Become A Sushi Connoisseur
Sushi is much more than just raw fish. This delicate rice-based has a thousand-year-long tradition as one of Japan's healthiest foods. While the practice of preparing sushi is steeped in tradition and rituals, it is a dish that continues to evolve - adding new ingredients like caviar and shrimp.
When you think about the word “sushi,” you probably associate it with fish. But the word “sushi” refers to the rice and the ancient way the dish was consumed. “Sushi” specifies a unique type of round-grained rice that is seasoned with salt, sugar and rice vinegar.
Making sushi rice is such a special skill that traditional Japanese sushi chefs are trained in the process for 2 years before they move on to another ingredient. The rice is so important that sushi restaurants used to have a full-time specialist whose only job was to prepare it.
Times have changed and even sushi became "westernized". We all love to use wasabi, soy sauce, and eel/plum sauce - they are introduced to elevate the taste yet begin to hide the flavor of fish.
Another sushi faux pas is to devour all the gari (or pickled ginger) before you even eat your first roll. Gari is intended as a palate cleanser, to be eaten between the different sushi rolls to help prevent lingering flavors from mixing.
However, I love eating sushi with soy sauce and wasabi. If you are like me, there is a proper way to do it: avoid the common mistake of dunking the rice, and make sure you only dip the top layer of fish into the soy sauce.
Caviar & Shrimp
If you live in the U.S., one of the most popular items at your local sushi restaurant is likely to be a nigiri topped with shrimp. But this is a relatively recent addition to the sushi menu. Shrimp only joined the list of popular toppings after WWII, when the Japanese way of making nigiri spread throughout the West.
The world of sushi isn’t restricted to just raw fish and rice. If you’ve recently been to a sushi restaurant, you know that fish eggs have also found their way onto nigiri. Even though they’re a relatively recent addition to sushi menus, Japanese have been eating fish eggs for millennia.
In the nineteenth century, the Russians popularized eating salmon eggs as caviar. Before this, in the United States, salmon eggs were primarily used as fish bait. On the Russian peninsula of Kamchatka, there is a thriving one-billion-dollar black market for caviar. In this area, which isn’t far from the northern shores of Japan, even the local bears compete for the salty treats by catching the female fishes, sucking out all the eggs and tossing the bodies aside. But when it comes to sushi, it wasn’t until after WWII that Tokyo chefs came up with the idea to add fish eggs as an exciting new ingredient.
Even though it might sound like a simple idea, preparing salmon eggs for sushi is a complex and time-consuming process. First, the eggs are rinsed in water to remove any sticky residue. Then they are lowered into a bowl of salt water, which loosens the membranes enough for them to be removed. After that, the eggs are placed in brine where they sit and absorb the salt. This strengthens the egg shells, which improves their texture, and helps produce tasty amino acids in the eggs. Finally, the eggs are left to soak for two to three days in a marinade of soy sauce, sake, mirin (a Japanese rice wine) and dashi, a fish broth. Afterward, they’re drained and ready to serve.
Next time you are eating sushi, try it without the soy sauce & let me know how it was!