You either love it or you hate it. Sushi. Oh, there are those who will try it as long as it's kind of cooked, but the real stuff requires raw courage to eat. If you are so inclined, sushi can be downed as a quick lunch or can become a culinary obsession with enough variation to keep you busy for a lifetime.
"Once your sushi consciousness has been raised, it becomes a pleasure to appreciate its subtle distinctions: the rice should be warm, so that the chilled fish begins to approach body temperature before the piece goes into your mouth; nori, seaweed sheets used for rolling maki, should be thin and crisp, instead of tough and leathery; the wasabi and gari (pickled ginger) should be freshly made," writes Julia Moskin of the New York Times. www.nytimes.com recently featured the art of sushi in an informative video slide show in the Dining & Wine section.
Apparently, in Japan, sushi aficionados judge a sushi chef by more than the quality of his fish. The proportion of rice to fish is also carefully considered. Even the arc shape of a piece of sushi fish as it rests on top of the rice has a prescribed shape. Interestingly, there are very few women sushi chefs in Japan. There is a popular belief that women's hands are too warm to make sushi.
Sushi began not as a high-priced way to sell fish but as a way to preserve it. Packed between layers of cooked rice, whole raw fish fermented slowly instead of rotting, becoming lightly pickled. That is why even today, a subtle pickled flavour is an essential in good sushi.
At its most basic level, sushi consists of a finger of rice draped with a slice of raw fish, ideally in a proportion of about 4 to 1. But this rule is not always observed. The traditional Korean style of sushi generally has bigger pieces of fish. Another interesting thing about sushi is that the traditional accompaniment of a dollop of wasabi was originally added due to its purported antibacterial properties. According to tradition, a dab of grated wasabi between the fish and the rice helped street vendors keep their sushi fresh and could mask any developing off-doors at the end of a long hot day. Hmm...
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