An example of the Deluxe Chirashi at Maeda Sushi Restaurant

*pictured – Deluxe Chirashi

 

Chirashi is a very popular style of sushi in Japan. 

ちらし (chee-rahsh-ee) means “scattered” or “spread” in Japanese and the slices of fish and other ingredients are literally spread atop a bowl of sushi rice.  It is popular during lunch time for the busy Japanese businessmen as it is quicker to consume than having the chef make sushi piece by piece.  But some innovative chefs have made chirashi more than just a “lunch special,” and Maeda is one of them.

 

Maeda’s chirashi is accentuated by the marinated salmon roe which he gives a generous potion to every bowl.  The gentle soy sauce-salmon roe flavor sinks into the whole bowl to give it the signature taste.  Of course, the other ingredients are of the highest quality and in abundance (more piled than spread).  The colorful Chirashi features fore mentioned marinated salmon roe, tuna, white fish in season, shrimp, salmon, egg, kamaboko-fishcake, etc.  Add sea urchin, eel, fatty tuna to Deluxe Chirashi.  Ask for the “omakase” chirashi to have Maeda freely create a chirashi with the day’s best ingredients probably including his hikarimono.  He calls his Omakase Chirashi, “a bottomless bowl of fish.”  It is chirashi supreme, an ultimate.  Chef Maeda applies some final touches to his Deluxe ChirashiAnother common thread besides the salmon roe in all chirashi is the shiitake mushroom and baby bamboo shoot.  They are braised in classic Japanese broth and full of smoky, sweet flavor.  We hope that you find the little brown pieces hidden beneath all the colorful fish to be a pleasant surprise.

 

“After working on it for 30 years, I settled on the current style of chirashi back in 1997, and haven’t changed much since.  I wanted the right balance between different fish, between fish and sushi rice, and among all the colors.”  Chef Maeda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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

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

Oshibori and Yubihuki 

When you sit down at Maeda Sushi Restaurant, a server will hand you an oshibori, a moist, warm towel for your refreshment, and sanitizing.  If you are at Maeda’s sushi bar, and like to eat nigiri sushi with your hands, then our server will provide you a yubihuki.  Please use this small sarashi cloth inside the ceramic container to clean your fingertips in between the bites – just pinch the towel and rub without pulling it out of the holder.  The green holder is made by Tatsuko Kishida like many of our other ceramic potteries and tablewares, which should be a subject for future posts.  By the way, eating nigiri sushi with your hand is encouraged at Maeda Sushi.  Maeda communicates with the customers through his sushi…wouldn’t you think handling sushi would bring you closer?