Being a chef in a Japanese kitchen seems difficult only in the beginning. Sushi was not invented yesterday, sushi recipes were created and improved throughout millennia and everything has been though through down to the last detail. The key to good and delicious sushi with a hint of salty sea fragrance is fresh ingredients, observance of proportions, correctly prepared sushi rice and skilfully cut fish.
Authentic sushi is prepared by hand, without any protective gloves – all ingredients used for preparing sushi must absorb that living warmth because only then will the dish acquire its unique flavour. This includes not only cutting the fish but also the preparation of the rice ball that is one of the main components of sushi – biologically valuable and nutritious. There is a reason why the Japanese have the same word ‘boiled rice’ and ‘food’ – ‘gohan’. Preparing sushi rice is a complicated task. Here, the steamed, brown ‘wild’ and quickly preparable rice is not fit. Sushi cannot be gritty (as a matter of fact, it is one of the main quality indicators for correctly prepared sushi), which is why the best raw material is the authentic Japanese rice that is extra sticky. The rice must be washed with water until the starch powder has been removed and the water stays perfectly clear. The amount of water used for cooking the rice must be only slightly bigger than the one of rice, about by 1/5. Once the rice is done, it will be left to cool and it is time to prepare the fish.
How to prepare authentic sushi?
There are five different methods for preparing fish to choose from but they all require a heavy and sharp knife. Of course, the best option would be to use the classical sushi knife with a wood handle (bento). One of the most common preparation methods is flat slices (hira gari). The fish fillet is cut into slices that are up to 1 cm thick and about 5 cm wide. The fish can also be cut into 0.5 cm thick thin strips (ito dzukeri) but this method is better suited for small fish and squid. Tuna is usually diced into 1 cm cubes (kadzu giri) and white fish cut into extremely thin, almost transparent slices (usu dzukuri). Each fish can also be cut ‘from the corner’ (sori giri) – the filet is initially cut into triangles and then into 0.5–1 cm thick slices.
Once the fish and the rice have been prepared, it is time to roll the sushi. The amount of rice used should not be too big and hands must be kept wet with water or tedzu (a mixture of vinegar and water). First, an oblong ball of rice is shaped, then daubed with wasabi and, finally, the cuts of fish are placed on the rice. Then the sushi portion is be rolled with the fish on top, pressed together from both ends by using the thumb and forefinger, and then squeezed several times in a fist. Finally, it is wrapped in a nori sheet and is ready to serve!