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Tokyo Tower: sushi on order

Sushi restaurant in the Tsukiji neighborhood of Tokyo.

Photo: Photo by Gonzalo Robledo

Rejected from Western tables due to the general fear of eating raw meat, sushi had to wait to see Japan become the second largest economy in the world, in the last decades of the last century, to be recognized as the pinnacle of cosmopolitan gastronomy. (We recommend more columns by Gonzalo Robledo on Japan).

Those morsels of hand-pressed rice topped with a slice of raw fish were eaten by hand, insiders said, citing their street-food origins. This also explained the lack of a stipulated order to consume it until the decade of the 90s, when the famous Tokyo chef Jiro, inspired by French culinary menus, determined a sequence that began with white fish, followed by red varieties and It closed with a sweet note of egg, before saying goodbye with a cup of green tea.

Since then, it is recommended to start with sea bream and squid sushi, followed by silver-flake species, such as mackerel, before moving on to the coveted tuna belly, in its fat and semi-fat variations. Marinated fish with sweetened soy sauce, such as conger eel and eel, are the prelude to cod roe. Before the final egg, to clear the palate of marine resonances, comes the glorious (and expensive) sea urchin.

As a dressing, a spicy vegetable called wasabi, a green rhizome related to mustard, broccoli and radish, is used. The stem of wasabi, famous for being the lethal enemy of bacteria, is grated just before serving the sushi and does not produce the sharp stinging in the nose and skull so characteristic of the artificial paste sold as a substitute and made with horseradish, mustard and colorants.

The prehistory of sushi, dating back to China and Southeast Asia, mentions methods of preserving fish using fermented rice. The current format, of bite-sized portions, is attributed to a 19th-century Japanese itinerant cook named Yohei Hanaya, who came up with the idea of ​​compressing small white rice cakes in the palm of his hand, scenting them with vinegar, and garnishing them with raw fish fillets bathed in soy sauce.

The most important innovation of recent years, apart from the electric counter that carries sushi plates around the restaurant like airport suitcases, is the introduction of Nordic salmon, attributed to an insistent Norwegian commercial campaign in the late 1990s, which confirms the flexibility of Japanese foodies in adopting whatever tastes good to them, regardless of where it comes from.

*Colombian journalist and documentary filmmaker based in Japan.

Source: Elespectador

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