Sushi Ingredients


One of the fall favorites in Japan

One of the fall favorites in Japan

In Japan, fishing for Mackerel Pike (Sanma, in Japanese) starts early July.  But they are at their tastiest in the fall, as they wear more fat going towards the breeding season.  We have received excellent Mackerel Pike from Japan, and after a day of curing by Chef Maeda, they are ready to be served.  Enjoy as sushi or sashimi (tataki).  The fall mackerel pike contains as much as 20% fat, fat that is both tasty and healthy as a source of Omega-3 fatty acid.

 

 

Chef Maeda has also prepared the Abalone Steamed in Sake, which gained many fans the last time he went through the five-hour process of steaming.  So, please come visit and enjoy the Edo-mae (Tokyo style) Sushi at Maeda Sushi Restaurant.

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One of the more coveted sushi

One of the more coveted sushi

This week, Chef Maeda introduces Abalone prepared Edo-mae (Tokyo Style), steamed in sake.  As a sashimi, fresh, raw abalone’s chewy texture with that distinctive flavor of the ocean is treasured.  But perhaps, as sushi, that chewiness prevents it from mixing with sushi rice quickly on palate.  When a good, fresh abalone is properly steamed in sake, it is no longer chewy, instead it becomes delicately tender, easily melting away and mixing and spreading with the sushi rice in the mouth.  Edo-mae sushi chefs take pride in giving their own touch to the fresh ingredients to bring out the best flavor, and this 4-hour steaming of abalone is one of the most intricate techniques that is passed on from a master chef to the disciple.  It may not always be available, so please do not miss out.

 

 

Californian abalone is steamed in sake

Californian abalone is steamed in sake

 

 

 

 

Sea Eel, anago

 

As in the freshwater variation, sea eel is a cooked ingredient of sushi.  Called anago in Japanese, its characters mean “hole-child,” as they hide in nooks and holes in the sand during the day, coming out only at night to feed.  The freshwater cousin is better known in the United States, but the sea eel is the eel preferred by sushi houses in Japan.  Sea eel is a cooked ingredient of sushi and the all important sauce, called tsume, is also made by the chef – making it a great showcase of the chef’s taste preference and skills.

 

Maeda’s sea eel is poached so softly, it breaks down immediately once in your mouth.  The texture is very fine, much finer than that of the freshwater eel.  The sweet fat is lighter and gentler.   Tsume, the sauce, is made from the broth which the sea eel was poached.  To the broth, soy sauce, mirin, and some sugar among other things are added, and the simmering for a long period thickens the broth into a tsume.  After making the sushi in his hands, Maeda would brush the tsume on the sea eel just before serving it to you.  The sweet and sour aroma of tsume teases you as you bring the sushi to your mouth.  As the sea eel melts, it wraps around every grain of shari (sushi-rice), all seem to meet in a harmony of flavors, textures, and warmth.  It is also a great source of vitamin A.  Now available year-round, sea eel’s natural best season is spring and early summer.

 

“Anago has to melt in your mouth…but if it’s too soft, it will fall apart on the touch of chopstick or hand.  To make it just right, timing is very important during the poaching.  As in any living things, every sea eel is different, so I pay close attention and treat each of them differently.”  Maeda

Salmon Roe - Ikura 

Pictured:  salmon roe, salmon roe in marinade, salmon roe sushi

 

 

Maeda’s salmon roe is different.  If you have a bad impression on salmon roe – or “ikura” in Japanese, please try one of his salmon roe sushi, or even chirashi, to see if we can change your mind.  Salmon roe, especially what is normally available in the United States, are not ready to be served as is, at least according to Maeda.  Usually, they are overwhelmingly salty.  Maeda’s salmon roe is marinated.  His marinade made from soy sauce, sake and mirin, among other things, eliminates the excessive saltiness, and brings out the naturally sweet flavor of the roe to the front.  Because of the marinade, salmon roe at Maeda Sushi is very deep orange, perfectly round and slippery smooth.  Once in your mouth, it will burst on your bite with its creamy, sweet juice that suggests the grandeur of the ocean.  Maeda uses ample amount of this special salmon roe on his famous chirashi, the marinade sinking into the bowl and giving its signature flavor.  As a general rule, we cannot send the marinated salmon roe to go, because it is meant to be eaten as soon as the chef serves it…please dine in to try this.  Salmon roe is available year-round, but traditionally, the best season is fall.

Pickled Ginger - gari

 

 

There is always a small pile of pickled ginger – called “gari” in Japanese – accompanying sushi.  They are meant to be eaten in small amounts in between different kinds of sushi, as it refreshes your mouth and prepares you for a new flavor.  Maeda’s gari is lighter in color and less syrupy than the version commonly served in typical Japanese restaurants.  That is because Maeda marinates them himself with salt, then a mix of vinegar and sugar.  It works perfectly well to cleanse your palate with its pungent, yet deep spice.  The antiseptic gari also helps in digesting, making it a perfect companion to sushi.

Anybody with money can buy a fresh piece of tuna.  But often years of training and experience is required in less obvious things like gari.  Bad, sugary gari can ruin a perfect piece of tuna sushi.”  Chef Maeda

Hikarimono

 

The pictured are sayori (halfbeak), kohada (gizzard shad/Japanese herring), and aji (horse mackerel).  Japanese categorize fish with shimmering skin as “Hikarimono.”  Literally translated, it means shiny things.  The group includes; mackerel, kohada (gizzard shad), aji (horse mackerel), sayori (halfbeak), sardine.  In Edo-mae, or Tokyo style sushi, the chef’s skills are truly tested in the preparation of hikarimono, because they tend to be very sensitive fish that are quick to deteriorate without the application of proper curing technique.  Maeda uses salt and vinegar of various kinds on each fish to bring out the natural flavor.  The methods and timing used are different for each fish and requires intimate knowledge derived only from years of experience.  The result on your plate is a work of art.  It is beautiful to look at, and once in your mouth, you will find a harmony of flavors.

People tend to stay away from the unknown.  Because it requires such delicate work to be able to serve them, hikarimono are often omitted by the restaurants without skilled chefs.  As a result, many sushi fans in the area have missed out on this delicacy.  Please feel very confident that you will receive hikarimono of the highest quality from Maeda. 

“One can understand how important hikarimono is to us (chefs) if you know that a traditional sushi chef seasons sushi rice to match the flavor of his kohada and other hikarimono.  It can decide the taste preference of a particular sushi bar and restaurant.”  Chef Maeda

Mixing sumeshi

No matter what you may order at a sushi restaurant, there are things that remain constant.  One of them is rice.  One of the surest ways to find your favorite sushi restaurant is to carefully taste the vinegar seasoned rice – maybe even more so than the fish.  That should explain why cooking and seasoning of the sushi rice – called “sumeshi” or “shari” in Japanese – is one of the most important and painstaking tasks for a sushi chef.  It is a process where he distinguishes himself from others, and Maeda is no exception.

It starts with the highest quality short grain rice available from California.  Since it is a farmed product affected by natural conditions, it has unique characteristics year to year.  The water content of the rice is also effected by whether if the rice used is still fresh from harvest in fall, or “old” crop that has been stored.  Maeda makes subtle, but important adjustment accordingly to achieve the consistent result.  Factors that change the resultant sumeshi includes the amount of water used during cooking, timing, the content and amount of vinegar mix used in seasoning, and the technique used to incorporate the vinegar mix with the rice.

The cooked rice is placed in a wooden tub called “hangiri” and the vinegar mix is added.  Maeda lets the rice and vinegar come together evenly, while letting extra moisture evaporate by an action somewhere between cutting through and quick chopping, using a wooden paddle.  He is also careful not to squash each grain of rice.  In precise and calm motion, Maeda gets this crucial process done in a couple of minutes.  The rice is cooled down while the vinegar settles in, before it’s ready to be used for sushi.

“I avoid using new crop as much as possible because it contains too much moisture and gets too sticky.  But when I have to, years of training in proper technique pays off as I am able to coat each grain with vinegar and get the desired stickiness and flavor.”  Chef Maeda

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