Dubai’s top sushi chef, tells us how the delicacy is enjoyed in Japan
Everyone (well, nearly everyone) loves sushi, but it’s amazing how little most of us know about it. What’s the ideal texture? Is it eaten before or after a meal? And is it ever cooked? We met sushi chef Chitoshi Takahashi at Kisaku, one of Dubai’s most authentic Japanese restaurants, for a lesson in sushi etiquette.
‘Sushi has changed a lot in the past 200 years,’ explains Takahashi. ‘Two centuries ago, it was made mainly with mackerel, which we’d preserve in salt and vinegar. A century after that, you started to see more variety, but the fish was cooked. It’s only been in the past 60 years that sushi has been prepared with raw fish.’ The old style of sushi was called ‘hako’, which in Japanese means ‘box’. The rice was packed into a box and topped with mackerel, then pressed tight.
‘Non-Japanese eat sushi as a starter,’ explains Takahashi. ‘In Japan, we may start a meal with sashimi [raw fish without rice], but we’d never start a meal with sushi [raw fish with rice but not seaweed]. Sushi comes at the end of a meal.’
Most people realise that freshness is the name of the game when it comes to sushi. ‘We use the fish the day it comes in. If we have leftovers, we will not use it the next day. Fish is very dangerous after the expiration date,’ says Takahashi, who himself only frequents three sushi counters in Dubai besides his own: Zuma, Nobu and the sushi bar at the Grand Hyatt. ‘Fresh fish should be shiny. If you can smell it, it’s better that you don’t eat it,’ he advises.
Many sushi fans don’t realise the importance of rice when making sushi – or, more accurately, the vinegar used to prepare the rice. ‘In Japan, every restaurant uses a different type of vinegar, and every chef keeps it secret. The flavour of the rice also changes from region to region because each area uses different vinegar. In Tokyo, the vinegar is salty; in Osaka, it’s sweeter.’
Takahashi explains that the ginger traditionally served with sushi isn’t supposed to be draped over the fish. Of course, you can eat it that way if you enjoy it, but it’s just not very Japanese. ‘We never put the ginger on the fish. The ginger is to cleanse the palate between sushi.’
The soy sauce
‘Non-Japanese put way too much soy sauce on their sushi,’ says Takahashi. ‘You can’t taste the fish if you dunk it.’ To demonstrate, he drizzles a trickle of soy sauce onto the fish, using it sparingly, as if it were salt.
Like soy sauce, wasabi is meant to be used in moderation, according to a diner’s taste. ‘You can put some on sashimi, because it’s not already seasoned, but a good sushi chef will season the sushi with wasabi himself.’ Fresh wasabi – not made from powder – is preferable, but Takahashi says the real stuff is extremely expensive in Dubai. ‘The powder was only invented 60 years ago. Before then, it was all done by hand.’ Kisaku, Al Khaleej Palace Hotel, Deira (04 223 1000)
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Marcus68 Jun 22, 2010 03:58 pm
What does this mean:
"sushi [raw fish with rice but not seaweed]"
It's nice to read an article (or interview, in this case) by an expert. But once again we're let down by ill-informed Time Out writers.
Sashimi is indeed raw fish, served without any rice - or seasoning. But sushi cannot be defined as 'raw fish with rice but not seaweed'. The term 'sushi' does not refer to raw fish at all, although this is the most common type of sushi. Sushi refers to the 'vinegared rice' that is used to prepare it. It can incorporate cooked seafood such as shrimp, but it can also be made up of the vinegared rice and non-seafood or non-fish ingredients such as egg or avocado. As for 'not seaweed', where did that come from? Seaweed, or nori, can be used or not; it's use doesn't make something sushi or not.
Everyone makes mistakes, but the writer had an EXPERT SUSHI CHEF to ask. As I've posted in the past, Time Out needs to hire people who care about food to write their food-related articles.
I completely agree with chef Takahashi's choice of where to eat sushi in Dubai. Most, if not all, other restaurants that serve sushi in Dubai serve something that borders on disgraceful. The overpriced stuff often served in 'trendy' joints in this city isn't good enough to be sold at a 7-11 in Tokyo.
I do like the 'expert's guide' idea though. More please.
Hadi Banat Jun 15, 2010 11:22 am
I love the awareness he raised about Sushi and how Japenese it ought to be. Now he made me curious to taste some of his made Sushi!
meshmesh Jun 14, 2010 05:14 pm
Very good i like sushi and was looking for a good resturant to eat it , i will go in the week end to try it .
Tal Jun 14, 2010 06:45 am
I Love it ,,, yammmmmyy ... can i have some :) i love sushi and all food in general and i believe i have a good taste for food .... However, i believe some of UAE restaurants started to make sushi in a more commercial way that spoils the taste … any recommendation for mouth watering sushi place that satisfy sushi lovers with that heavenly taste ??..