Friday, March 29, 2013

The Connoisseur's Guide to Sushi by Dave Lowry

This is probably the most comprehensive guide to the art of Sushi in existence today. It is filled with facts and stories and appears to be the result of many years of research (probably not onerous at all) on the subject, from a man who has also written a book about martial arts etiquette. He relates just how meticulous and particular a good Sushi chef must be, in order to properly present even the correct rice. I suspect the package I pick up in the grocery store doesn't meet these standards.

"Sushi rice has to be just glutinous enough to stick together, but with each grain retaining its own identity, kind of like kids at a junior high school dance...It should have a glowing luster (tsuya), a pleasant stickiness (nebari), and the correct taste (aji)."

Sushi has been around for about eight hundred years, give or take, in some form or another, but it's really taken off all around the world in the last twenty.

"The history of wrapped sushi rolls, or maki sushi, goes back to the vegetarian cookery that evolved in 13th-century Kyoto temples. Buddhist monks there lived lives of piety, austerity, and rigid discipline, but they were not averse to a decent meal. They created the technique of wrapping or rolling foods in sheets of dried nori seaweed."

I always run into little tidbits where my life experiences and reading cross each other in the oddest ways.  On the topic of Oshi Sushi (pressed sushi):

"The Portuguese arived in Osaka around 1545 in galleons, or bateira. Even though this method of sushi preparation existed for hundreds of years before the Portuguese ships appeared on the scene, that's where battera sushi gets its name. The molds used for making it look like the Portuguese galleons."

My wife and I have friends in Portugal, and spent time there a few years ago, so we've seen a few bateira.

Lowry has a wry humor. Wry is even part of his name:

"Several restaurants in that city (Kyoto) now claim to have been the original purveyors of the dish (battera sushi), or have the original recipe, or to be descendants of someone who was a really, really good friend of a dishwasher in the Imperial Palace, or some such."


"Much like an Andy Warhol print, commercially produced sheets of nori have two sides. Unlike the Warhol, it is possible to reliably distinguish one from the other."

I must confess, however, that I was unable to finish the entire book. I was really only looking for a guide that would help me as a sushi novice to order more confidently; I really didn't need the graduate level course. If you do, however, I highly recommend Lowry's masterpiece.

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