Choosing the Best Ingredients
Other than the fish,
does not have
many special ingredients. They are all ingredients found in an average
However the distinctly high quality ingredients are often used by
sushi chefs to make that small, but noticeable difference.
The water used to cook rice
can alter the
taste of the whole sushi significantly. High mineral content spring
in the Tamba region of Japan (near Kyoto)
has been prized for other cuisines such as soba as well. Chefs look for
with crisp taste with a faint sweet aftertaste.
“japonica” rice has always been
used for sushi. The japonica is a short grain rice which is sticker
other rice of the world. There are close to 50 variations under the
which are cultivated in Japan,
and in the koshihikari, sasanishiki, and akitakomachi
are generally considered the best. Recently a
variation of the koshihikari called
the “Milky Queen” has been calling a lot of
attention. The Milky Queen has a
lower amylase content, so the rice becomes stickier and more chewy.
other rice, the grains of the Milky Queen are translucent before they
cooked and are beautiful just to look at.
Sea salt is always the
is about 25% lower in sodium than regular salt, and it is milder in
taste. Table salt, which is about 99% sodium, should not be used, not
sushi, but for any cuisine, for it makes the savory taste of the food
Many sea salts are harvested in Japan
and the Okinawa (Southern Japan) sea
salt and the Noto (Northern Japan) sea salt are
famous. Besides domestic sea salts, many sushi
chefs are starting to experiment with Australian, Schezwan, Mongolian,
Himalayan sea salt, which are all of very high quality.
small amount of regular white sugar is
used for sushi rice preparation. Brown sugar has a bold taste, and is
strong when matched with sushi. Sugar was imported to Japan from Southeast Asia
in the form of brown sugar, and it was very expensive. During the Edo period, this sugar was
refined to something close to
white sugar. This was called the wasanbon.
It has a taste in between white and brown sugar and is used in creating
Japanese sweets. Some sushi chefs prefer using this, but the clearer
sugar is more subtle, and is preferred to smoothen the vinegar taste in
sushi rice vinegar.
is important to use naturally fermented and aged rice vinegar. Not only
that it has a milder tang, but it
macrobiotic agents that can properly cure fish such as mackerel.
vinegar is often drunk alone (in small amounts) for health benefits.
artificially made rice vinegars are made by chemically producing acid,
adding artificial flavorings. This drops the acid content ratio
normal vinegar, and it requires more time to cure fish, and eventually
flesh. As for the taste, it is too sour and more sugar will be required
the sushi rice vinegar smoother, which results in a sweet sushi rice.
Kombu is a type of kelp used to accentuate many
flavors in Japanese
cuisine. It is one of the basic ingredients, and the bland mineral
magnifies the flavors of seafood. It is seldom used as a main
(High mineral content of kombu
with other dishes are linked to the long life span of Okinawans.) The
best kombu is cultivated in the northern seas of Hokkaido
near Rishiri island and is
superior in quality.
fermented sake, or rice wine is
required. A lot of cheaper sake are
a blend of lower grade factory
produced wine. Sake also has the
reputation of tasting sweet, and lingering. A high quality sake should taste light, and have the
sweet aroma of rice. The sake
should always come from a single
barrel and real breweries wrap their bottles with paper to avoid
are the Junmai Shu (Pure rice
wine), Ginjo and Dai
Ginjyo sake, and they
represent how much the rice has been processed before fermentation
to low respectively). The Junmai Shu
has the lightest taste, with sweet aromas. A good quality junmai shu should be used when blending
the sushi rice vinegar. The
later two are stronger in flavor and aromas and should be enjoyed as a
Sauce was introduced to Japan
and after many years of modifications,
small differences in taste have developed. Japanese soy sauce was
match with domestic food, and raw fish is a good example. Japanese soy
are made with various ingredients, and the basic, koikuchi
type which is made with wheat and soybeans match
with sushi. The koikuchi meaning
savory taste, is originally a Edo
name for Tokyo)
style (known for their salty foods) soy sauce which became mainstream
The unpasteurized ki joyu (raw soy
sauce) version of koikuchi has more
complex aromas and the best ones come small manufactures that maintain
traditional production methods..
is dried chopped laver made into thin sheets. Nori
is an intriguing ingredient to choose. The strong ocean scent
that is characteristic are sometimes thought be too overpowering
delicate aromas of some fish. Therefore only fish with robust flavors
into sushi rolls which require nori.
Nevertheless, a good quality nori
must have a strong aroma, so they are used carefully. Laver is usually
in the ocean bays. They are sensitive to the quality of water so the
quality are found near oceans free of pollution.
is always used. The antibacterial properties which come from the
isothiocyanates work the best when used fresh. A very fine grater made
shark skin must be used to properly break the cells to release these
It is apparent by the stronger taste when it is grated with the fine
shark skin. Wasabi is cultivated in
fresh spring water and sand. There are wasabi
farms throughout Japan,
but the Mazuma (central Japan)
wasabi from the Izu
peninsula stands out the most. Most of the pre-made, or powered wasabi sold in Japan
are made from horseradish,
and food colorings, since mass production of wasabi
is difficult. There are a few products that use real wasabi,
and they are usually a little more expensive.