A Blog about Japan, Sushi and Seafood

Beef. Still what’s for dinner.

The dish involves three steps:

1) Prepare the sushi rice (or be lazy and use regular old steamed rice or if you’re feeling really rebellious, minute rice);

2) Prepare the filling(s); and

3) Roll the sushi.

List of Ingredients


  • Sushi rice — 600 grams (recipe >>)
  • Sheets of dried seaweed — 4 sheets*
  • Beef strips (thinly sliced, with some fat as if you were making beef jerky, the same length as the longest side of your seaweed sheets) — 200 grams

Beef Marinade

  • Garlic (thinly sliced) — 1 clove
  • Fresh ginger (peeled) — 10 grams
  • Italian seasoning (oregano, thyme, parsley) — large pinch
  • Celery salt — if mice could pinch, then equal to one of those
  • Sugar — 1/2 teaspoon
  • Soy Sauce — 2 tablespoons
  • Mirin (or other rice-based cooking wine)— 2/3 tablespoon
  • Salt/pepper — use your instinct
  • Water — enough to immerse the beef after adding the 

Other fillings:

  • (Recommended, but optional) Red radish (sliced) — 4 (keep the leaves
  • (Optional) Avocado (soft, peeled, pitted, sliced) — 1
  • (Optional) Green onions (chopped or cut the length of the seaweed) — 15 grams
  • (Optional) Carrot (julienned, or cut into 1/16″ thick sticks the length of seaweed) — 8 sticks


  • Rolling mat — It would help if you had one of those nice bamboo sushi rolling mats, but if you don’t, just do your best with whatever you have (wax paper, butcher paper, plastic wrap, etc.).
  • Spatula — really helpful in spreading the rice evenly on your seaweed.

*Makes approx. 4-5 rolls. (approx. 120g – 150g per roll)
Calories (per roll) — don’t know

Prepare your ingredients

Place beef in a cereal bowl or plastic bag, add wet/dry ingredients and place in the refrigerator to marinate for 3-4 hours.

If you choose to use any of the optional ingredients, prepare them separately as described and set aside until it is time to roll them with the sushi rice and beef.

When the beef is nearly done marinating, heat a skillet large enough to hold beef and marinade liquid.

Remove beef and marinade from the fridge and place all contents in the skillet, add garlic and ginger, and reduce until all liquid is gone.

Remove from heat, add the red radish leaves (if you opted to use them), cover and set aside.

Roll your sushi

Place a seaweed sheet on your rolling mat.

Take 120 grams of rice and spread it on a seaweed sheet. If you do this with your hands, lightly wet them so they don’t get covered in rice. If you use a shamoji or spatula, lightly wet it before use. (Tip: Measure out your sushi rice ahead of time for each serving so you don’t use too much/little.)

Imagine a line dividing your seaweed sheet in half horizontally, then start placing your ingredients just before it (the side nearest you) — just not directly in the middle or on the other side.

Now, roll your sushi using whatever style or technique you like. I prefer to roll so that the sushi and seaweed form a spiral when seen from the side. This is easy for beginners because it doesn’t require a lot of forethought on the volume of ingredients vs. the size of the seaweed sheet and rice volume. It also helps keeps your ingredients, rice, and seaweed packed nicely without too much experience in rolling sushi. It’s basically the the roll you can make with virtually any typical makizushi (rolled sushi) ingredients.

 Serving & Eating

Once you’ve finished rolling your sushi, you could:

  1. Cut and serve the sushi right away while it’s fresh, or
  2. Wait a few minutes to let the moisture of the rice soak a little into the seaweed and make it a little easier to cut. There are more reasons for waiting that I won’t go into in too much detail about here, but basically, sometimes you need to wait for your ingredients to blend with each other or interact with the rice – think of it as a chemical experiment that needs time to mix, but the result turn out better than if you had rolled and served right away.

Which ever approach you take, you also need to take into consideration the length of the post-cut rolls. Some ingredients like marinated beef may not blend well with sushi rice (which is typically sweet/sour). The beef recipe above produces a rather strong flavor and if you are making this as part of a multi-stage sushi platter, you do not want this one at the vanguard — the rest of your sushi will taste like cardboard as your tongue will be in party mode. However, strongly flavored ingredients can be counterbalanced with other ingredients, which would be too late if you’ve already rolled up your sushi, or increasing the volume of rice per roll. How do you do that? Adjust the size of each piece during cutting. For example, rolled sushi are typically cut in 4 or 6 pieces (some are not cut at all — see eho-maki). If you cut this article’s sushi into 6 pieces, each piece could be quite punishing. On the other hand, if you were to cut it into 4 pieces, the increase in the rice volume per piece would do more to take the edge off the flavorful meat (and whatever else you might have thrown in there).

Cutting rolled sushi can be frustrating if 1) you’re not using a sharp knife, and 2) you’re not cleaning off your knife with each cut. Be sure you have a smooth razor edge that cuts as you move the blade in smooth motions (not sawing), and when the rice starch (or other ingredients) sticks to the sides of the knife, wipe it off to have smoother cuts.

Eating Sushi 101 for non-Japanese: Most sushi is eaten with one bite, but if you have especially large pieces, it’s not impolite to take more than one bite. If you are straining to get the whole thing down in one bite, you’re not impressing anyone. Also, do whatever it takes to get that sushi into your mouth without delay or disaster. Use your hands (as is the tradition). Use a fork. Anything other than trying to show off your unproven chopstick skillz and end up landing your food in your lap or gods-forbid, the soy sauce bowl.

Author’s Note: Yes, I am aware that was in a chapter of “Shota’s Sushi” and probably other sushi/cooking manga out there. But just try it and see for yourself how merely adjusting the rice content of a sushi roll (even a piece of nigiri sushi) can help balance things out.

In Japan, Setsubun (節分) is celebrated as the day before Spring, or more literally, the division of seasons (節=season, 分=divide). And there’s your Japanese for the day! Gee, if only I could get paid to do this!

Setsubun is commonly celebrated by throwing beans around your house shouting “Out with evil! In with luck!” (or not if you’re like me and can’t be bothered with cleaning up). It’s a day for exorcising your home as a ritual used to evict evil spirits,  

Warning: overgeneralized Japanese culture lesson imminent (at least I gave you fair warning). Setsubun is important in Japan because it is one of many seasonal celebrations that commemorate stuff that Japanese use to control what they do, say, buy, eat, and so on. Yeah, Japan is all about seasons. Spring itself is a particularly important season for Japan. Many of the Japanese’ favorite things happen in Spring: School, work (fiscal year and new grads), cherry blossoms, all kicking off in April. All the more reason to kick out any demonic squatters lest they start hiding your homework, company ID pass, and cooking your books.

Setsubun is also the time when Japanese traditionally eat a kind of sushi called eho-maki. This is a special kind of futomaki that is basically the same as a maru-kaburi-maki (aka maru-kajiri-maki) or “wrapped sushi eaten whole” (wrapped sushi is normally cut into smaller pieces) and different from a temaki or “hand-roll.” I will use eho-maki for the remainder of this post because that’s what everyone calls it this time of year thanks to 7-11 coining it in the late 1990′s.

Eho-maki sushi served with salmon nigiri sushi and chawanmushi (steamed cup).
© Metropolitan Sushi 2014

I think it’s generally agreed that eho-maki gets its name from, 1) the belief that each year, a “lucky direction” or “eho” is decided by the year’s zodiac, and 2) “maki”, the Japanese word for “wrap”, as in wrapped sushi (makizushi). Also, when eating, you are supposed to face the direction of the eho for the year. Exactly when the practice of eating eho-maki was born is hard to pinpoint, but it dates at least back a few hundred years according to some accounts. It has since spread to other parts of Japan and has become a popular item in supermarkets, hotels, sushi restaurants, and even convenience stores. 

As mentioned already, eho-maki is eaten whole. But while other wrapped sushi can be eaten whole, too, that wouldn’t necessarily qualify them as eho-maki. A few things to remember about eho-maki are, 1) Eho-maki is normally eaten during Setsubun. If not, then it’s just a plain old futomaki (thick wrapped sushi), and having said that, 2) you can’t just stuff anything into a futomaki and call it a perfect eho-maki even during Setsubun (except, yeah, you totally can and nobody would really care.) because the most “lucky” of eho-makis contain ingredients representing the 7 Lucky Gods (shichifukujin, go look it up). Thus, the eho-maki is the edible manifestation of good fortune, which gets me to 3) you take your lucky sushi and face the direction of the “eho” when eating, and 4) if you cut your eho-maki, then you’re ruining whatever good fortune that might have been coming to you in that long, black, flaccid, slightly fishy smelling, okat let me stop before I have to start putting up an annoying 18+ confirmation popup window.

As Setsubun marks the start of the Japanese traditional year, it’s natural to want to get off to a good start and put yourself on the path towards the “lucky direction”. If you’re a  gaijin (foreigner) in Japan trying to experience (or show off your knowledge of) Japanese culture, then it’s entirely acceptable to, if you absolutely have to, go ahead and eat eho-maki the traditional way: Close your eyes, face the eho “lucky direction”, and make a wish.

Photo from http://yakult-swallows.co.jp/“If you say ,’we look gay doing this,’ one more time, by golly I swear I’ll…!”

Actually, no one in Japan does this. The Japanese use this as a trick in the same manner as the if-your-hand-is-bigger-than-your-face-then-you’re-gay prank, but rather than make you slap yourself with your own hand, they prefer to pretend to be impressed by your knowledge of Japanese culture while on the inside think of ways to get you to teach them English for free.

If you’re making eho-maki at home, don’t pay attention to recipes. Chances are, you won’t have access to the ingredients (unless you’re in Japan). Even if you do you’ll buy them once and have a bunch leftover never to be used again.

The easiest version (pictured above) for me is salmon sashimi, salmon eggs (ikura), fried egg pancake, salted cucumber, and sauteed shimeji mushrooms. You can pick up everything above in your local grocer ( sub out shimejis for regular shrooms) minus the salmon eggs, which can probably be picked up at your nearby bait shop (ask them if it’s fresh)*. Nuke a cocktail vinegar, sugar, some Oriental Top Ramen powder soup flavoring and add to steamed or Minute Rice. Wrap it all up in your favorite seaweed and prepare to eat on Feb 3, 2014. Congrats! You’ve got yourself some eho-maki.

*Metropolitan Sushi in no way recommends, condones or endorses the purchase or consumption of raw salmon eggs obtained at fishing bait shops, sporting goods stores, or any vendor that supplies salmon eggs in anything but an edible and FDA approved form or shape. The above is meant as a stupid joke that most people might take literally since they’ve probably only seen real salmon eggs next to the buck shot aisle at Walmart.

Recently, an international panel concurred regarding the slashing of catches of pacific bluefin tuna under a certain age – three years – by fifteen percent. What a pain for the fisherman to have to ask every tuna they catch for their DOB. Underage fish go back into the drink while their more slightly aged seniors get to stay on the boat ride to civilization (rare attempt at humourous sarcasm).

But seriously, just how in holy white-flakes-with-mayo-on-rye hell do you tell the difference between a 1,095-day old tuna and a 1,094-week old tuna? There’s probably a logical scientific explanation out there, like measuring, weighing, mind-melding, or what have you based on your leet fisherman skills.

Why a three (3) year age limit? Imagine you’re a bluefin tuna swimming around a man-made paradise – a tuna farm. You have all the food you could want, and your nearest natural predators are ever present, kept at bay by their obsession with how fat you’re becoming and how quickly you can start producing eggs and whatever Pacific bluefin tunas fertilize eggs with. Like the first construction of the Matrix, I’m sure I’d go bonkers, but rather than be felled by a Marlon Brando-sized fruit, I’m sure I’d much more likely be struck with the tuna equivalent of blue balls – in this case, bluefin balls. (I’m trying.) Three years is the sexual maturity age of Pacific bluefin tuna in captivity.

Okay, I’m not a scientist, but some people out there (who know so much about fish that you stop inviting them out to Red Lobster) think that Pacific bluefins (screw it, below “PBF”) actually become sexually developed later around the four or five year mark. Last I checked, cultivating PBFs was damned hard. I thought the idea of farming these fish was to catch them while they’re young – three years or less- then raise them in captivity until payday. If the older fish are okay to keep, and if wild PBF really do mature at older ages, then this may not have such a positive impact after all.

Also, why fifteen percent? Why not fifteen and three-quarters percent? I get the feeling that some individual or group of individuals spent too many long coffee breaks coming up with that number. Regardless who came up with it, you can’t make the number too small or the save-da-tuna crowd will complain, but it can’t be too high or people will think you’re out of your mind. Still, it seems a little arbitrary and pointless when some of the loudest voices screaming for animal protection, like GreenPeace, want a total and complete ban. Plus, wouldn’t the remaining 85 percent that are taken mean that much less for the fisheries to cultivate and fuel their sustainable business machine?

After all, “inability” is part of “sustainability” 
Who knows? Maybe the PBF really is on its way out. Quicker if we do nothing, but a sluggish inevitability that no amount of scientific innovation and/or fancy sustainable business engineering can prevent, short of a conscientious and complete ban on the harvesting, eating, fishing (recreational) or otherwise reduction of PBF populations. Also, considering that the Japanese traditionally consume heaps of tuna (approx. 80% of all PBF and ABF  unless Wikipedia is lying), I don’t think that a ban will have the desired impact there. They still hunt whales for science, they could use the same excuse for tuna.

I’ll stay with salmon – it rarely disappoints me be it on my plate or on the news.
But feel free to call me insensitive as the idea that salmon could easily be (or already is) like the tuna is also a very real possibility.

If you happen to be passing through Fukuoka and you get a quick craving for sushi but don’t have time to sit down and eat, why not try getting some take-out rolls from Daiichi Tamaya Sushi.

Located on the third floor of Fukuoka Airport’s Terminal 2, Daiichi Tamaya is a cozy but comfortable (as are most restaurants in the airport) sushi restaurant that offers sushi rolls and box-pressed sushi (battera and oshizushi) to-go as well as a dining area with the latter allowing you to enjoy not only rolls but the whole menu with its assortment of dishes. Map: http://www.fuk-ab.co.jp/english/cc/index-d2.html

Having little time to buy souvenirs and even less time to eat before our flight, the family and I decided to give airport sushi a try. It was the only realistic option, since the other restaurants had either long queues or not-so-appetizing menus. Seeing as Daiichi Tamaya was not so busy, we quickly decided on our sushi and were soon on our way through security sushi in hand.

I chose box-pressed eel sushi while my wife chose a roll sushi named lettuce maki (not simply lettuce but actually had mayo, shrimp and fried egg wrapped in a lettuce leaf).

Lettuce roll sushi

Eel sushi

Lettuce roll sushi

Very good to say the least. While there are few things at airports that are cheap, the volume of food we got for $20 was generous. I would have liked to have had the sushi sitting down at a table instead of at the gate surrounded by dozens of people (who seemed to stare with hungry eyes).

Gazing begrudgingly at the day’s selection of sashimi grade fish at my local supermarket, I realized that my options are, and have always been, quite limited. Tuna, salmon, squid, or kampachi.

Despite having moved 50 km away from the ocean, I refuse to accept the fact that I am stuck with a dimished selection of fish to choose from whenever I get that urge for sushi or sashimi – and unfortunately, that craving is five days out of the week.

What to do? Resort to my usual menu of salmon and avocado wraps (norimaki) accompanied by a haphazardly concocted egg pancake (tamagoyaki)? Attempt to better my hand-form sushi (nigirizushi) made with kampachi and tuna? No!

So, I am splintering away from the Japanese world and applying what I’ve learned about working with raw fish to a western delicacy inspired by a recent trip to Amsterdam. The day’s special is Salmon Tartare!

Now, you might have heard of the beef variant known as steak tartare, which is made with raw beef, mustard, herbs and spices served with toast and tartare sauce. Salmon tartare is, unsurprisingly, the fishy version of perhaps one of the greatest dishes I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming.

Salmon tartare as featured on Sushi Break is not a new invention. But I will share the result of my experimentation below.

Salmon tartare – with special soy sauce and sliced tomatos

Salmon Tartare served with toast and sliced tomatos

Recipe is not exact*, but if you want to try yourself, here is the shopping list:

  • 1 lb fresh sashimi grade salmon (I used Norwegian salmon, sans skin and bones)
  • 1/2 seeded finely sliced/diced cucumber
  • 1/2 tbs minced shallots
  • 1/2 small white onion
  • 1/2 to 3/4 tbs truffle infused olive oil (normal EVOO is fine too), don’t add more than 1/2 tbs if your salmon is really fatty or you’ll have salmon fat contending with oil which I find a little distracting and not so tasty
  • 1/2 tsp salt (Okinawan salt was used, but if you’re going to use table salt, a small pinch only)
  • 1 tsp fresh parsley finely chopped (dried parsley also ok)
  • 1/2 tbs Jane’s Crazy Pepper (finely ground with mortar and pestle)
  • 1 tbs of fresh squeezed orange juice (I didn’t have lemon/lemon juice)
  • 1/2 tsp (and I mean no more than 1/2 tsp) of sesame seed oil (aka 胡麻油) – this stuff is quite aromic and strong tasting, so don’t let it steal the show

*The shopping list was based on a salmon tartare recipe on Bon Appetit

Instructions: Slice the salmon finely, but not so small that you get mush. You’re trying to make food for humans, not cat food. Keep the salmon aside in a chilled bowl. To the salmon, add the other ingredients in no particular order – but I find that mixing it all in separate bowl ahead of time is a nice idea, so you can just dump it in with the freshly sliced salmon, and be on your way to eating. Rapidly but gently blend together the ingredients with a rubber spatula or other forgiving tool – in other words, don’t use a wooden spoon that grips (and rips) the salmon meat apart with each stir.

For the presentation, what I did was scoop half the mixture into two shallow coffee mugs, flipped them upside down onto the serving saucers, and stored in the fridge for 30 minutes (or however long it takes you to make your other dinner items). Ideally, when you remove your mugs, your salmon tartare should look like little domes.

Temarizushi, or, “ball sushi,” is a smaller variant of the hand-formed nigirizushi. Temari refers to those colorfully decorated “handballs” made of silk and fabric.

I whipped these up for Japan’s Hina Matsuri “festival for girls” and although chirashizushi is more commonly served on this day, homemade temarizushi were still a good choice! The ingredients used were: engawa, shrimp, avocado, egg, and shiso.

Homemade temarizushi made with engawa, shrimp egg, avocado, and salmon. Garnished with green shiso leaves (also yummy to wrap the sushi up when eating).

Very simple to make. All you need is some sushi rice, choice of toppings, and a square piece of plastic wrap. There isn’t really any limit to what you can make so long as it’s delicious and doesn’t take up too much time!

Start off by putting your topping in the center of the plastic wrap followed by the rice. Then wrap your ingredients with the plastic wrap – easiest done by twisting the wrap tight (not too tight!) around the ingredients whilst maintaining a round shape. Give it a couple of gentle but decided pinches as if you were doing a normal nigirizushi with your thumb and forefinger only. Remove the plastic wrap, place the finished temarizushi on a platter, and continue with the next one.

If you have any decorative ingredients like ikura (salmon eggs) or sliced spring onions, save those for garnishing finished temarizushi pieces. I gave my egg-topped temarizushi avocado bunny ears (see below).

Egg and Avocado Temarizushi

Sushi Rolls made from Avocado and Salmon plus carrots and sprouts

While I won’t go into every single step, the best things to remember are:

K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple Sushi. Don’t go all fancy with your first few attempts. You won’t impress anyone and you’ll only end up frustrating yourself. Limit your ingredients to 1 or 2 (not including rice and seaweed).

Seaweed – Use the expensive stuff. Do not use the cheap stuff. Do not use Korean salted “snack seaweed”. Do use anything labeled “Asakusa Nori” or anything pretending to be even if it might not be the real thing.

Don’t Roll – It may sound counter-intuitive given the dish’s name and all, but, don’t roll your sushi like the ladies rolling dough at Cinnabon. There is a method to it for which careful observation at your local sushi restaurant or 10 minutes on YouTube will prove very educational.

There are tons of sushi roll recipes out there already, and many yet to be invented! Give it a go and always, always test your work yourself before giving others to eat – if you like, chances are someone else will, too.

Author’s Note: I didn’t really use Shiso in my rolls this time around, but their inclusion is a great idea. Why? You may have noticed the main ingredients used are avocado and salmon, two foods with bland but dominant “fatty” tastes and pasty textures. To counterbalance their dominance, shiso adds a bit of herbal freshness in a way that keeps the sushi interesting without being as acute as sliced ginger (another possible substitute if you don’t have access to shiso), as shy as (adding more) sprounts, or as unpredictable as wasabi. A thought has come to mind that if you don’t have any shiso, ginger, or wasabi, a little chopped fresh parsley may give a slightly more aggressive but similar impact that this sushi needs. If you have any other great suggestions, please send an email to info@sushiguruclt.com!

Makizushi a.k.a. sushi rolls is something I have come to appreciate more and more. The reason being, that, simply eating it is no longer satisfying – making sushi rolls is fun, challenging, and gratifying when you get it right.

My favorite homemade sushi rolls to make and eat are filled with avocado, salmon, carrots, beansprouts, and shiso (red or green). I always make sure that the avocado is nice and soft, carrots crisp, salmon fatty, and beansprouts and shiso fresh from the garden.

Avocado, Carrots, Sprouts, and Salmon

When first learning to make your own homemade sushi rolls, don’t be afraid to cut your ingredients to a size/shape that’s easy to work with – but be reasonable. For example, avocado is quite slippery so you may need to slice it into smaller pieces but not so small that you get guacamole (a sushi roll recipe that does use guacamole I will save for a future post)! At least, my recipe does not call for mushiness but some sushi rolls like negitoro-maki “spring onions and minced toro maguro rolls” (yum-yum) are quite mushy.

Finished product will be in the next post.

But would I go everyday?

I remember writing a post about the dangers of eating too much sushi, but I never thought about it too seriously until I faced the pleasant reality of stuffing myself with sushi daily.
Despite the possibility of getting food poisoning, parasites, mercury poisoning, or suffering from a major foodgasm before the next shift starts, I don’t really see a problem with the concept of everyday sushi – I’m sure there are some out there who actually do this.

Of course, my wallet may have objections of being emptied a bit sooner than if I practiced a bit more delayed gratification.

So, I like the idea that I could have sushi everyday but I probably won’t pursue it in reality.

My latest take-away sushi box is below. The combo is: chutoro, kappa-maki (cuccumber rolls), aji (horse mackerel, and saba (pickled mackerel).

Takeout Sushi!

Sometimes raw shrimp is tastier than fried.

I picked up a pack of fresh akaebi from the store and didn’t even bother with looking up a recipe. Shelled em and ate em. And I though amaebi were sweet! What’s more, is I saved the shells and heads, threw them in a pot with some miso and had shrimp soup! Great snack that took all but 10 minutes.

Email me if you want the recipe!

Since the 1960s, November 1 marks Sushi Day in Japan.
The All Japan Sushi Guild in 1961 came up with a way to help the Japanese celebrate and give thanks to the coming of the Fall season. This time of year, fruition, harvests, and rice are highly valued in Japanese culture. Also, Fall is a time that traditionally the Japanese associate with appetite and the in Japanese Shokuyoku no Aki (食欲の秋) literally means “Fall appetite”.

Smart marketing
Having established a cultural connection to eating and to the Fall season, the All Japan Sushi Guild intended for sushi to be celebrated and enjoyed by people of all ages and gender, and promoted National Sushi Day to appeal to everyone. In a way, it was a successful marketing ploy to get more people to eat sushi especially since in the 1960s onward, with Japan’s economy rapidly recovering after its defeat in WWII, more and more people, not just rich elites, but of all parts of Japanese society were able to enjoy sushi.

Why November 1?
There is sort of a love story behind the Sushi Day date of November 1 which has its origin in theatrics. A sushi restaurant appears in a kabuki play in which Taira Koremori, a samurai warrior defeated in battle, visits and falls in love with the daughter of the sushi chef (if interested, he was serving Ayu or sweetfish sushi). The warrior then gives up his status as a samurai and is adopted into the sushi chef’s family and changes his name to Yasuke on November 1. The sushi restaurant is known today as Tsurubesushi Yasuke, or Yasukezushi and is located in Nara Prefecture, Japan. If you’re in the area, go and grab a bite of sushi history!

I have found that most people who come from cultures where eating raw fish is not a norm tend to break into sushi for the first time through cooked sushi, like the commonplace boiled shrimp sushi (ebi).

Shrimp sushi is easy for sushi first-timers.

Boiled shrimp is familiar to most people in the West, which I can understand would make it easier to accept when eaten as sushi.

Other cooked sushi toppings like egg omelets, barbecued eel, and blanched sea bream, are other common cooked items on sushi restaurant menus.

But if you absolutely can’t handle raw fish, you don’t have to limit yourself to these slim choices. There are so many other kinds of sushi and many additional ways to enjoy them in a less-raw state (after overcoming the impressions you already have).

Take for instance sardine sushi (iwashi): Westerners are probably used to seeing sardines in cans or jars with oil, and not exactly the most appetizing things. That impression is stuck in their minds when told of sardine sushi. Raw sardines, even fresh ones, are somewhat fragrant and can kill your appetite rather quickly.  But why settle for the raw deal when you can ask the sushi chef to make it a little less raw?

Aburi (炙り) is the method of torching something with, of course, a blowtorch or flame. In sushi, it means to singe the top or outer surface of raw fish, cooking it. The result is a sardine with a browned crackling surface and the juiciness of a flame-broiled steak (it’s still fish, mind you). The part that has been put to the flame often tastes good enough to make you forget about the fact the rest is raw, but at least it might turn your “ewws” into “yumms”.

The shrimp sushi featured above was made from giant Indonesia tiger prawns, caught fresh (not farmed) and packed at 680 yen for 6 prawns ($8.71) or about $1.45 per prawn. These monsters are large enough to satisfy the no-raw-fish sushi fan, but if you’re felling only a little bit adventurous, take my advice and experiment with others toppings!

I used a lull in between rain storms to venture out and have a look at the Sunday fish stock at a neighborhood grocer.  The only thing decent they had was makokarei (below “karei”), or young marbled soles that were shipped fresh from Chiba prefecture.

Prepped sole (karei) with head and guts removed.

About a 10 inches in length and weighing about 380 grams, this flatfish was not exactly a bargain at 752 yen ($9.64). But when these babies are available, I won’t waste the opportunity for a nice meal in the form of sushi, sashimi, or grilled sole.

Karei are a white meat fish and have a light taste that when properly served can have a slightly fluffy texture, especially when grilled, broiled or otherwise cooked.

The sushi and sashimi iterations present an unexpectedly tough and chewier texture compared to the cooked versions. Karei and its opposite-eyed cousin the Hirame (Flounder) are popular choices at restaurants that specialize in fish — but they are also more expensive compared to more common fish like aji (horse mackerel) and sake (salmon).

I sliced my sole at home (I had the fish seller remove the head and guts before repackaging) using the Gomai-oroshi or five-piece fillet method. Like the name suggests, the result is 4 boneless fillets and a bony carcass (not pictured) — the fillets I used for sushi and frying, while I threw the leftovers into a pot for soup.

When filleting a flatfish, make sure you have a thin and flexible fillet knife or other chef’s knife with a slender blade. It also helps to rinse and wipe your blade during the filleting so you can make a clean cut as often as possible — this will help prevent tearing or ripping of flesh and possibly ruining your fillets.

Sole fillets after using gomai-oroshi (5-piece fillet). Carcass (the fifth piece) is already in the soup pot!

Picking a good flatfish (sole or flounder) is not difficult, but what is difficult is finding one that isn’t cultivated (“farmed”). I personally preferred freshly caught flatfish because while I have a general idea of what these bottom-feeders dine on in the wild, I don’t want to think about the stuff the farmers are giving them in the cultivation ponds. Not that it’s easy to taste the difference either, but it is just for peace of mind.

Farmed soles and flounders can be spotted very easily by flipping them to see the white underbelly and checking for dark spots on the skin. I have been told that the feed used in cultivation causes this, but I will save the science behind that for another time. The point is, if you want a fresh flatfish, go for a pure white underbelly specimen — don’t forget to ask the salesman if it’s not indicated.  Most supermarkets and fish mongers know that more and more people have become aware of the difference between fresh and farmed fish and may likewise develop a preference for the fresh version.  So, they sell their flatfish in packages with the fish’s white underbelly in full visibility.  I think this is great because not only does it show honesty on the part of the seller, but it prevents too many people from messing with the fish too many times to check for spots — someone eventually needs to buy that fish and it’s best that it’s not been handled too much!

Madai or red sea bream is a popular fish eaten all year round in Japan, but is often eaten during seasonal events like New Year’s and cherry blossom season.

In this second installation of the Hetakuso Bocho (“unskilled knife”) Series, I gut and filet a sea bream in the commonly used 3-part filet, or sanmai-oroshi method. The video is available on YouTube.

Sea breams in Japanese cuisine come in many forms, as a cooked as well as raw fish.

This video is the first of several planned productions of Hetakuso Bocho (“Unskilled Knife”).

In the first episode, I gut and filet a striped pigfish, also known as an isaki in Japan. Isaki is best eaten in the summer months (June, July, August), can grow up to 50 cm, and fetch a relatively high price at market.

This fish is known to be tasty grilled or fried, for sushi or as sashimi.

Isaki have a reddish flesh that you might notice resembles red sea bream (when sliced for sashimi and sushi) but has a little more fat and softer flesh when eaten raw. If raw fish is not your thing, you need to be careful not to overcook isaki as doing so may result in it becoming dry and not so tasty. That is, unless you have some tartar or cocktail sauce, but in my opinion that doesn’t do justice to a fish that can cost $20 or more, and certainly not to be confused with the stuff you get for fish n’ chips.

Picking out a good Isaki can be difficult as the common rule of thumb involves checking the fish’s eyes — the more clear and full, the better — but with even good isaki the eyes are a bit cloudy. I always try to choose gerth over eyes, but if I can confirm both the better.

It took 72 hours and 3 and a half minutes of footage, but it’s finished and up on YouTube!

Metropolitan Sushi (MetroSushi) presents the happiest video about Tuna on the web.

Okay, it looks like amateur compared to the countless videos out there, but in the Happy Tuna Video, I was able to combine a few things I like very much: tuna photography, tuna videos, and tunes by the Rubettes.

Happy Tuna Video on YouTube

(Click here for the hi-definition version)

Hopefully the first of many more tribute videos!

Hope you like it!

I really like sushi and sashimi, but had a hard time with eating it when octopus, or, tako is on the menu.

My Japanese friends would tell me, “Oh, that’s because you haven’t had it fresh!” or, “You haven’t had `good` tako!” etc.

Tako, which has the same pronunciation as the famous traditional Mexican dish, was always difficult for me. So, what I did one day at the request of my wife was make homemade takoyaki, also known as the often mocked “octopus balls.”

Normally, you can’t make them without a special grill, but I happened to land a new grill with a special adapter included.

The picture attached is the result of my new grill and a simple recipe I found on Cookpad, but if you search for “takoyaki recipe”, you’re bound to get many options.  I used a pancake batter that was modified especially for takoyaki.

They were very tasty and great right off the grill, topped with special sweet and tangy takoyaki sauce, mayo, seaweed powder (aonori), and bonito flakes. Barbecue sauce might be good, too… Since then, I’ve opened up to octopus more and more, even enjoying comfortably the spicy dish takowasabi.

If you’re like me and aren’t an octopus fan, try a couple takoyaki instead.

TOKYO, Japan – This morning, Tsukiji Fish Market auction was the scene of the most expensive maguro (tuna) sold in history. The 269kg lunker sold for a whopping 56.49million yen. At current exchange rates (77 yen per US dollar), that puts it at approx. $733,000! Per kilogram, the price is 210,000 yen or approx. $2,727.

The last record breaking tuna sold for 32.49 million yen a year ago.

Video is here:
How much sushi can you make outta that!?

The article (Japanese) is here: http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20120105-00000028-jij-soci

W00t happy new year’s!!!!!

I was reading a comprehensive guide to eating good fish and I came across an interesting chapter. It basically disproved the commonly held belief that delicious fish tastes so simply because it’s fresh. Being both a consumer and preparer of sushi and other seafood dishes, I had started to believe that making a truly delicious fish has more to do with the skill of the chef rather than merely the ingredients on hand, much like how an artist can create a beautiful image from little more than a ballpoint pen and a cocktail napkin. (Of course food and art are a bit different, but sushi has long been regarded as both a delicacy and an art inside and outside of Japan…I no longer think that seriously about sushi as an art form.)

Experts will tell you that after meeting its demise, a lot is going on inside a fish’s body that affect its taste. Depending on the type of fish, it can turn out quite different from the time it is caught until it finally reaches the kitchen, regardless of how much ice you packed it with.

I have written in the past that choosing a fish is very important, from when and where it was caught and killed, to the means of transport from sea to shop (I might have forgotten to add that the “emotional” state of the fish is also noteworthy).  However, the “when” is particularly important in the “fresh equals delicious” discussion.

Industrialization and the advent of refrigeration and food transport technologies have gifted people living away from shore with the enjoyment of genuine fresh fish, but at the same time, this has cheated people from appreciating aged or “ripened” fish.  “Ripened” is kind of strange when talking about fish, and dead fish at that, but if you put it in the context of fresh fruit, I think you’ll get the idea.  In short, some fish taste (much) better when eaten soon after, or several hours (even weeks) after being “picked from the branch” (slaughtered). Much like how you might leave a freshly harvested red delicious apple in the vegetable crisper to ripen, a red sea bream is said to be best 24 hours after the finishing blow.

A biological explanation why this happens is explained here but below is an abbreviated explanation. After death, a substance known as ATP in the fish’s flesh is broken down by another substance called inosine.  This occurs during the first stages of fish rigor mortis.  The more the inosine works, the tastier the fish gets. It’s said that when the inosine reaches critical mass, the fish tastes most delicious and is thus “ripe”.  When the fish goes stiff, that’s when things start to get stinky and not so tasty. (the above apparently goes for meat as well)

*I’m not sure why my source did not also cover the nutritional impact of this “strategic decay” as it only seems to mention taste. Maybe I’ll blog about that some other day.

As mentioned above, different fish have short or long windows of opportunity. So, maybe I will make a chart for different fish based on existing research and personal experience.

So, it might be true that the best chefs, especially sushi chefs, need also be experts in fish postmortem biology.  But, when you’re choosing your fish to impress that special someone, be they a loved one or a high paying customer, knowing the time of death, cause of death, and type of fish involved may require knowledge more along the lines of forensic science!

After note: The pitfall of going through all the above is, who the hell can taste the difference between a regular fresh fish and a “ripened” fresh fish? I guess that kind of thing only happens in the comics…