Summer and sushi go hand and hand. This month we’re celebrating the return of warm weather with a refreshing sake from the city of Ishikawa, and we’re savoring Zuke tuna, aji, katsuo and the family-friendly favorite: unagi. Come cool off this month and enjoy some seasonal specials and classic delicacies.
Aji (Horse Mackerel) – Aji is rather well-known species; however, we at Shiro’s get aji caught in a specific area in Japan called Seki-Aji. It is caught in the Toyosu Channel (between Seto and the Pacific Ocean) and brought to Saga (Kyushu Island). Together with mackerel, it is known as a luxury seafood product. Now is the season that horse mackerel is reaching its peak ripeness.
Katsuo (Bonito) – It is reaching the end of Spring Katsuo season, so now is the time to come taste it at Shiro’s. These fish are leaner and taste richer than tuna. Slices of fresh-caught, raw bonito are a seasonal fixture during spring and early summer in Japan, a tasty tradition!
Zuke-Tuna (Marinated Tuna) – This marinating method became popular in Edo period when refrigeration was unavailable to give expensive tuna longer shelf life. Usually tuna is marinated in the mixture of soy sauce, mirin and sake for 2 to 4 hours.
Unagi (Fresh Water Eel) – Traditionally, sushi restaurants in Japan serve fish from the Sea only. Unagi, on the other hand, is from fresh water and became very popular in the US. Unagi has fattier and richer taste than Sea-Eel, also known as Anago. Just like the California roll, unagi could be American-born sushi. Because of the sweet unagi sauce, many young children also love this sushi.
Kagatobi “Muroka Nama” Draft Junmai – This sushi-friendly sake offers aromatic and boldly flavorful notes of ripe cantaloupe, with a smooth, round character and a pleasantly dry finish. A note about this brand: Kagatobi is named after the in-house firefighters of Kaga (ancient name of Kanazawa area) mansion Edo (ancient name of Tokyo) branch, who were tough and powerful, highly skilled but hot-tempered. They were known as “cool” firefighters, and always popular among people in Edo. Enjoy!
Japanese Food Traditions
Sushi in the Edo Period (1603-1868) – Edo Period sushi was limited in variety and each sushi ingredient was either cooked or marinated. Tuna was usually marinated with soy sauce to provide a longer shelf life, since there was no refrigeration system then. Fatty meat was not marinated very well because the fat blocked the soy sauce from penetrating well. Each piece of Edo Period sushi was significantly larger than the size of sushi we see today. Because of the size, people used their fingers instead of chopsticks.
This month: Kunihiro Moroi, Kaiseki Chef
What is your favorite sushi?
I love the richness of Toro (fatty tuna), which melts in your mouth. I also love Wagyu sushi; we don’t serve it at Shiro’s but Wagyu was staple food in my household when I was growing up.
What is your favorite sushi/beverage pairing?
Dry sake. It enhances the natural flavor of seafood, especially paired with rich tasting sea urchin or toro. It’s the balance of yin and yang.
What is your favorite non-Shiro’s dish?
Smoked Wagyu tataki, a recipe I developed while working at a previous restaurant. As for home cooking, my favorite is Nikujaga: Japanese-style simmered meat and potatoes.
What are your hobbies?
Horseback riding, skiing, fishing and scuba diving. I haven’t done scuba diving for a while since my wet suits don’t fit me any more. I love fishing mainly because to eat my catch right away.
What is your favorite time of year and why?
I love to swim in the ocean, so naturally the answer is summertime.
Anything else you’d like to share with guests?
My family owns a Kobe Beef farm. This is why I love Wagyu so much. Before joining Shiro’s I worked in Singapore, China, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Jordan as a head chef. I can laugh about it now, but then I really wanted to cry when I was in Jordan, because all the employees used to leave their positions to pray for 30 minutes, no matter how busy the restaurant was.