misconception is that sushi is raw fish. This is actually called
sashimi - paper thin slices of raw fish (seabass, salmon or red
snapper) or octopus, served with finely sliced ginger, shredded radish
and horseradish mustard. The exquisite slicing and immaculate
presentation makes this dish appetising to even the most squeamish
Sushi began in the 17th
century in Tokyo. It was originally a method of preserving fish, which
was covered in layers of salt and left to ferment. This dish, called
narezushi, is still served today, but, not surprisingly, is an acquired
In the 18th century, sushi served as decorative parcels of
vinegar flavoured rice, became popular and this is how it its known
Many different forms of
sushi are served and at a Japanese sushi bar, it is traditional to make
your selection and watch the preparation.
minimalist tradition, you don't need much equipment to prepare sushi.
Japanese sushi chefs are
incredibly skilled at slicing using a very sharp knife, called a bento
knife. A bamboo mat or hot pad called a sushimaki is used to roll the
sushi and a uchiwa (fan) cools the rice.
Rice is an indispensable
and much respected part of a Japanese meal. Use short-grained, sticky
Japanese rice, (not to be confused with long grain Chinese rice) which
can be easily lifted with chopsticks.
To every cup of cooked
rice, add one tablespoon of sushi vinegar over the surface of the rice
and mix in with quick cutting strokes. Fan the rice quickly to cool.
Soak sheets of nori in
water, squeeze and dry out, then cut into strips. Layer the rice on to
strips. Roll the nori, forming a cylindrical shape, lightly pressing
the ends to secure.
Use fresh tuna, salmon,
sole, sea bass or bream. Wash 900g fish fillet and dry thoroughly.
Slice each fillet as thinly and evenly as possible using a sharp knife.
Slice one daikon into
fine sticks and arrange neatly on the platter with the fish and garnish
with spring onions and finely shredded ginger.
Mix two tablespoons of
wasabi powder with just enough water to make a thick paste. Give each
guest an individual bowl of shoyu. Guests add a little wasabi to their
shoyu and use as a dip for their fish slices. Serve this dish with
boiled rice as a main course, or without accompaniment as a first
1: The essential
building block for a maki roll - the nori, or sheet of dried seaweed.
2: Smoothing the
rice onto the nori is more difficult than it looks… the rice is
fiendishly sticky and wet hands are the best way of dealing with it.
3: A sprinkle of
toasted sesame seeds . . .
4: . . . then flip
it onto the rolling mat, rice-side down.
5: Now start adding
your ingredients - thinly sliced cucumber, avocado…
6: . . . slice some
fresh smoked salmon.
7: Place it on top
of the cucumber…
8: . . . and roll it
over with the aid of the mat, making sure to keep the ingredients
9: Apply even
pressure on the sides and top of the roll.
10: Remove the
inside out maki mono roll from the rolling mat.
11: Again, apply
even pressure to ensure the roll doesn't disintegrate when being cut or
12: Just a little
squeeze with the base of the palm makes certain none of the ingredients
squoosh out the sides.
13: Cut firmly and
sharply with the blade between the fingers while maintaining pressure
on the roll. Don't use a sawing motion… it's a recipe for disaster!
14: Presentation is
vital - arrange the completed maki on a board in pairs and . . .
15: . . . add the
finishing touches, a mound of pickled ginger and wasabi.
make a soy-wasabi soup . . . It'll make a grown sushi chef cry. The
wasabi paralyses the palate and makes it incapable of appreciating the
delicate, subtle flavours of the fish.
• Use soy sauce
sparingly. The idea is to taste the fish, not be overwhelmed by salty
soy sauce or wasabi.
• Don't dip the
rice side of nigiri in the soy - it'll suck up too much soy and also
make your mouthful of sushi disintegrate. Apply the fish side to the
• Don't eat the
pickled ginger with the sushi. It's only for freshening your palate in
between mouthfuls or different kinds of fish.
• Use the back end
of your chopsticks to lift a piece of sushi from a communal plate or
board. It's considered rude to use the sharp ends of your chopsticks -
because those are the ends that have been in your mouth!
• Start with
lighter, more delicate flavoured fish before moving onto the fattier,
heavier ones such as tuna.
• Don't eat
sashimi with your fingers. Eating maki rolls without chopsticks is
perfectly acceptable though.
• maki rolls
- strips of fish or vegetable, rolled with sticky vinegared rice and
wrapped in crisp, thin sheets of dried seaweed (nori)
• nigiri -
slices of fresh fish pressed by hand onto a pad of vinegared rice
• sashimi -
chilled, fresh, raw slices of fish, elegantly arranged and presented
Matches that work
• Beer, green tea
or sake are recommended, although single malt whiskies make a
surprisingly good match too.
Useful sushi terms
• omakase: literally
"at the chef's preference". You leave yourself in the hands of the
sushi chef since he knows what is fresh and will serve you sushi in the
• okonomi: your
own preference. You choose what you wish to eat and in what order.
• itamae: a
classically trained sushi chef who has served a lengthy apprenticeship
• shokunin -
someone who makes sushi, having picked up a few professional skills but
without the formal training
• namida - a
colloquial or slang term for wasabi and literally translated means
"tears". Anyone who's had too much wasabi will be able to relate to
this…and its nostril-clearing properties too!
Breaking sushi records
• In March 2003
at Shimizu City in Shizuoka, Japan, a tuna roll (tekka maki) was made
using 100kg of fresh tuna and 300kg of rice.
• The Guinness
Record belongs to a kappa maki (cucumber roll) that was made at the
Toyota Sports Centre in Aichi, Japan in September 2000. More than
1600kg of sushi rice was used and it fed 3000 people!
• The longest
sushi conveyor belt is 129m and can be found at Sakae Sushi in
• The oldest sushi
shop - Sushiman - in the world is in Osaka, Japan and has been
operating since 1653.
• The most
expensive fish used for sushi was a 202kg bluefin tuna bought at the
Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo for $173 853 (R1 251 741) in January 2003.
Want to make your own?
Wasabi restaurant set up a Sushi Academy three years ago to educate
people in the art of sushi making. Courses are either held in the
evening or when there are sufficient numbers to justify a once-off
The essentials are covered - making the rice, filleting
and cutting fish, making maki/California or hand rolls as well as