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Book Review: Sushi, food for the eye, the body & the soul

Sushi: Food for the eye, the body & the soul, by Ole G. Mouritsen Probably, you've never heard of Ole G. Mouritsen. I certainly never have, until I stumbled upon his book, at a local library, when I was casually browsing through cookbooks. Mouritsen is not a sushi chef. He is not even a professional chef. He is a professor of biophysics in Denmark, specializing in "statistical mechanics and thermodynamics, computer simulation techniques, phase transitions and critical phenomena, biomembrane physics and chemistry, interfacial physical chemistry, and soft matter physics, with applications within biomedicine, food science, and drug delivery." (you can see Professor Mouritsen's complete profile here. ) In his book, Professor Mouritsen describes his journey in writing this book, "I made it my goal to write a sort of primitive ‘cookbook’ to convey to my fellow citizens my passion for sushi and Japanese Way of preparing food. But this project languished untouched in my filing cabinet drawer for a long time."

What seemed like a simple cookbook project turned into a book that only talks about the ingredients and recipes, but it also talks about scientific explanations like "Why does shrimp turn red when it's cooked?" Professor Mouritsen discusses the history, tools to make sushi, sushi-eating etiquette, types of sushi, and most importantly, the book talks about the Japanese culture and philosophy. The last part, to me, is probably very important to me, as I view Japanese cuisine as philosophy, before cuisine. Because Professor arisen offers a scientific explanation of many of the whys of sushi, it really satisfied my interest which came from molecular gastronomy. From this book I learned:

  • The reason why tuna's flesh is red, in scientific terms

  • The science of taste, smell, and flavor

  • How our sensory (smell) system works

  • Wasabi is NOT horseradish: it belongs to the cabbage family

  • Why are the muscles of wild salmon and sea trout pink, red, or

  • orange?

  • Fresh fish and shellfish do not smell "Fishy" and the scientific reasons why

  • Where does the "fishy" smell of the fish come from and why

  • Freezing the crystallization of water and its effect on the flavor of fish

  • Why happy fish tastes better than stressed (unhappy) fish

  • Why it's always better to keep fish on a bed of ice, instead of keeping it in a refrigerator

And the list goes on and on. The book is beautiful. The first half of the book is more like a college textbook, filled with detailed scientific explanations, and the rest of the book is about tools, ingredients, fish, preparation techniques, and sushi recipes. If you are looking for a simple sushi cookbook, this is NOT the one for you, however, if you are curious about the science of sushi, like me and Professor Mouritsen, I'm confident that this book will satisfy your hunger for the knowledge you seek.

View Sushi, food for the eye, the soul & the body on Amazon.

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