of sushi in Japan. It contains much information about what constitutes good nigirizushi and how to eat it without messing it up. Judith Jones were an avid learner of the art of this new cuisine and a master editor for my book. The book stimulated other authors to begin to write on the same subject, and as you know these days sushi has world-wide appeal
Since the publication, sushi diners here in America have learned so much about nigirizushi. Here is a review of some of the important points in the book which Judith polished, and some interesting sushi news from Japan. Since there are many bullet points items, I cut them in half. The remaining half will be posted very soon.
- Sitting at the sushi counter bar offers sushi diners the maximum enjoyment for a nigirizushi At the counter bar we can study and check the fish in the refrigerated sushi case, and can have a delightful conversation with sushi chefs who stands on the other side of the sushi bar counter to prepare our meal. Most chefs are delighted to talk about the specialties of the day, the seasonal fish on display and recommended preparations. You can learn a lot and have fun bantering with the chef.
- Properly prepared sushi rice is firm in texture and slightly warm in temperature.
- Very fresh quality sushi fish tend to have firm texture and as time goes by the texture becomes tender and umami (savory flavor) develops
- Tender texture does not mean that fish is old or spoiled; but if it is soft to the state of being mushy and smelly…that’s totally unacceptable.
- Pick up nigirizushi with you hand, don’t struggle with chopsticks. You will likely drop it using chop sticks. Sushi is and always has been finger food! When I see sushi dinners struggling with chop sticks to pick up nigirizushi and sushi rolls, I want to say, “No, no”, but I am too polite to do so and usually I remain silent.
- This is HOW: grab a piece of sushi with your thumb and middle finger on either side, place your index finger lightly on top of the sliced fish, flip it over and lightly dip the very end part of fish topping, not the rice into the shoyu (soy sauce) dipping sauce. Flip it back over gently and quickly, and pop the whole piece into your mouth; don’t bite it in half. Close your eyes and enjoy the texture and temperature difference between the fish and sushi rice while you are chewing them together.
- There is no rule for the order in which sushi is to be eaten. This is not a rule, but diners often first enjoy some assorted sashimi (sometimes called ‘otsukuri’) before ordering nigirizushi. You may choose to start your nigirizushi with strongly flavored fish such as aji (horse mackerel: so delicious!), saba (mackerel: yay! – one of my favorites; usually cured), iwashi (sardine: equally delicious!) or kohada (Japanese gizzard shad; always cured) and then move on to the yellowtail family zone such as buri & hamachi and shima-aji (striped jack). From there many move into non-oily white flesh fish or shellfish such as suzuki (sea bass), tai (sea bream), hirame (fluke), tako (octopus), hotate (scallop), ika (squid) and various clams. At the climax you may want to enjoy anago (conger eel), uni (sea urchin) or ikura (salmon roe).
- I did not intentionally mention two (2) very popular sushi fish here in America in the above list. They are not my choice. You can probably name them.
Bullet points continues to next blog posting.
The Sushi Experience: