Sushi has penetrated the palates of the west and we get the gist of it by now. Whilst there are many types of sushi, I want to make the distinction and introduce edomae sushi.Edomae was the traditional name of what is now known as Tokyo. Thus the title Edo Mae Sushi represents a certain high standard in sushi preparation, reducing some of the many liberties we are given in western sushi bars.
For me sushi is a way of displaying respect of the highest order to the fish and ingredients and edomae sushi is sushi prepared by a sushi master. Each and every piece has been made in a particular method dating back to the Edo era. It represents a precise sushi point of view in time. Not merely the sushi itself, but the way in which the course develops. Not forgetting the tea, sake and the overall atmosphere.
The fish are left to mature, like that of hung beef in Europe. The green tea and pickled ginger cleanse the palate. Traditionally eaten with hands and it is stylish to do so in Tokyo. A wet cloth is provided to wipe ones fingers. The sushi master would alternate the tightness of the nigiri depending on whether you eat with your hands or chopsticks. It may look as if the sushi master is squeezing the rice and fish with great might but in reality he is maintaining air particles in between the rice and fish, keeping each piece as light as possible.
‘Shun’ meaning season is a center focus of edomae sushi, you will only find seasonal fish in an EDOMAE course and on a side note salmon is never served. This progression of the course can be summed up as Akami (red meat) such as Tuna and Katuso, Shiromi (white meat) such as Halibut or flounder, Hikarimono (Silver skin fish) such as sardine or macheral and Kai (shellfish) such as prawn and clams.
That is the traditional order of edo mae sushi, not to forget squid, sea urchin and salmon roe. This is up for debate and there will be variations from place to place. The final pieces of the course are normally egg that is sweet and acts as a desert, if you will. Lastly coming the final maki roll, commonly tuna and spring onion.The rice is like al dente pasta and the fish is like the sauce. Depending on the sushi bar, only the top part of the rice is used, mixed with sushi vinegar. Anything left for too long could be compared to soggy pasta.
Generally the sizes of the nigiri are smaller or manageable. The soy sauce (normally ‘nikiri’ which is soy sauce cooked with alcohol and mirin) has already been carefully painted onto the fish, wasabi too。In some cases the fish would be seasoned with sea salt alone.To bring together with the rice cuts are placed on both sides of some of the fish such as flounder or squid. This is to bring a sense of togetherness to the nigiri. It also gives a greater sense of thickness to the fish.
It is a celebration of the senses, more than just raw fish and rice. It will surely lead to a complete change of perspective of Sushi.