Tag Archives: sushi

Japan Wants To Rate Authenticity Of U.S. Sushi

Here’s an interesting idea that will (and should) never happen (UPDATE: A much better article can be found here – Thanks Stephen!) :

The number of sushi restaurants in the U.S. has doubled over the last 12 years, sparking a shortage of classically trained Japanese sushi chefs.

The Japanese government wants to send inspectors to certify autentic Japanese sushi in U.S. restaurants. They’re working out the details on the certification program.

As much as I respect the food traditions of any culture, I also understand that tastes and trends can and will change. Then add the fact that when you import a food into a different culture, you will almost always end up with a different take on whatever food, product or dish that has been imported.

Then, following the change in the dishes comes the inevitable cadre of purists who will tell you in no uncertain terms that what you are eating isn’t “authentic”.

Yes, I do count myself amongst the members of that cadre from time to time.

But exporting governmental accountability on how a tradition is applied in a different culture? Yeah, good luck with that. Meanwhile, I’ll be eating a Spicy Negihama Roll at Mashiko here in West Seattle. This roll containing hamachi, scallions, and cucumbers, then topped with garlic and shiracha sauce may not be Sushi in the traditional sense, but it certainly has it’s roots in sushi culture.

That being said, the first time I saw sushi being sold in a supermarket, I died a little inside.

UPDATE: Let me clarify my position. When I said that “Authentic Sushi” certification should never happen, I meant mandatory certification. I have no problem in any voluntary program, although I can’t see consumers being worked up enough to care whether their favorite sushi place is certified or not.

tags technorati : Sushi


The Beauty of Omakase

I have come to a conclusion: Western chefs could easily benefit from incorporating aspects of Omakase into their skill set. I have come to this conclusion based on no facts, figures, and only a rudimentary knowledge of maintaining restaurant profit margins. In fact, I make this statement based on nothing other that I think it’s a cool idea.

For those of you unfamiliar with Omakase, it’s practice found at Sushi restaurants. The word translates into something along the lines of “Chef, I’m in your hands” and it means that the sushi chef will provide you a meal based on either:

  • what they believe you will like best
  • whatever the heck the chef feels like making you

Either way, if you order omakase, you get a real feel for the personality and temperament of the sushi chef.

In Seattle, I have had omakase at five different places on several occasions. From those experiences, I can tell you which chef is a traditionalist, which one carries a workman-like approach to sushi, and which one likes to take risks. This helps me choose which sushi place I wish to visit on any particular evening, based off my mood.

I think that this is because Omakase creates a bond (of sorts) between you and the chef, especially if you happen to sit at the sushi bar where you can watch the chef prepare your meal. Such a bond is less likely at western restaurants as the wait staff acts as an intermediary and the chef is restricted to the menu.

Imagine walking into your favorite Italian restaurant, and you let the chef know that they can make you whatever they want with whatever they have on hand. To me, I can imagine chefs feeling briefly let loose from the restrictions of the menu and daily specials, allowing them to try new techniques (and possibly recipes) or introduce lesser known Italian dishes to their favorite customers.

However, it may be that this wish is impractical in the modern restaurant. Chefs and cooks will e-mail me and state “Kate! You clearly don’t know what you are talking about”. That may be.

But a gal can dream, can’t she?

Technorati Tags: food, restaurants, omakase


Taboo Foods

I have to admit, I chickened out. I had this great idea for the latest Is my Blog Burning, and I didn’t have enough courage to hit the “Post” button.

It was a great idea for IMBB. Although one could quibble that the idea of getting friends to eat food that they are prejudiced against is self defeating, it certainly made me sit back and and actually think about what foods are taboo and why.

The difficulty for me when it came to this theme of taboo food is that their are very few foods that I consider taboo. To say that there are foods that I won’t try because said foods give me the willys to think about them goes against my own hedonistic nature of risk and reward. I’ll try most anything twice. Bugs, plants, all parts of meat, there’s very little that I won’t try.

That’s not to say that I don’t have taboos. I do. But they’re more of a political nature than that of taste. Shark fin soup? Sorry, I’ll pass unless someone can tell me how the fin was gathered. Beef or Pork? I work to purchase from locations that know how the cattle and pigs were feed. I didn’t want to compromise these ethics for the point of a blog meme.

In discussing food taboos with Tara on Saturday evening, I realized something that seems pretty straightforward now. One of the reasons that this topic was so difficult is that the term “Taboo” changes from person to person. The reason for that change?

Context.

How is that context created? By the culture in which you live.

If you grow up Hindu, beef is not on your menu. Hebrew? Pork is out of the question. These are religious taboos brought about by pragmatic necessity. In India, you didn’t kill the cow because it was sacred, you let it live because it helped till your soil and provided fuel (via its manure). To kill it meant short term gain and long term disaster.

Pork (and its blood) was banned also for practical reasons. Unsanitary conditions made pork an iffy proposition at best. Having Lord YHWH simply say “Don’t eat pig” was far more efficient than saying “Well, if you eat pig you could get sick”. Reay Tannahill’s book Food in History goes into greater detail on this, and is definately a great read.

So if taboo is purely based on context, what food is truly should be taboo? Is cannabalism taboo? The Russian Tartar’s didn’t think so, nor did the Aztecs. How about dog? Laotians and again, those pesky Aztecs found them tasty enough to eat.

The truth is, humans have tried everything from dirt (the Kai people of Papau New Guinea) to nettles (many catholic monks in the late dark ages). We’ve eaten peacocks (Romans loved them) to Guinea Pigs (Peruvians love ‘em). As you can see, taboo is as taboo does.

In realizing this, I thought of things that have made people react strongly of late, especially here in the Seattle area. The one story that struck out was that of a Sushi restaurant here in Seattle. They served sushi, and they recieved a fair amount of press due to the way that served said raw fish…the raw fish was served on naked women. The question then, does this constitute a food taboo? Eating sushi is good, yet eating sushi off of a naked body is bad?

To that end, any food can be made taboo, simply by putting it into a specific context. To that end, I offer the following recipe:

  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup baker’s sugar

Mix the whipping cream. Add vanilla and sugar. Whip until cream thickens into peaks. Serve where ever how ever you please.

I’ll leave it up to the reader’s imagination on how to make this food taboo.


Expert Sushi

Here’s a really great article on how to improve your sushi goign experience…from the LA Times.

Here’s a part of a very large article that I want to quote/retain for future use:

A guide to sushi etiquette

Getting a sushi chef to give you the best possible experience is largely a matter of letting him know that you’re serious, curious and respectful of tradition. So how to do this? Here are some clues:

DO call ahead of time to make a reservation, or at least to tell the sushi chef you’re coming. Mention you’d like omakase or you’d like to try some traditional fish or Japanese dishes.

DON’T go to a sushi bar on Sundays; the fish market is closed and the fish won’t be as fresh.

DO keep the towel you washed your hands on, if you eat sushi with your fingers. Generally you will receive a wooden “rest” for your towel. Fold the towel neatly and use that to wipe your hands on throughout the meal. Return the towel to the server if you eat sushi with chopsticks.

DO introduce yourself to the sushi chef. Tell him what you’re looking for in your meal (i.e., to try something you’ve never tried before).

DO tell the sushi chef what you like rather than emphasizing what you don’t like.

DO mention if someone referred you, especially if they’re a restaurant regular.

DO say you’d like to try something authentic. If you say “unusual,” you may get something with cream cheese.

DO look around and ask about dishes or fish that interest you.

DON’T fill the shoyu bowl with soy sauce. Pour in about a dime’s worth.

DON’T put wasabi in the bowl with the shoyu. A good sushi chef will put the amount of wasabi on each piece of sushi that he believes is appropriate for that fish. For sashimi, put a dab of wasabi directly on the fish. Use more wasabi for fattier fish, such as toro or yellowtail, less wasabi on lean cuts, such as clam or squid.

DO order sashimi first, then sushi.

DON’T pick up sashimi with your fingers; use chopsticks.

DO eat sushi with your hands or your chopsticks, whichever you prefer.

DON’T dip your sashimi in shoyu if the sushi chef has already sauced it. If in doubt, ask.

DON’T dip the rice part of the sushi in shoyu, just a corner of the fish.

DO eat a piece of sushi or sashimi in one bite. If it’s too big, ask the sushi chef to cut it for you, or to make the next pieces smaller.

DON’T put pickled ginger on a piece of fish.

DO offer to buy the sushi chef a beer or sake. “It makes a good bribe,” says Nao Saba, general manager of Mori Sushi.

DON’T ask for a California Roll. It’s a dead giveaway that you’re a neophyte.

DO ask questions about the fish — where is it from, what part of the fish is that cut from, etc.

DO use Japanese words for fish if you know them.

DON’T order all the sushi you want at once. Sushi should be eaten right after it leaves the palm of the chef’s hand.

DO finish your meal with tamago (egg custard), vegetable maki (cut rolls), such as cucumber roll or oshinko roll (sour plum with cucumber and shiso).

DO eat around. You may need to try a few places before you find a sushi bar and chef you like.

DO go back once you find a sushi bar you like. The experiences that follow promise to be even better than the first.


3rd Annual Sake & Sushi Festival

I just wanted to give a brief prayer to the food gods and goddesses, who have deemed it appropriate to hold a Sake and Sushi festival a mere half mile from my apartment.

Don’t sign me up for anything on Nov 9th, I’ll be busy supporting the Japanese American Chamber of Commerce…by eating!

If interested, Ticket Prices as as follows:
Individual tickets are $50 per person.
Full Service Table for ten: $2,000

For more information contact Linda Asami at (206) 320-1010 or Linda@jachamber.com