March 6th, 2012
I had a real craving for sushi today and went to visit my favourite Japanese delicatessen, Yoshino. I’ve been buying takeaway from Yoshino for about 10 years – they beat supermarket sushi by a million miles and put some of the conveyor belt restaurants to shame. The main thing I’ve noticed here, is that the rice is fresh and the food is constantly being prepared behind the counter – it doesn’t have a chance to get stale. Supermarkets can’t compete with this, their rice is always a day old and it starts to have an unpleasant crunchiness when it’s not recently made.
The word sushi means sour tasting and historically would have been fish that had been fermented by wrapping it in soured rice (the rice wasn’t eaten, it was just used in he preparation of the fish). This sourness is one part of the Japanese five basic tastes, along with sweet, bitter, salty and umami (savoriness). Seven or eight hundred years ago, vinegar was added to this fermented rice, which helped to preserve the fish – by the eighteenth century rice was being pressed in moulds with the fish. Contemporary sushi (fish with rice) became popular by the nineteenth century and the fermentation process was abandoned. It was intended to be quick, fast, fresh food.
I had a selection of sushi, starting with the tuna, squid and salmon nigiri above (left to right) – raw fish on an oblong mound of sushi rice (flavoured with a little rice vinegar and wasabi, a type of horseradish).
Piri-Piri king prawn and chicken, another futomaki wrapped in seaweed.
Eel and cucumber, an uramaki or California Roll , with rice on the outside and nori on the inside – apparently this style was created because Americans didn’t like the look of seaweed! This is becoming a popular sushi styke in Japan now.
I just happened to have some Sake (Japanese rice wine, though it’s actually brewed, like beer, rather than fermented) to help wash down the sushi. Mr. Bond would have us drink sake at 98º F, but that’s only correct for the likes of junmai or honjozo. Namazake (unpasteurized sake) should be served at 41 – 50 º F and gingo and daigingo (fragrant sake) should be served at around 50º F.
I was, of course, listening to Ryuichi Sakamoto for the right vibe while eating.
Yoshino is at 59 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 6LF