Discovering sushi: one dish, many versions

from Beatrice Serra

266665Chef Hiro, stage name of Hirohiko Shoda (in the photo on the right), the official ambassador of Japanese cuisine in Italy, is on a mission. His goal: to spread the art of Washoku, the culture of Japanese food. The ideal person to satisfy some curiosity about sushi doc.

What is the origin of this dish?

Sushi has two thousand years of history and its origin is linked to the conservation of fish: in the absence of refrigeration methods, to preserve it it was salted, marinated or cooked and then pressed and alternated with layers of rice, which was not even consumed. Only in a later period did rice and fish begin to be tasted, in these small portions to be eaten in a bite with chopsticks – which however should not be skewered in sushi, a gesture that in Japan is considered inappropriate. Enjoy it very slowly, to savor the various nuances of taste and texture as they deserve.

What place does it occupy in tradition?

In my country, sushi is not a dish to be eaten every day for lunch or dinner. But a delicious and precious food, reserved for special occasions, served by chefs who possess skill, technique and knowledge of raw materials.

But it’s always just laughter and raw fish?

It is not raw fish that necessarily defines this dish, there are many variations with the presence of eggs, marinated or stewed vegetables, precious seaweed, processed according to various cutting and cooking techniques. Rice is fundamental, a sacred food for the Japanese, prepared with specific methods and tools.

What does good sushi have to be like?

A perfect balance between rice and seasoning, and then it takes great experience and skill in knowing how to treat and cut the ingredients, which a sushi master knows how to select even in full respect of seasonality. Very important is the cut of the fish which traditionally, to respect the sacrifice, is filleted with the head held to our left.

Any tips from your experience?

It is important to respect the various stages of processing. It starts with sumeshi, the rice obtained from a precise process of washing, refining and cooking, finally flavored with a typical condiment called sushizu; then the other ingredients, raw or cooked, are added. There are various types of sushi: in addition to the best known nigiri and hosomaki (rolls), there are the more traditional chirashi (ingredients arranged on a base of seasoned rice), inari (based on fried tofu) or hoshi (pressed sushi).

Dinner made in Japan: beyond to sushi, what to taste?

The Japanese gastronomic culture (Washoku) is very vast and also includes aspects related to respect for the ingredients and the guest, the rules of sharing and hospitality, spirituality and aesthetic taste, factors that contributed to making it, in 2013, Unesco world heritage. There are many dishes to try, now also popular in Europe: miso soup (it is one of the main condiments based on soy beans); tempura, the best known Japanese fry, light and crunchy, made with soft wheat flour, natural water and a little egg; long pasta dishes such as ramen, udon or soba. Also excellent are the tataki (fish or meat seared on the grill), or the teriyaki, in which the food is lacquered to obtain a perfect caramelization. But also the kakuni, the very famous pork belly stew, deserves more than a taste.

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Ingredients for 20 nigirizushi

  • For the sushizu: 75 g of vinegar of rice, 30 g granulated sugar, 15 g of salt.

  • For the sumeshi: 450 g of Japanese rice, 450 g of natural water.

  • For the nigirizushi: 120 g fillet of Norwegian salmon, 120 g of sumeshi, rice vinegar to taste, wasabi grated to taste.
  • For the finish: 40 g of salmon roe, soy sauce to taste.

C.how to prepare rice: in a basin, prepare the dressing mixing all the ingredients required for the sushizu. Wash the rice with natural running water to remove starch, leave to soak in water for 30 minutes, then drain. In a saucepan, add the washed and soaked rice, pour the plain water. Cover the pot with a lid e bring to a boil. Lower the heat and leave cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it rest for 15 minutes. Transfer the sumeshi to a bowl, season with the sushizu and mix. Cover the seasoned rice with a moist fabric to maintain a temperature of 40 ° C.

How to prepare nigiri: remove the skin e cut the salmon fillet into 3 mm slices. Wet your hands in water acidulated with rice vinegar. Take about 20 g of sumeshi with your right hand and shape into a ball. Take a slice of salmon with your left hand and add a hint of wasabi with your index finger. Place the sumeshi ball on the salmon. With the index finger of the right hand create a small hollow on the ball. Rotate and flip the nigiri with your right middle finger. Model in the shape of a cylinder by pressing the sides of the nigiri with the thumb and middle finger of the right hand. Press with the index and middle fingers of your right hand to make the ingredients adhere. In a serving dish, lay the nigirizushi. Top with the salmon roe and accompany with soy sauce.


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