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Talking Tokyo: The Sushi Trail

  By   Aug 9th 2013 at 6:00AM Lifestyle RATED
Sid Mathur

Sid Mathur

Sid Mathur is the Director of Food & Beverage at Impresario’s 30-plus restaurant. His culinary expertise have extended to underground Smoke House Supper Club and more recently, ‘The Fashion Plate’. Follow him at @Shhh_Ingredient.

understanding sushi
Image courtesy: © Thinkstockphotos/ Getty images

 

 

'Hajimemashite, watashiwa Sid'. No, I’m not speaking in tongues, I’m letting you in on a little secret. If you like sushi and want the finest cuts, that (or a black Amex card), is how you make headway.Translated, it simply means: 'Nice to meet you, my name is Sid'. Say that to the maître d’, and he’s that much more likely to lead you to the best table in the house. While you’re well on your way to impress your date, you still need to know your sushi, so don’t make that reservation just yet.

Maki, Chutoro, Maguro, Tobiko – the nomenclature may come across as both tricky and intimidating, but sushi is in fact one of the easiest cuisines to enjoy. European influences, which have monopolised food trends across the globe for the longest time, have finally handed over the baton to other cuisines. Needless to say, Japanese stands on the top of that list.

Sushi literally translates to vinegary rice, but most people think of it as tiny mounds of packed rice, topped with raw or cooked fish, or shellfish, and a dab of wasabi. Although often it is listed as ‘Sushi’ on a menu, the correct name for the dish is 'Nigiri'.

Maki rolls are also very popular and great for sushi beginners. Of course, the California roll is the most recognised of them. Incepted by Japanese chefs in L.A during the late 60’s, this roll was considered as ‘safe’, or entry-level sushi, as it didn’t contain raw fish. Cucumber, crab and avocado, combined (quite brilliantly) to pave the way for other innovative creations like, the Spicy Tuna roll, the Spider roll, and the Prawn Tempura roll. These rolls, often more of a feast for the eyes than the stomach, are assembled perfectly and often garnished with sesame seeds, or the more colourful ‘Tobiko’ (flying fish roe) coat. Variants of the Maki rolls include, ‘Temaki’, or cone shaped hand rolls, and ‘Uramaki’, where the rice is on the outside and nori (seaweed) inside, hence also known as inside-out rolls.

I must admit that I prefer sticking to the real thing - 'Sashimi', which is simply sliced raw fish, served on its own. Assuming you are in a good restaurant, this will assuredly be 'oishi', meaning 'delicious'.

Toro! No, it’s not a bullfight, but something equally heart pounding. We are about to enter the ring of the fatty tuna. Tuna (maguro) is divided between the more common fleshy red tuna cut (akami), and the underbelly fatty cut (toro). Toro is further divided into Chutoro, and the more fatty, the more expensive, the more prized, Otoro. Otoro is to tuna what Ferrari is to cars, what Creed is to cologne, what Kobe is to steak. Basically, it just doesn't get better than this. So if you are lucky enough to see it on the menu, and you have a king's ransom in your wallet, brace yourself for something outstanding.

Once the food is served on your table, it is courteous to say 'itadakimas', which is to the Japanese, what bon appétit is to the French. At this stage if your date isn't playing with her hair, and looking longingly into your eyes, it either means that she doesn’t appreciate your "You had me at Wasabi" T-shirt, or she doesn't like sushi, in which case… well it was never going to work anyway right?

It might be a good time to say 'gochisosama', or ‘thank you for the meal’ to the server or the chef. And with that, all that’s left to do is order some green tea, and consider that while there may be plenty of fish in the sea (couldn’t resist), few could be as delicious as those on your plate.

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