(originally posted on kitchit.com)
Enjoyed for its clean flavors and elegant simplicity, Sushi has become a beloved cuisine worldwide, but what lies behind that deceivingly simple piece of fish is an aim for artistic mastery and a lifelong pursuit of perfection.
Kitchit Chef Kaz Matsune started working at a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles and immediately fell in love with both the craft and the intimate relationship that exists between the chef and the diner for this particular cuisine. “At the sushi bar, the chef gets to see the diners’ immediate reaction to the food and conversely the customer gets to see the chef work right in front of them,” he explains. With this type of intimacy between chef and diner, the simplicity of sushi can be both beautiful and incredibly difficult. “When there is only a cutting board, knife, and fish in front of you, there is no room for error” says Chef Matsune. Below, he gives us a look behind the curtain and offers recipes for preparing sushi at home.
MASTER THE CRAFT: “It is the Japanese custom to search for perfection and efficiency in craftsmanship,” explains Chef Matsune. “With sushi, although it is a seemingly simple food, there is an inherent depth to the cuisine, and over time each chef can explore as deeply as they care to in pursuit of honing their skills.” For many sushi chefs, this drive for perfection becomes a way of life and a method of achieving personal happiness and fulfillment.
SEA TO TABLE: Certainly the quality of fish used in sushi is paramount and you may be surprised to learn that the best fish doesn’t always come from the bustling fish markets of Japan. “There is an authenticity to the Japanese fish market, due to its variety and our inability to find many of those same varietals here in the US. Ultimately, however, the quality of fish found in Japan, can in fact be found here domestically,” says Chef Matsune, “you just need to know where to look, what to purchase, and always always buy what is in season and local.”
(NOT QUITE) ANY WAY YOU CUT IT: Different parts of the fish vary in flavor and texture and are better suited for some sushi preparations than others. For example, nigiri, which originated in Tokyo approximately 150 years ago, features an oblong mound of rice adorned with a singular piece of fish. In nigiri it is important to use the body of the fish as it is softer, less dense and the simple preparation allows the true flavor of the fish to shine. The same goes for sashimi, a preparation of thinly sliced raw fish, served on its own without rice or other accompaniment. The more muscular parts of the fish (think tail end) are typically associated with rolls.
KEEP IT PURE: When it comes to eating sushi, all sorts of theories circulate about what is and isn’t traditional. Chef Matsune shares, “When the fish is fresh, literally no seasoning is required.” When he does his private dinners, he serves sushi just with sea salt and lemon juice, which he feels, is ultimately the best and purest way to enjoy this delicacy. “Except for yellowtail tuna,” he adds, “which goes really well with fresh wasabi & soy.”