- Sushi chefs have to work to properly prepare raw fish.
- These are the secrets that chefs have kept quiet.
- From code words to exacting the angle of the knife, there is a lot going on behind the scenes.
Over the years, sushi has become a popular option for delicious dining. From traditional items to a more modernised take, it’s becoming more appreciated all over the world.
Regardless of what or how you like to eat your sushi, there are still some things you don’t know about it. Here are nine secrets sushi chefs have kept quiet over the years.
Though a simple ingredient, the rice is really, really important.
It may not seem as if it could make or break the meal, but the rice in sushi is perhaps one of the most important factors, Thomas Park, executive chef at RUKA told INSIDER.
“For sushi, the rice is the most important component. The fresh fish is a given,” he said. “A sushi chef knows how to pick out fresh fish to serve, but it is how the rice is prepared that makes sushi amazing. Every sushi chef has his/her own recipe for their vinegar. Sushi rice, for optimal texture and taste, should be around body temperature – 85-98 degrees is the sweet spot. Rice at this temperature is not gummy and has the best texture and ‘melts’ with the fish.”
There are certain things you need to pay attention to in order to get the best fresh fish.
Fish may be just that to some people, but when it comes to sushi, you should be looking for the best fish to incorporate in your recipe. And according to Park, there are a few things to consider.
“When selecting fresh fish, you should look for the following: clear eyes, bright and ‘metallic’ looking scales that shine and are not white, that the flesh is firm and not slimy, and you should check for deep red gills,” he said. “Old fish has pinkish-greyish gills.”
You always need a cold bowl of water.
Perhaps one of the simplest things that you need when creating great sushi is really cold water and it’s a real game changer.
“When making sushi, keep a bowl of ice cold water,” Park said. “The cold temperature and wetness of your hands prevent from the rice sticking to your hands.”
There’s a certain way to cut makimono.
Have you ever wondered how your rolls come out so perfectly cut every time you hit a sushi restaurant? Park said there’s a specific way to manoeuvre the knife to make that happen.
“When cutting makimono (rolls), start with the heel part of the knife at a 45-degree angle,” he told INSIDER. “Then using the whole blade of the knife, make a sweeping motion to get halfway through the roll. Finish the cut by levelling blade parallel to the cutting board and slicing forward. Do not apply pressure as it will flatten the makimono.”
Sushi restaurants use technology, too.
If you’ve always been under the impression that all sushi restaurants make everything by hand for every single customer, you may want to think again. Yoya Takahashi – sushi chef at both Hamasaku and Umi by Hamasaku – revealed that some actually use technology to help.
“In the past, using technology inside sushi restaurants were unheard of and considered taboo,” he said. “With the rise of fast-casual sushi restaurants, more businesses are open to incorporating technological products such as sushi robots or tablet ordering systems. At Umi by Hamasaku, we use AUTEC sushi robot rice sheet maker which allows us to serve our customers with consistent quality sushi rolls at a faster pace during busy periods and gives us the ability to include large party catering as a part of our business.”
Traditional sushi bars have code words.
Remember the days when you and your friends had your own special lingo? Well according to Joseph Fontelera, chef at Arami in Chicago, traditional sushi bars still have that covered.
“Behind a traditional Japanese run or Japanese taught sushi bar, there’s code for almost everything that a guest could need in order to be discrete.
- Namida translates to tears, it’s code for wasabi
- Murasaki translates to purple, code for soy sauce
- 544 is a discrete way to tell your coworker behind the line that you need to go use the washroom”
There’s a way to test your chef if you’re not comfortable with them just yet.
If you’re trying a new sushi restaurant or if your favourite one has gotten a new chef, it’s normal to feel a little reluctant about dining there. Lucky for you, Fontelera told INSIDER that there’s something you can do to test the waters.
“If they do not know the chef/do not trust the chef yet, they can order tamago as their first piece of sushi in order to test the restaurant’s attention to detail and the chef’s palate.”
For those who don’t know, tamago is a thin egg omelet on a bed of rice.
Many sushi chefs do not source locally.
Although you may think that all of your food at your local sushi restaurants comes from the local areas (when it makes sense, of course), that honestly isn’t always the case. Adam Tortosa – owner and chef of Robin in San Francisco – said that there are more restaurants than you think that aren’t sourcing locally when they have the opportunity to do so.
“It seems obvious, but there are many sushi chefs who source product from around the world instead of using what’s local to them,” he said.
Hand rolls are the easiest thing to make and are a great party trick.
If hand rolls are your favourite thing to order when you’re out at a sushi restaurant, you’ll want to know how easy they are to make at home. Not only will that save you from having to go out, but they can also save you a lot of money if you eat them frequently.
“I’m a huge fan of hand rolls as a gateway to sushi-making,” Tortosa said. “Rolling sushi can be daunting, but anyone can put together a hand roll, so they’re the ultimate party trick. It’s super fun for guest to customise and wrap hand rolls to their liking. The host just needs to supply the nori sheets, rice, fillings, and sauce. At Robin, I serve hand rolls at the end of the omakase meal and currently offer Albacore Tuna with Charred Herb Salsa and Fatty Tuna with Chives, Wasabi, and Aged Soy. Anyone can be a hand roll expert with a few easy tips:
- Have a dry hand and a wet hand when rolling to make sure your nori sheet stays crisp
- Wet your hand and loosely form the rice into a ball, place on the nori sheet
- Top with fillings – fish, avocado, veggies, egg – whatever you fancy
- Get your sauce on: soy, ponzu, spicy mayo
- Roll the nori sheet away from you and enjoy!”
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