The perceived simplicity of sushi in a sense could be a bit of a paradox. Sliced raw fish, cooked rice flavoured with vinegar along with nori and wasabi. Seems to be rather simple at a glance, but is sushi really so simple? I think not, let’s dig into this a little and see.
I could begin for example to talk about how important is the skill of the knife, the taste balance of the soy sauce and how to cook the rice, how to select the freshest fish and how to prepare and slice the fish.
How to sharpen a high quality Japanese blade takes great skill and many years to master. If I start talking about Japanese knives then this subject alone is a bottomless pit…
with Japanese blades, at the top of the heap are Honyaki knives (true forged) that can cost up to 4,000 USD and a lot more in some cases, then there are Kasumi (one layer of hard steel forged with one layer of soft iron), Damascus style blades with up to 160 layers of the highest quality Japanese steel, right now SG2 is considered to be of the highest quality (Super Gold 2). Various forging techniques, types of steel and iron used to forge the blade will determine how it should be cared for and how it should be sharpened. One point to note is that traditional Japanese knives are sharpened on one side only and there are left handed and right handed knives. Fine qualify Japanese blades can cost from 300 USD and even upwards from 4,000 USD.
Now let’s talk about the rice. Making perfect sushi rice takes plenty of training and a lot of attention to detail, getting the right texture, flavour is crucial to the success of the sushi. Serving the rice at correct temperature is also very important, should be about 35°C to 37°C. And the fish should be 3°C to 6°C. This is why real sushi must be made to order. Sushi purchased ready made and refrigerated from a supermarket will never be as good as what you would experience at a top rate sushi bar and temperature is one of the main reasons for the difference. Refrigerated sushi rice has a hard texture and less taste.
Below are 4 recipes for soy sauce to give some ideas for those who are interested in enhancing the sushi experience.
Soy sauce recipes
1. Tosa shoyu (bonito soy)
2. Nikiri (also known as tsume) (sushi glaze)
3. Sushi no shoyu (basic sushi soy)
4. Dzuke no tare (marination soy)
Tosa shoyu (for sashimi and sushi) 260 ml Kikkoman dark soy 30 ml Tamari soy 60 ml mirin 45ml sake 5g bonito flakes 5g piece konbu
Mix soy sauce, mirin, sake in a saucepan, heat to boiling. Add bonito; simmer on low flame for 1 minute, remove from stove and leave to infuse for 20 minutes. Strain, allow to cool.
Nikiri (glaze to brush on top of nigiri sushi) *
150ml Tamari soy *
10g piece of Konbu (dried kelp) *
5g of Bonito Flakes (fish stock) *
60ml Mirin * 60ml Sake *
1. Start by bringing your 700ml of water to a boil and adding your konbu.
2. Allow the water to boil off until you have roughly 1 cup left. This takes roughly 20 minutes to do.
3. Reduce the heat and carefully remove the konbu and add your bonito flakes.
4. Bring the heat back up to a boil, stirring occasionally. This is the known as Awase Dashi, or combination broth in Japanese. While our dashi coming back up to a boil, mix the Mirin, Sake, and Tamari into a measuring cup and slowly pour it into to pan.
5. Once the sauce reaches a boil, reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for about 20 minutes, but you can simmer it longer if you want a slightly thicker Nikiri sauce.
6. Pass the sauce through a sarashi cloth to remove the bonito
Keep this sauce in the fridge lasts for 4 to 6 weeks
Basic sushi dipping sauce (Sushi no shoyu)
300ml Kikkoman dark soy
Mix Mirin, sake in a pan, heat to simmering point. Simmer for one minute to burn off the alcohol then add the soy. Remove from heat place in stainless container and put on top of icy water to cool it down quickly. Another method is to add half of the soy then cool the sauce down and then add the remaining soy.
Dzuke Maguro (soy marinated tuna) マグロ 漬けのたれ
100ml Kikkoman dark soy
1. Mix Mirin, sake in a pan, heat to simmering point. Simmer for one minute to burn off the alcohol then add the soy, simmer on low for 5 seconds. Remove from heat place in stainless container and put on top of icy water to cool it down quickly.
2. Slice tuna neta and marinate the slices in “Dzuke no tare” for 2 to 3 minutes, then make nigiri and serve. Advise guest that they will not need to use dipping sauce
3. An alternative method is to marinate a block of tuna in “Dzuke no tare” 30 minutes and then remove from sauce and cut slices. For a stronger taste you can marinate up to 3 hours (refrigerated). I would not advise to marinate any longer than this as the flavour would be too strong.