Sushi Heaven

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

956269573_1336e01e62_m.jpg

Delicious...and nutritious! Last night's meal. Source: BarrieJH hide caption

itoggle caption Source: BarrieJH

I will admit readily that I eat a lot of weird stuff. If it's a gizzard, an entrail, a sweetbread: I'm ON it (or, I suppose, it's on me). If it somehow makes a noise in your mouth, or has a texture like a science project, I want it. There's nothing I like better then food that is served as it was originally created, which I suppose is why sushi appeals to me so much. It appeals to me on all levels; texture, aesthetics, and flavor. I love the presentation (see above for the feast I had last night — Sarah and I are apparently on the same food schedule), but I also love the salty, fishy taste. As long as my eyes are watering from an unexpected burst of wasabi, I'm a happy gal. Today, we're talking about sushi zen... with not one, but two authors of new sushi tomes. So send in your q's and I bet they'll have a's. On another note, the esteemed Setsuko Sato, who worked here for many years (until she had the temerity to fall in love and travel the globe!), used to make these wonderful little origami chopstick stands out of the paper that the chopsticks come in. I've never been able to replicate it — will someone please, please either post instructions, or give me a link so I can practice? I don't want to fail Setsuko. Also, please let me know what you think about eating nigiri sushi with your fingers. It's tastier I find, but I've spent most of my adult life learning to use chopsticks to lift the sushi to my mouth. Thoughts?

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

The very first time I tried sushi was 13 years ago, and I was hooked (no pun intended). I love the firmer kind, like tuna and salmon. I have been fortunate to introduce my friends to it, and they can't get enough of it. My advice to those who are afriad to try it: You get what you paid for. Don't listen to those who say it's "slimy" or "disgusting". They probably had a bad experience, which in my past has been the case. Stick to those places who have a very good reputation.Stick to what you know (like I did) and then after that, you will be hooked! (no pun intended)

Sent by Ron Schecker | 3:15 PM | 7-31-2007

What is the proper use of the soy, ginger and wasabi? I always created a dip using all three together but recently read that the ginger was used to "cleanse the pallet".
Thanks, DBW

Sent by DB Weitzman | 3:17 PM | 7-31-2007

I love to eat the sushi, Uni, or sea urchin. I was told by some uni fisherman that they have to throw away 2/3 of the unit they harvest as they are males and it is not possible to sex the uni until it is harvested. This made me loose my passion for this fish as its killing uni that will never make it to my local Sushi bar. Also I love this program, as I live in Tucson and I am always marveled at how fresh the food is, and we are so far from the ocean.

Sent by Langdon Hill | 3:21 PM | 7-31-2007

Do Sushi eaters understand that they are eating raw fish and many of those fish have parasite worms in them. I come from the Food and Beverage industry and would never eat any RAW fish!!

Sent by Bev Beam | 3:21 PM | 7-31-2007

Last year, the Chicago Tribune had an interesting story about Rev. Sun Myung Moon' participation in the sushi market.
http://tinyurl.com/2vtd8j
What share of the sushi market is part of the Unification Church?

Sent by Pat from Detroit | 3:24 PM | 7-31-2007

For those of you that are trying to establish a relationship with your chef, try buying them a beer. Present the beer to them right in front of them. Most chefs are allowed to drink the occasional beer. I have had great success with this with most chefs.

Sent by M. Squires | 3:27 PM | 7-31-2007

I know Florence, OR grows real wasabi. Is it just a legend that this is one of the only places outside of Japan that does this?

Sent by Sam from Eugene OR | 3:28 PM | 7-31-2007

I have been eating sushi for almost twenty years. On one of my first sushi restaurant visits, the server told me to forget the chopsticks and use my fingers - big plus, especially on those hard to eat pieces of nigiri that may spill out the sides, etc.
Also, forget the horror stories about food poisoning! I've never had so much as a stomach ache over the years.

Sent by Mike | 3:31 PM | 7-31-2007

I love sushi - but I can't eat the raw fish! I have never been able to pallet the fish. The rice, veggies, seaweed etc. are delicious, but the raw fish is not my cup of tea. I don't mind a small bit of fresh halibut or tuna, but I prefer the sushi without seafood. Can I be considered a sushi eater? How would I be received in a sushi bar?

Sent by Annie | 3:31 PM | 7-31-2007

We had a Japanese graduate student that spent a lot of time with us and she said that they only roll the sushi on special occasions. The rest of the time they toss the ingredients of choice in a bowl and eat it much like the pasta salads of the 80's. My daughter who are 14 and 18 now prepare this for dinner at least once a week and love trying new ingredients.

Sent by Joan Mansfield | 3:35 PM | 7-31-2007

To help someone learn more about sushi:

In Japanese cuisine, sushi is a food made of vinegared rice combined with fish (uncooked AND in some cases cooked).

Sushi as an English word has come to refer to a complete dish with rice and toppings; this is the sense used in this article. The original term Japanese: sushi (-zushi in some compounds such as makizushi), written in kanji, means snack and refers to the rice, but not fish or other toppings.

Outside of Japan, sushi is sometimes misunderstood to mean the raw fish by itself, or even any fresh raw-seafood dishes. In Japan, however, sliced raw fish alone is called sashimi and is distinct from sushi.

There are various types of sushi: sushi served rolled inside nori (dried and pressed layer sheets of seaweed or alga) called makizushi or rolls; sushi made with toppings laid with hand-formed clumps of rice called nigirizushi; toppings stuffed into a small pouch of fried tofu called inarizushi; and toppings served scattered over a bowl of sushi rice called chirashi-zushi.

GO WITH A CALIFORNIA ROLL if do not like fish!

Sent by T Long | 3:37 PM | 7-31-2007

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has an excellent program about sustainable fisheries. It has guidelines for what seafoods are OK to eat, which should be eaten in limited amounts and which should be avoided.

Sent by David Hollis | 3:37 PM | 7-31-2007

Trevor Corson here -- I was a guest on today's Talk of the Nation show on sushi. Here are answers to a few of the questions that people have raised in their comments.

DB Weitzman asked about the proper use of soy, ginger, and wasabi. Great question. Here's the deal:

- Regular soy sauce is actually too strong for the delicate flavors of most raw sushi fish, and will overpower them. A really good sushi chef will concoct his own, milder sauces and seasonings for the sushi and apply them behind the sushi bar; he'll tell you not to dip the sushi in extra soy sauce.

- The slices of pickled ginger that are served alongside sushi are indeed intended not as an appetizer or a topping for the sushi, but as a palate cleanser -- a bite of ginger between each different type of fish resets the tongue so that it can appreciate the different tastes, much as sorbet serves as a palate cleanser between courses in Western cuisine.

- As for wasabi, most of the sushi chefs I've spoken with say they would prefer it if their customers added no extra wasabi at all. The chef puts a tiny amount inside the sushi when he makes it -- more or less depending on the type of fish -- and that's really all the wasabi you need. Chefs in the U.S. provide extra wasabi on the side because that's become the custom here, but they do so reluctantly, because like strong soy sauce, wasabi masks the delicate flavors of their carefully selected fish.

Regarding the real wasabi grown in Oregon that Sam mentions, it's true that this was once the case, but the farm there no longer grows their own real wasabi -- it turned out not to be cost effective. They now import and sell farm-grown wasabi from China. I tell the fascinating story of this farm in my book, The Zen of Fish.

I heartily agree with M. Squires's suggestion that you try buying your sushi chef a beer to establish a relationship with him; I've seen this practice in action, and often it works wonders. Some sushi chefs won't be receptive, but in that case, why not shop around until you find a chef who's willing to have a little fun with you while he works?

And yes, Mike is right -- forget the chopsticks and eat the sushi with your fingers. This allows the sushi chef to pack the sushi more loosely, as it should be made. Loose sushi that falls apart on your tongue is a delight; if you're using chopsticks, the chef will have to pack it much too tightly, so it won't fall apart when you pick it up.

I explain these and other sushi-eating tips in more detail on my website, www.ZenOfFish.com.

Enjoy!

Sent by Trevor Corson | 10:22 PM | 7-31-2007

Ms. Roberts mentioned that you should not rub your chopsticks together to remove the splinters. Doing this always seemed a little contrived to me, but is there a specific reason for not doing so?

Sent by Norm Anderson | 11:01 PM | 7-31-2007

I read a book somewhere that told me you should *never* add wasabi to sushi, since it would be insulting to the sushi chef who has already placed the perfect amount of wasabi in between the fish and the rice. Granted, not all places do this, but... I found it interesting to know. Also, when eating sushi with your hands (perfectly ok), or with chopsticks, you should *only* dip the fish into the soy sauce, and not the rice. The piece then goes into your mouth fish side down. This book was written based on the authors experiences in Kyoto which is quite traditional, so it may not apply outside of there. Another interesting tidbit was that you should never scrape the two chopsticks together to remove splinters since you would be implying that the restaurant purchased cheap chopsticks that had splinters... bad, bad, bad. (:

The book was called "Untangling my Chopsticks."

Sent by gabe | 11:55 PM | 7-31-2007

Im replying to what Langdon Hill had commented earlier about how it's difficult to sex Uni(sea urchin). Uni are hermaphrodites! So there is no need to figure out which sex they are. In fact, when eating Uni, you are eat the reproductive system(gonads). I dont know why someone would be throwing 2/3 of sea urchins away based on there "sex".

Sent by MadMax | 3:02 AM | 8-1-2007

Sushi is the most well known Japanese food in the world. I am originally from Japan and currently working in Botswana. Even here in Botswana (well, I should say in Gaborone, the capital of BW), many people know shushi and I can find some sushi here! Sad thing is...I cannot eat sushi, especially one has raw fish...I am just allergenic to raw fish...

Sent by Reiko Iitsuka | 5:07 AM | 8-1-2007

Hiya Trevor. Very fun subject on yesterday's show. :) I DO have 2 questions for you, which has been something I have wondered for quite some time: 1)-Are there any varieties of sushi that is served over in Japan that most Americans have not yet tried or experienced yet here in this country yet? While I don't mind my salmon and tuna, I would love to try other varieties of similarly textured fish. (heh..I've never been one for the lesser firm fish..lol!)
and my second question is about those all-you-can-eat sushi buffets. I was only at one before I moved from Long Island to Florida back in 2005, but the place had just opened and I got there around the moment they opened, when they had fresher fish. I am just wondering just HOW safe a place like that really is as compared to a smaller place?

Sent by Ron Schecker | 5:31 PM | 8-1-2007

I'm not sure if anyone mentioned this before but getting wasabi, real wasabi, is fairly easy at least in Japan. It's a plant and the work comes in when you need to get it on your plate. You must grid it, there is a special plate for this.
I have enjoyed sushi here in Japan and in the states. You won't get the designer sushi you find in the states here in Japan with all the wild rolls, I do miss them, but you can get really good stuff here. There's a spot in Yokohama near the train station that servers HUGE pieces with small rice.
I prefer sashimi to sushi because the rice fills me up and I can't eat as much.
Don't forget the good sake.

Sent by Eric Jones | 6:17 PM | 8-1-2007