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Sushi is a great way to use your frozen fish. Nobody knows seafood like the Japanese. From seaweed to jellyfish, they've turned the ocean's vast ecoystem into a cuisine that is not just varied in texture and flavor, but this island nation has the longest lifespan in the world due in great part to their diet.
After years of working in and around the seafood industry, in a 2 hour class with a master sushi chef, Kaz Matsune of Breakthrough Sushi, I realized that I know nothing about seafood-it was a thrilling realization. How he cuts a fish, what parts get used for sashimi, and what parts for rolls was all fascinating.
Sushi may be a delicious delicacy but it's problematic in terms of sustainability. Sushi restaurants are often the worst offenders at using endangered and unsustainable seafood. The downward spiral of the bluefin tuna is largely due to demand from sushi restaurants around the world. In the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, bluefin stocks have been reduced by 80 percent. Some tuna are also ranched, which involves catching the fish young in the wild, putting them into pens, and then feeding them huge amounts of forage ocean fish. It is estimated that at an astonishing 10 to 20 pounds of forage fish is needed to produce one pound of bluefin tuna. Farmed salmon, imported shrimp, ranched eel-the popular dishes are litany of environmental problems.
In a recent study by Oceana, over 30% of all seafood in the United States is mislabeled with sushi restaurants leading at an astonishing 78% of their seafood mislabeled. Some of this is due to translation issues, but the Oceana report showed that 84 percent of the time, white tuna is actually escolar, a species with a toxin that can create stomach and digestive problems for people who eat more than a very small amount. And high-mercury fish on the FDA’s “Do Not Eat” list for pregnant women and children, such as tilefish, have been sold as red snapper or halibut.
So what to do if you love a raw sliver of fish atop rice? Make your own sushi.
(See photos above in slide show)
1. Prepare the rice:
Use a short grain or sushi rice and cook with water following directions. The standard ratio of rice to water is 1:1.
Kaz then put the rice in a wooden bowl. This gives it a better flavor. He mixed a vinaigrette of 5 parts rice vinegar to 3 parts sugar and 1 part salt. He poured this over the rice while it was was still hot. He then mixed the rice with a wood paddle to blend the vinaigrette and help it cool.
2. Kaz learned how to be a sushi chef in the United States, not Japan. However, he still had to work for 4 years in a restaurant before they allowed him to cut fish. It's an art form.
For finfish, he makes an incision near the tail to break apart the muscles. This protects the texture and the flavor of the fish. He then removed the collar, the belly and the skin.
For sashimi and nigiri, the belly, or fattiest and tastiest part of the fish gets used. The tail section is used for sushi rolls.
3. Cut nori wrapper in half. Have a bowl of water nearby, and dip your hands into this first. This helps keeps the rice from sticking to them. Press the rice flat, leaving about 1/2 space from the edge.
4. Kaz centered his salmon on the rice, but you might have to play with this a little, as he makes it look much easier than it is. Take your bamboo roller, and place the roll in it. As you roll this shut, give it a little squeeze towards the end.
5. Katz brought a fresh yuzu, an Asian citrus that's sort of like a floral lemon. He mixed this 1:1 with soy sauce to make a ponzu sauce. He also used fresh wasabi that he grated.
6. Our local sushi was amazing and this activity is great for parties and kids.