“If sushi was a religious cult (which it should be if you ask me), the way in which people use soy sauce would be considered blasphemy of the highest order and condemnable by eternal damnation.“
Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a movie that we at Your Sushi School have been eagerly awaiting for quite some time now, has finally come to the big screens of UK cinemas.
Cue frantic fist pumps to the air!
Naturally the cinematic experience is not a disappointment in the least, combining beautiful images of Jiro’s masterful craftsmanship with a touching and insightful documentary about the 85 year old chef’s life to date in his continuous pursuit of sushi perfection.
Throughout the movie we are presented with magnificent images of Jiro at work behind his Sukiyabashi restaurant bar in Ginza, gently pressing his two index fingers down on yet another a piece of exquisitely sliced raw fish on top of a small ball of sushi rice he has cradled in his left hand.
Now comes the most intriguing part of this ceremonial-like process.
Just before serving the next piece in a line of meticulously selected and well thought-out nigiri-only sushi courses, in a rather unemphatic yet very exacting movement Jiro applies his final touch – a coating of mysterious dark sauce – before laying his completed creation in front of the customer.
At this point you probably thought to yourself, what on earth is that mysterious dark sauce that Jiro seems to apply to almost every piece of sushi that he touches? Well that is what I would like to share with you today.
This dark sauce, of which you will be amazed to know that there is not even a mention of in Wikipedia (if Wikipedia isn’t aware of its existence, then what hope is there for the rest of us), is called nikiri (煮きり) in Japanese and means to bring to the boil.
Although you might be inclined to ask for this mysterious dark sauce the next time pay a visit to your local sushi restaurant, I must point out that almost all sushi restaurants – including the ones in Japan – are very unlikely to serve nikiri, even upon special request.
Nikiri, which was commonly used during the Edo period and is still used to this day in some of the more traditional sushi restaurants around the world, is typically made using a mixture of soy sauce, dashi, mirin and sake, and is an absolute revelation. The sauce, partly owing to the equal measures of mirin and sake within, has a subtle complimentary umami sweetness that is designed to enliven and enhance the flavour of the fish with which it is being served.
When you have worked as a sushi chef for more than 7 decades and are considered to be the most highly skilled sushi chef in the world – even by your peers, the last thing that you want to see is people dunking your delicate pieces of sushi in a bowl of overpowering and salty soy sauce. Each piece of sushi that Jiro meticulously crafts is designed to be eaten the moment it is served, without the addition of any such condiments.
I don’t want to go off on a rant or anything, but try asking any well trained and experienced sushi chef what his or her opinions are on the amount of soy sauce that people tend to use with their sushi. It’s likely that they will tell you they are offended and devastated by what they see!
If sushi was a religious cult (which it should be if you ask me), the way in which people use soy sauce would be considered blasphemy of the highest order and condemnable by eternal damnation.That is only if I was the head of this hypothetical state of course 😉
Soy sauce is far too rich and salty a condiment to be used as a dipping sauce for most types of nigiri sushi, let alone maki rolls. Despite the flavour characteristics of a lot of fish being known to be delicate and subtle, people continue to insist on mindlessly drowning their sushi in pools of soy sauce because that is the socially accepted norm.
Simply put, soy sauce is far too overpowering, and should only be used sparingly.
The next time you go to a sushi restaurant, if they aren’t able to offer you nikiri – which unfortunately is the likely truth, why not try to tasting your sushi without soy sauce? Having sushi without soy sauce can be a liberating experience because it enables you to better gauge the ability of the chef. If you avoid using excessive amounts of soy sauce you will soon be able to discern some of the more subtle characteristics that sushi has to offer, and more importantly, be able to distinguish between what is good sushi and what is not!