Sushi is considered as one of the highly-coveted foreign foods in the United States simply because people are awestruck by how Japanese sushi makers prepare the delicate dish. It may look easy as no cooking is required but apparently, the preparation is just one of the many aspects “itamae” or sushi chefs do.
This is what Evelyn Teploff-Mugii of The Art of Travel discovered while trying to setup their restaurant in Kanazawa, Japan. She recalled how sushi master chef Masaki Teranishi called sushi-making an art, beginning with “houchoushi”, an ancient type of knife skills for the perfect sushi cut.
Here is a list of the other secrets Master Teraishi revealed.
1) Picking the right fish for sushi-making.
Besides being freshly caught and firm, fish can also be seasonal or regional. Sushi chefs know that by each passing season, fish changes in name and features.
Teraishi shares that snapper may be called “tai” in winter but becomes “sakura dai” during spring or summertime. Furthermore, “tai” becomes fatter and oilier as it needs more fats to fight against cold, unlike “sakura dai” which is leaner.
In order to know which fish to pick, check the gill. If it is pink or red, then it means it is fresh. Firmness is also a freshness indicator as mushy texture means the meat has already broken down.
2) Gutting, cutting, and cleaning the fish.
To maintain the high grade quality of sushi, fish should be washed and gutted as soon possible, preferably the moment the fish enters the kitchen. It is also advisable to consume the fish on the day it was prepared.
There are several ways on how to cut a fish but the most common methods are “san-mai-oroshi” which can be translated as three piece fish cut, and “mai-oroshi” or five piece fish cut. Both ways start by slicing the mid-section of the fish, leaving the bone out, then separating the fish from two sides.
Teraishi explains that as fish is very delicate when raw, it is important that the sushi chef limits his handling as he may damage the main ingredient. This is why it is necessary to learn knife skills and cutting methods before embarking on being a sushi maker.
3) Making and preparing the rice.
Besides the fish, Japanese rice is also a very important ingredient in making the best sushi. Amazingly, older and harder rice makes better sushi according to Teranishi. This kind of rice is mixed well with softer rice to create the best sushi texture.
The sushi master revealed that the best way to cool off cooked rice is with the use of a fan while slowly adding the vinegar, sugar, salt and rice wine. The spiked rice should be slapped and formed into shape by using two fingers. Never squeeze the rice as it may produce a not so great texture.
4) Making and preparing the rolls.
While it looks easy to make rolls, mastering the skills might take more time. For beginners, Teranishi suggests sushi chefs to start with maki rolls. It can be a fun and learning experience for those who wish to be sushi masters.
The sushi chef shares that instead of gathering the rice into a bundle, it should be spread gentry on dried sea kelp. Cut the ingredients into sticks then place it in the center. Roll it out into a tube shape through the use of rolling mat.
Ingredients of maki rolls vary with every sushi chef but it is usually a pairing of fish and vegetables. But, Teranishi recommends to go crazy with the combination as it is the main purpose of a maki roll.
While it is difficult to find authentic sushi or maki roll in the United States, there are several restaurants that boast of great tasting nigiri, sashimi, maki sushi, hand rolls, and specialty rolls. One good example is Ra Sushi, an upbeat Japanese fusion restaurant which can make foodies, looking for great food and a fun time with friends, forget that they are dining in an American restaurant rather than a sushi place in Japan.