命の出汁 – broth of vigour

an adventure in japanese cuisine, an obsession with the izakaya


Leave a comment

Friday Night Sushi

I love a casual sushi night at home; out come the Japanese knives and the toys from the kitchen street in Tokyo. Next thing you know the head is shaved and the Jiro impressions come out. Well, maybe not quite that far.

The biggest challenge I have with sushi at home is variety. Going to the trouble of making the vinegar from scratch and slicing up the fish along with all the garnishes etc is kinda effort effort for a Friday night. On the flip side however my choice of sashimi grade fish is limited in Australia even when going to the biggest fish market in Sydney. There is always salmon, tuna (normally just straight maguro not otoro or chutoro fattier variants), king fish and if lucky you will get one of the following available: Scallops, Snapper or Octopus. Very soon you can get the feeling that you’ve “had enough raw fish”.

2014-10-10 21.03.53

So here are some of my approaches for adding a bit more variety to the table when ingredients are rare:

  • Marinate the fish: There are many different ways to change the flavour of the fish and add variety. For Tuna I often blanch a piece in hot water very quickly, bathe it in ice, then marinate in a mix of sake and soy sauce. For white fish, wrapping it in konbu seaweed and refrigerating it for a few hours.
  • Dressed Sashimi: From a simple drizzle of yuzu or lemon juice to the Nobu style Tiradito which includes a drop of chilli paste along with cilantro (coriander) leaves you can have a small plate of zing on the menu
  • Pressed Sushi: We can often get BBQ Eel at our fish markets. Making this into nigiri sushi normally requires more attention to detail than I have available on a Friday night especially when I have already burned my focus not cutting off fingers with the yanagiba. Pressed sushi frames are often available in asian grocery stores and give a different shape and style to add variety.
  • Lazy Garnishes: While most sushi bar’s have piles of stringy daikon radish on hand, this also is not a Friday night fun project. I will often grab a bag of bean sprouts to use as garnishes or to prop up sashimi. Some salmon roe perched atop a scallop or a twisted flower made from slices of salmon give het another twist.
  • Rice Cakes: I admit it, to make my sushi rice I use an electronic rice cooker. There is always that starchy crust on the bottom no matter how many times I wash the rice. It never goes into the mix for the sushi rice, but I will often season it with a bit of the sushi vinegar and dry fry it in a non-stick pan to give a crust on both sides as a lazy-western-onigiri.
  • Vegetables: Yeah, Yeah I know, vegetables. From cooking slices of carrots in sake, mirin and soy to using okra, avocado (not my favourite) or even mushrooms this can add a bit of a change. Also can calm down vegetarians if they manage to get through the security guard you have placed at the door.

2014-10-10 21.04.26

2014-10-10 21.04.00
Hope this gives you some ideas. Now just chill the sake, turn up the Jazz & chill 😉

Advertisements


Leave a comment

one cd, one sushi and one beer

Forgive the George Thorogood reference but I couldnt get that song out of my head as I was climbing up the series of escalators in the Tower Records building in Shibuya. The Japanese market seems to be incredibly big on almost everything and for me this provides the opportunity to get some good Jazz music. Most of the 6th floor is dedicated to Jazz and believe me it is a huge range. My haul this time was smallish (4 cds and 3 SACD’s) and then I went in search of a late afternoon brunch.

sixthfloortower

I felt like some sushi. Not cheap sushi, not Jiro sushi, but some good sushi. I wandered a little around a couple of blocks in Shibuya and say a sign on the side of the Seibu building that mentioned a sushi place on the 12th Floor (along with a whole pile of other squiggles I dont understand). The pictures look good which unlike in western food advertisements normally means the food will be similar. The Japanese take everything from a streetside yakitori to 3 Michelin star dining almost as seriously.

Wandering up the myriad of escalators to the 354th floor (ok the twelth but I was almost getting motion sickness from the circular wandering) I came across a couple of sushi restaurants. One was a sushi train and while the food didnt look so bad the chef with the microphone constantly screaming about what was available didn’t really gel as the quiet lunch I was hoping for.

Around the corner I encountered a far more traditional (and silent) sight with a noren hanging over a door and a the warm indication of “English Menu Inside”. WOO-HOO 😉

door

I ordered one of their lunch specials, the larger one, as it was my breakfast and my lunch. The set came with two items called “custard” and “clear soup”. As my luck would have it I was able to be seated at the counter and watch the entire extravaganza.

makingmysushi

The making of the sushi was enjoyable for me to watch. A few interesting touches included the making of a small roll with two fillings where the sushi chef cut right down the centre between the two fillings he put into my roll; no tuna in the wierd grass section, no grass with my tuna. Skills!

lunch

The lunch plate looked spectacular and sat very nicely with a cold draft beer.

Another neat installment was how the raw octopus was cut to make the sushi topping; from a relatively cylindrical piece of sashimi grade octopus tentacle the chef cut almost all the way through, flipped it over and cut another piece almost all the way through, and one more time. The result being a single piece of octopus to lay on top of the rice for sushi.

tako

The clear soup was a very simple but incredibly tasty dashi with some tofu and wakame seawead.

ashi

The final and surprise package of lunch was a cup of green tea with a small dessert. The surprise was in the desert both in its existance (probably not looking at the set menu to realize) and the flavour; balanced green tea taste with an extra punch of green tea from the match powder coating the cubes.

greenteajellyJPG

A great haul of cd’s and a great lunch. Just for kicks have a look at the chef slicing small red raddish with a yanagiba, absolutely incredible and he still had all his fingers. 😉


Leave a comment

Edomae Sushi: Art, Tradition, Simplicity

I have always been a little on the fence about cookbooks, mostly due to the fact that I have not had a great history of following recipes; Japanese Cuisine and anything that resembles baking are the two notable exceptions. My preference is for books that give inspiration not just a list of recipes for one to blindly follow. This means that the books must have plenty of good pictures, pretty much as a minimum one for each finished recipe and some step by step shots where useful.

When I look for books on Japanese cuisine I tend to be even more picky. Given the intricate presentation awarded even to the simplest sushi plate I feel you want more and more to sea the beauty in order to learn from that.

“Edomae Sushi: Art, Tradition, Simplicity” by Kikuo Shimizu fits into that sweetspot of good information and great photography. The pictures are huge, particularly the shots of the individual sushi items with just a splattering of text on the page to classify the dish. Even many of the accompanying text pages have photos interspersed with them.

The introductory section of the book provides great insights from the author about “Edomae”, the beginnings of sushi in the area around Tokyo Bay between the 17th and 19th centuries, the life of a sushi chef and shop owner and the philosophy behind making sushi; not to mention some beautiful photographs of ingredients and the authors restaurant.

The bulk of the book is devoted to the sushi itself, presented in a kind of “reverse-engineered” style. Most items have a double page devoted to them with a large picture of a completed piece of sushi on the left with basic naming and preparation details and to the right detailed discussion on the ingredient itself, appropriate seasons and preparation background. Here is the greatest value in the book; even if you never want to get your hands stuck into the rice you will never again be an uneducated diner. The flipped to this is, that unless you go Japan or a very good sushi restaurant in your country you may be more educated than those running the place. Use this power wisely and humbly as with all things, and importantly keep yourself from being chased from your local sushi train by an unhappy chef with a very large knife ;).

Nicely rounding off this tome are some general instructions on making sushi and preparing some ingredients and for the freaky like me who have dreams (nightmares ;)) about running their own restaurant a short memoir of the authors sushi journey. Overall a well written well produced book for any lover of sushi.