The Book of Sushi

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9780870118661: The Book of Sushi

This is a guide for the lover of sushi, whether eating in restaurants or preparing it at home.

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About the Author:

Kinjiro Omae was born in 1910 in the center of Tokyo, the son of a famous sushi maker. He became chairman of the Tokyo Sushi Association and then president of the Federation of Japan Sushi Shops. He was the leading expert on the techniques of making Edomae-zushi, the most popular type of sushi today, and was chairman of the committee which judged sushi-making contests.

Yuzuru Tachibana was born in Tokyo in 1931 and graduated from Gakushuin University in 1955. He holds a professional chef's license, and as president of International Foods Corporation oversaw the management of Benkay, a chain of Japanese restaurants established in eleven major cities of the world.

Jean-Pierre Rampal was born in Marseillle, France, where he studied flute with his father. He was the first flutist to achieve world-wide popularity and has restored the flute to the position it enjoyed during the 18th century. Among the many countries he has visited, Japan holds a special fascination, and he deeply admires all aspects of Japanese culture, particularly its food and especially sushi.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Edo mae-zushi

As we approach the sushi shop, it is a good time to think briefly about this representative Japanese food, for isn't it true that the better we understand the things we eat and the ways they are prepared, the more we appreciate them?

A charming legend has it that long ago an old man and his wife charitably left some rice in the nest of an osprey living near their house. Later they found fish in the nest. They took the fish home, ate it and were delighted by the intriguing flavor their leftover rice had imparted to the fish as it underwent natural fermentation. This may be only a story, but it agrees with the historical account of how in ancient times vinegared rice was used to preserve fish. The fish was later eaten, the rice discarded. As time passed and the Japanese developed their cuisine and enriched it with importations from abroad, they began to eat both fish and rice, and something approaching modern sushi was created.

There are many ways to prepare sushi, and it can be made at home. Three widely known types are oshizushi (pressed sushi), chirashi-zushi (scattered sushi) and maki-zushi (rolled sushi). The first is made by pressing rice and other ingredients in a mold. In the Osaka-Kyoto area where it originated and is still very popular, it features more cooked than raw seafoods. In making chirashi-zushi, pieces of cooked or uncooked seafood and vegetables are arranged on loosely packed sushi rice. This kind is served in bowls. In the Osaka version the ingredients are cooked, then chopped or sliced. Maki-zushi is made by rolling rice and other ingredients (seafoods or vegetables) in thin sheets of nori seaweed.

We will devote most of our attention to the sovereign of the sushi world--nigiri-zushi, or Edomae-zushi as it is called because it was first made and was once found only in Edo, as Tokyo was known prior to 1868. Today it is eaten all over Japan and in many other countries as well. It is made of vinegared rice and raw, marinated or cooked fish, shellfish or other toppings.

In the following pages, we present the fundamentals of sushi making, from the difficult task of selecting the right fish to the final step of forming attractive and appetizing food, after first having a look at the sushi shop itself.

Inside the Sushi Shop

"Iras-shai, iras-shai, irasshai!"

The voices that convey this vigorous and clear greeting the minute you walk into the sushi shop are those of the man who makes the sushi--the itamae-san--and his assistants. Such greetings are not unusual in Japan's restaurants and retail establishments, but there is something special about the variety heard in the sushi shop.

The decor of a sushi shop may vary in accordance with its location and the year it was built, but certain items are essential to all. Most conspicuous is the spotlessly clean hinoki cypress counter, at the back of which, in refrigerated glass cases, are arrayed the colorful, carefully prepared fish, shellfish, vegetables and other ingredients that tempt both eye and palate. Behind the counter, ready to form bite-sized servings by hand, stands the sushi chef in his starched white coat and white hat. His busy helpers may be there too, although they must spend a good deal of time in the kitchen, seeing to the painstaking preparations which are essential to the apparently effortless virtuosity of the chef's performance. The assistants have climbed the long ladder from kitchen worker to their present status and hope to become sushi chefs themselves someday. Their training is long (at least five years) and not everyone who starts at the bottom rung makes it to the top of the ladder.

For first-time customers, the world of the sushi shop can be a bit perplexing. They may wonder whether to sit at the counter or at one of the tables. Waiters and chefs, who are adept at judging what customers may need, will encourage obvious gourmets to make themselves comfortable at the counter, where they can select and enjoy their favorite sushi. Other customers may be discreetly directed to a table, where they will probably order one of the combination sets and eat and drink little else.

The customers in a shop serving only sushi are not offered a detailed menu after being seated, as they would be in other kinds of restaurants. However, to simplify the task of selection, some sushi shops in Japan do post large, colored diagrams illustrating the standard types of sushi offered almost everywhere. In the United States, solicitous shop proprietors place plastic-covered charts with pictures showing sushi types and ingredients on their tables and counters.

The reason prices are not displayed in the better sushi shops is that maintaining the highest standards depends on buying the finest and freshest fish daily. The availability of the choicest fish varies, and prices in both the fish market and the sushi shop can fluctuate from day to day.

Knowing what to order requires the experience and knowledge sushi chefs devote years to acquiring. Since the new customer can scarcely be expected to command such knowledge, the wisest entry into this world is to ask the man behind the counter what is good that day and to rely on his judgment.

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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