Sushi making isn’t simply cooking or preparing a meal. Preparing sushi is an art, or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be according to Japanese traditions.
During my stay in Tokyo I had the opportunity to follow a Sushi class with chef Yoshinori Tezuka, who talked us through what this art entails.
Starting from the choice of the knife you use, it has to be extremely sharp. To check this the chef scared us all by passing the knife over our fingernails; if it stuck to the nail it meant it was sharp enough.
One of the things that I found the most fascinating was what he taught us about wasabi, which we all assume is a thick green paste made to kill all of our taste buds. That’s because what we get in western countries is usually powedered wasabi to which they add water and transform into a paste. Well wasabi is actually a plant, from the family of horseradish and cabbages. It has the shape of a mini elongated, green, pineapple and in order to serve it they grate it onto an oroshigane (a metal grating board), traditionally it was
made with shark skin, as it grates so finely that the effect is closer to that of sanding paper rather than a grater. Anyway the cool thing is that grating the fresh wasabi stem on one side you get a rather sweet but pungent paste, but when I tasted a small bit of the wasabi from the other side my mouth was on fire!
In western countries people usually melt the wasabi paste into their soy sauce, if they like to add some spice, but in Japan the wasabi is added directly to the single sushi pieces as it is said the the spice kills the possible bacteria that you can find in raw fish. Nice, huh? Anyway in most places you can ask not to put is it on your sushi if your not into all that spice, I personally enjoyed it in the maki rolls.
Then of course he talked about the rice, which is one of the two main components in the sushi. The white rice is rinsed and then cooked with the addition of rice vinegar, oil, sugar and salt. To handle the rice you must wet your hands, if you don’t it will stick all over you. Trust me.
The fish of course has to be fresh, the best you can find locally. And you can be creative with it! Of course being in Tokyo the chef went to choose his fish every morning at the Tsukiji Fish Market, where he has his trusted fishermen and market sellers who select the best of the best for him. In Japan the fish is sliced much thicker than what we eat in western countries. A little too much, for a non-fish eater like me. But I guess it’s paradise for who loves fish!
Once you have your ingredients it’s all about building up the sushi, to do so you first make your rice ball pressing it down with your left hand over your right hand, add the wasabi under the slice of fish, and then, touching the fish as little as possible, you stick it over your rice ball and roll it over, always in your right hand. Easy right? That’s what I thought at first, but also Nigiri are hard to make! I don’t want to know what making Maki and Temaki is like!
Above you can see what I made… a mega Salmon Nigiri! ahah