Sushi is recognized as an art in Japanese cuisine developed over centuries in spite of many political and social changes throughout Japan. However, in the modern era, significant changes have occurred including the introduction of Western culture. Sushi developed naturally from the abundance of fresh fish that flourish in the archipelago of Japan. Commonly used fish are tuna, Japanese amberjack, yellowtail, snapper, mackerel, and salmon. The most valued part of the tuna is called toro, the fatty cut of the tuna fish. This comes in a variety of toro (often from the blue fin species of tuna) and chutoro, meaning middle toro, implying that it is halfway into the fattiness between (toro) and the regular cut. Aburi style refers to nigiri sushi where the fish is partially grilled(topside) and partially raw.
In the past, unless Japanese sushi restaurants were in a vibrant city like London or Paris, I found it very difficult to find a skilled Japanese sushi chef. However, today, sushi bars are all the rage and can be seen everywhere. There can’t possibly be that many sushi master chefs to go around, so you may have to rely on word of mouth or look for long queues at the restaurant door to find good sushi. Sushi presentations are purposely designed to be extremely eye pleasing, and for those who fill the sushi bars, this Japanese delicacy offers a culinary delight that is difficult to describe to the uninitiated. The secret to good sushi, apart from the quality of selected seafood, is shari rice.
Shari is a blend of rice and (rice-vinegar) and finding the right balance is one of the key elements of sushi. Japanese-rice vinegar is mild and sweet compared to more acidic Western vinegars which, for that very reason, are not appropriate substitutes for the preparation of shari. Rice vinegar is added to cold cooked rice to make the shari that complements the sushi. Recipes for shari rice have been handed down for centuries. When served with raw fish, shari helps breaks down the fish proteins as a sort of pre-digestive process.
• The ingredients for making Shari (vinegar-rice):
3 cups Japanese rice cold
3 1/4 cups water
1/3 cup Japanese rice vinegar
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
Blend all the ingredients and form rice balls. Place a pinch of shari rice the size of a large chestnut in the palm of one hand. With two forefingers from the other hand give a light but firm squeeze. The magic is to maintain a firm, but loose consistency. The taste of sushi greatly depends on the quality and freshness of the seafood combined with the shari. The chef will then select a piece of fresh fish that has been cut to form eye-pleasing shapes and place it delicately on top of the shari rice balls.
Once eaten and enjoyed, the exquisite taste will remain a fond memory. Chefs around the world generally keep within their profound arts of cooking, but the competitive market for sushi has driven food chains to improvise, providing a consumer’s market with cheaper alternatives. What price popularity? Traditional sushi preparation requires highly specialized chefs, and as such, can be awfully expensive. Unfortunately, rapidly rising demand has outstripped the supply of qualified chefs. So how can we ensure that such a highly evolved art survives?