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Question, how to properly prepare sushi and sashimi

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

So I am a new member here and this is my first post.  I love foods of all kinds, but am crazy about sushi.  Having travelled abroad to Japan I am very familiar with the taste and texture of authentic sushi, and miss it everyday.  Its a shame that here in NYC, to get a similar experience I would need to fork out $100+ for a decent omakase.

 

After watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I was motivated to try making sashimi and sushi myself, starting with the basic tuna.  I went fulton fish market to find the freshest tuna, where I could see the fishmongers cutting and filleting a full tuna into large pieces.  I bought myself a nice large piece with great color and a little bit of fatty chutoro.  I remember in the film Jiro mentions aging tuna for 4-6 days, but had no idea what that would be like.  

 

After bringing the tuna back home, I began cutting it into blocks while following youtube videos, and at the same time tasted the raw fish.  I thought, "this is the freshest that I can get, it should taste amazing"  That first bite I took changed my world forever, because instead of the delicious, tender, clean tuna I expected, I got a mouthful of fishy/briney tuna with the metallic taste of blood.  The texture was so different, firm and chewy, which combined with the bloody, fishy taste, was just an awful experience.  It tasted like raw fish in the worst possible way.

 

So next my goal was to age them a few days, so I cleaned the surface with a paper towel and repacked the blocks every day.  It was definitely a labor of love.  By day 3, the blocks looked less red, and the texture was different, so I cut into it and tasted.  The texture was similar to high quality tuna, and the metallic, fishy taste had disappeared.  Instead it transformed into a subtle, clean, taste that was very delicious.  In addition, the texture was perfect, turning into the iconic mush-chewy texture and not the firm-chewy texture of before. It tasted pretty damn good.

 

I guess my question now is, how do the professional chefs in Japan (or sushi bars here in USA) prepare fresh Tuna?  Are there any marinades or other prep work besides cleaning and cutting?  It would be great to hear some advice from a professional chef.

post #2 of 13
Wow welcome! I don't know anything about making sushi, I've only made a few rolls at home and those weren't that great. I think it's great that you want to put time and energy into learning the fine art of sushi making. It's funny, I watched that movie too and while you were inspired to make sushi it made me feel like I would never in a million years be able to learn that!

I don't know of any sushi chefs here on the forum but I'm sure there are some classes you can take downtown. I've never been to Japan but I've found some really nice sushi joints in the city.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

Reply
post #3 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by liujin08 View Post

So I am a new member here and this is my first post.  I love foods of all kinds, but am crazy about sushi.  Having travelled abroad to Japan I am very familiar with the taste and texture of authentic sushi, and miss it everyday.  Its a shame that here in NYC, to get a similar experience I would need to fork out $100+ for a decent omakase.

After watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I was motivated to try making sashimi and sushi myself, starting with the basic tuna.  I went fulton fish market to find the freshest tuna, where I could see the fishmongers cutting and filleting a full tuna into large pieces.  I bought myself a nice large piece with great color and a little bit of fatty chutoro.  I remember in the film Jiro mentions aging tuna for 4-6 days, but had no idea what that would be like.  

After bringing the tuna back home, I began cutting it into blocks while following youtube videos, and at the same time tasted the raw fish.  I thought, "this is the freshest that I can get, it should taste amazing"  That first bite I took changed my world forever, because instead of the delicious, tender, clean tuna I expected, I got a mouthful of fishy/briney tuna with the metallic taste of blood.  The texture was so different, firm and chewy, which combined with the bloody, fishy taste, was just an awful experience.  It tasted like raw fish in the worst possible way.

So next my goal was to age them a few days, so I cleaned the surface with a paper towel and repacked the blocks every day.  It was definitely a labor of love.  By day 3, the blocks looked less red, and the texture was different, so I cut into it and tasted.  The texture was similar to high quality tuna, and the metallic, fishy taste had disappeared.  Instead it transformed into a subtle, clean, taste that was very delicious.  In addition, the texture was perfect, turning into the iconic mush-chewy texture and not the firm-chewy texture of before. It tasted pretty damn good.

I guess my question now is, how do the professional chefs in Japan (or sushi bars here in USA) prepare fresh Tuna?  Are there any marinades or other prep work besides cleaning and cutting?  It would be great to hear some advice from a professional chef.

I don't know much about sushi, but I will say that I tend to get most of my fish in China town. Great prices and more variety. David Chang has written/spoken a lot on the subject of "freshness" I would start there.
post #4 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by kingfarvito View Post


I don't know much about sushi, but I will say that I tend to get most of my fish in China town. Great prices and more variety. David Chang has written/spoken a lot on the subject of "freshness" I would start there.

 

I've gotten fish in chinatown that taste like sawdust.  

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

Reply

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

Reply
post #5 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Koukouvagia View Post

I've gotten fish in chinatown that taste like sawdust.  
There are some shady fish mongers for sure. There are 2 really good ones I'll get the names/addresses next time im there. Last time I was there I found beautiful whole strawberry grouper for $2.5 a pound and it made wonderful crudo.
post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the responses everybody

 

I wish I understood Japanese so I can just ask an authentic chef how its done lol.

 

But it sure is driving me crazy, there must be specific treatment as well as perfect temperature/humidity while it ferments so it doesn't go bad.  So far the experiments in my fridge can be hit or miss.  I would buy around 8lb chunk of tuna, and after 3-4 days 80% of the meat would taste perfect, while 20% shows an off color/smell.  I am especially curious how they treat the fattiest toro piece! this piece tastes crunchy like Tobiko while fresh, nothing like the melt in your mouth toro we get at high end restaurants.  The fattier chunks don't age as well and can get rancid really quick, so after an expensive lesson I separate and prepare the toro in 2-3 days.

 

Hoping a pro chef can tell me how its done!  It took alot of courage for me to learn how to ferment tuna by trial and error, felt like the king's taster every time I took a bite.  The payoff as worth it though, haven't had a bad experience yet.

post #7 of 13
I am no professional, but here are some points.

1. The Japanese pros say, "with fish, wash it once, wash it twice." Rinse the block of tuna very well under cold, running water, then blot dry with paper towels.

2. Most fish in serious restaurants are not simply sliced raw, but rather seasoned carefully. With maguro, this really shouldn't be necessary, but you season based on your actual ingredients, not on theory. If you are getting noticeable improvement from slight aging, try wrapping the washed fish completely in sheets of kombu -- use ones you've already used for dashi so it's not too strong. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours. Then blot dry again and slice.

3. To combat fishiness, the usual methods are sake, very slight blanching, vinegar, or torching. I'd suggest that after you wash your maguro, you pour sake over it, wait a few minutes, then rinse it again. Rice vinegar also works, but can all too easily become a noticeable taste, which you probably don't want. Blanching is usually for cooked fish. Torching works, but obviously produces a very different result.

4. A very subtle method might work. Put plastic wrap--a big sheet--on the counter. Sprinkle lightly with salt to coat about half. Lay a sheet of thin paper towel over the salt, then the rinsed and dried fish. Top with paper towel and a sprinkle of salt, then wrap in the plastic. Wait an hour or two. The moisture from the fish soaks through the paper, and then the salt melts and draws out surface flavors--which is probably where the fishiness is. Done correctly, you should not taste the salt on the fish, but if you do, just rinse and pat dry again.

Tuna is hard, actually, because it varies extremely widely, not only in quality and breed, but also in the way it's been handled on the boat. You might want to start with something easier. If you're in New York, you should have a pretty good variety available, albeit most of the best will be Atlantic rather than Pacific.

Keep us posted!
post #8 of 13
I would urge you not to ferment/age this way. If you're going to do that, you must control it with salt. This is very normal with some fish, but not tuna. The kombu wrap method should help a lot, and you can probably get away with a full day of refrigerated aging, but no more.

If you like that aged flavor, may I suggest katsuo-tataki? I am told you can get whole katsuo loins (or whole fish) in Fulton market if you ask around. Then you just rinse well, salt lightly, wait 1/2 hour, rinse again, and torch the c**p out of the surface at the highest possible heat, leaving most of the inside cool and raw. Smother with finely-minced scallions, cut in fat slices,and serve at once with wasabi and tosa-joyu. One of Shikoku's culinary masterpieces!
post #9 of 13

I remember reading somewhere that tuna used in sushi is frozen first to kill any possible  parasites.

Would this be true for all fish used in making sushi?

post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the lessons guys! This information is extremely helpful, and I have been looking for it all over Google. All the YouTube videos and sushi guides don't tell you how to prepare fresh fish, they assume you're buying sushi grade blocks.

I realize that I didn't wash the meat, instead I only patted down what was on the surface. I'm looking forward to trying this as soon as I can. I'm going with a larger cut of tuna and maybe katsuo too when I get to the market. Now if only I didn't have to wait till 1am for Fulton to open lol. Since I wouldn't be able to eat it all at once, I remember reading that I should shrink wrap and freeze, after the seasoning and fermentation have reached the ideal point. Do you think this is correct?

Also using these techniques im going to try for more than a full day, tasting along the way. I wonder how the pro sushi restaurants can age for up to a week. I agree that the tuna can be very different in quality at the market. Some fish are yellow brownish in color, while the best I've seen are bright ruby red with very fine muscular texture. The marbling on the fatty meat on those is absolutely beautiful.

I will keep everyone updated!
post #11 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefross View Post

I remember reading somewhere that tuna used in sushi is frozen first to kill any possible  parasites.
Would this be true for all fish used in making sushi?

In the US, it is unfortunately true almost always. It is not necessary, however, except with freshwater fish, including salmon, and a very few others. This is why salmon sashimi is quite rare in Japan.
post #12 of 13
Tuna no need to be marinated. I have been making sushi dor 10 years. I have a long way to go. Sigh! lol
post #13 of 13

Sushichef Welcome!

 

I'm sure many of the community would welcome some expert advice about sushi/sashimi, and I hope you will hang around and participate.  

 

You will find that if you have any questions other than your specialty there are many who will generously respond with both amateur and professional advice, techniques, and suggestions.

 

Looking forward to having you here.

 

Mike

travelling gourmand
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