- ‘Sushi’ Japanese Style
"Kohada, please!" "Coming right up!" The master sushi chef makes your order right before your eyes, and it's a treat to watch him as he translates years of training and experience into something delicious.
Nineteenth-century Edo (Tokyo) was filled with sushi stalls, old Japan's version of modern-day fast food; and the stalls were crowded with people who stopped for a quick bite to eat, with hungry customers paying the equivalent of 150 to 200 yen (€1.00 - €1.50) in today's currency for each piece. Sushi was a common lunch for merchants. Some say that sushi evolved from Nare-zushi, a food brought from the neighboring Asian continent in the 8th century. Nare-zushi was fish and rice fermented with lactic acid. The process of fermentation liquefied the rice but the fish was removed and eaten. In the 13th century, fermenting time was reduced and people started eating both the fish and rice, which was called Nama, or "raw"nare-zushi. By the 14th century, Oshi- and Haya-zushi had appeared. Oshi-zushi was salted fish on rice, and Haya-zushi was vinegared rice.
It was around 1820 that the sushi we know today made its appearance and a man called Yohei Hanaya is credited with its introduction. Hanaya had a stall at the fish market in Nihonbashi, located just north of the now internationally renowned Tsukiji market. Nihonbashi is on Tokyo Bay, then known as Edo-mae, and supplied the area with fresh fish and shellfish such as spotted shad (Kohada), sea bream (Tai), perch (Suzuki), tiger prawn (Kuruma-ebi), conger eel (Anago) and clam (Hamaguri). Though before refrigeration was invented fish was either stewed, marinated or fried.
The ice-making technology developed at the end of the 19th century revolutionised our ability to preserve; and the ability to keep the fish catch cool started Hanaya on a journey to explore ways of bringing out the taste of fresh fish, a journey that culminated in the sushi that the world has come to know and love. As the popularity of sushi as a perfect match with sake spread during the post-war period, sushi masters strove to develop techniques that would bring out the best flavour of the sushi they prepared and it has since evolved into an art.
It takes at least 10 years to become a sushi master. In their first year apprentices are not even allowed to use a knife; and it's not until their seventh year that they are allowed to actually work with tuna. The vast majority of what these hardworking apprentices learn in their long years of training has to do with preparation. The artistic flow displayed in front of us when we place our order is only part of their technique.
If you order a la carte, explore different toppings. Eat the sushi as soon as it is served to enjoy it at its best. Don't stay too long if you're just ordering side dishes and drinks. It's considered inappropriate for restaurant guests to use words commonly used among sushi chefs. So avoid asking for Agari when you want green tea, or Murasaki when you want soy sauce.
In cooperation with: “SUSHI KAISHIN”, 1-15-7 Nishiazabu Minato-ku Tokyo, Japan