Perfume Story: October 2010 Archives

October 2010 Archives

Sushi and wasabi :Vol.2

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Sushi and wasabi

Sushi - the flagship Japanese food

Japan's most well-known food and currently enjoying a worldwide boom, Sushi has established itself as a standard food ingredient.
Sushi has become extremely popular, and can now be found in supermarkets in many countries across the globe. Many westerners once complained about the bad smell of raw fish, but this has changed greatly.
When the author went to New York in 2006, sushi bars had been established inside French restaurants and caviar stores, and in these places chilled sake was, of course, the popular accompanying drink.
Further, a questionnaire asking 10 to 12 year-old children (representative players) playing little league baseball their favorite foods, revealed that half gave "sushi" as their top answer. Sushi is also a popular food at wedding receptions and gallery openings, and is often served as the opening dish.
I have subsequently visited New York every year and sushi is as popular as ever. The same goes for Paris, London, and Moscow, and it is an indisputable fact that sushi has established itself as a popular food throughout the world.

Takayama City in Gifu Prefecture, Japan, won 3 stars in the "Michelin Green Guide" as a town for tourism. Relics strongly reflecting the Edo area still remain, and tourists from all over the world visit the city.
A French TV crew visited this city the other day, and according to the curator of the Takayama Local History Museum who looked after the party, the visitors wanted to eat sushi every day during their 3-day stay. The reason for this was apparently because they wanted to have a taste of genuine Japanese sushi dipped in real wasabi.
Takayama is located in a mountainous area two hours by train from Nagoya, so due to its distance from the sea it is by no means the best environment to eat sushi. Nevertheless, Japan is the "home of sushi" so overseas visitors believe that sushi will be delicious even in the heart of the mountains. This is proof of the high popularity of sushi and wasabi.

Sushi and wasabi go together

Wasabi is an essential accompaniment to sushi. The streets of Hirai in Edogawa-ward, Tokyo, have a relaxed atmosphere with strong reminders of its past as a backstreet town, and behind the front of Hirai train station tucked away in a 2-story building is a sushi restaurant that has been running for 40 years called "Kikuzushi". The restaurant owner, a sushi chef who has dedicated himself to making sushi for 44 years, is a typical Japanese sushi "professional".
While conveyor-belt sushi restaurants have increased in recent years, whenever I get the urge to eat authentic sushi, I go to Kikuzushi to eat sushi dipped generously in wasabi.
Even today when I visited the restaurant, I sat at the counter and ordered my preferences to the chef. Located between customers and the chef is a refrigerator and show window-cum-glass case (showcase), in which sushi-neta (the ingredient, e.g. fish) are lined up. Right in front of the customers, the chef cuts the fish, prepares it for the sushi and then presses the fish and rice together.
Sushi is normally served on boards with attached legs called "geta" - so-called because they resemble the strips of wood under the sole of Japanese clogs (geta) - but Kikuzushi places it on bamboo leaf.


The chef's cutting skills are exquisite, demonstrating 44 years of experience. Particularly outstanding is when he grates wasabi and then beats it with the blunt edge of his knife. This, actually, is the hidden-flavor of sushi. Beating the wasabi with the knife like it's alive increases its hot flavor. It also adds to its pungent, nasally-stimulating flavor. The chef normally does not demonstrate this knife-beating technique but he did it for me as a special favor, as captured by the below photograph.

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The history of sushi stretches back some 900 years, according to records of the food in "Tales of Times Now Past"; Japan's largest collection of ancient stories believed to have been started in the early part of the 12th century. The records show that a sushi restaurant of some kind existed in Kyoto in that period.
Crammed full of Japanese history and tradition, sushi continues to be loved in all corners of Japan, and as it now makes its way across the globe, wasabi is always at its side.

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