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What makes sushi truly great

Singapore’s top sushi masters weigh in

By Bite! Japan Staff | Jan 24, 2017

  • What makes sushi truly great
    Chef Taku Ashino of Ashino

Excellent sushi isn’t hard to find in Singapore, especially when you are willing to pay for it. But what is it about sushi that makes it truly great—other than its freshness of course? We asked two of Singapore’s leading sushi masters about the types of factors they consider when making sushi. Here’s what they said.


Aged tuna sushi at Ashino

Respecting the Fish

Chef Ashino, sushi master at the eponymous restaurant at Chijmes, strongly believes that in preparing sushi, a sushi master must pay respect to the life of the fish by preparing it in a way that best showcases its natural flavors. This is why sushi fish can be prepared in many different ways, not just served raw. Over at luxe CBD sushi restaurant Sushi Mieda, for example, the seafood can be sprinkled with salt, soaked in vinegar, marinated with konbu seaweed, simmered in a flavoured broth, steamed or slightly aged.


Chef Keisuke Ohno of Sushi Mieda

Temperature 

There’s more to sushi than just freshness and expert slicing. The perfect piece also comes down to the perfect temperature. Too cold and you won’t get to enjoy the fattiness of your otoro; too warm and your beautiful sea eel will taste limp. Ashino tells us that it all boils down to “making the fish and the rice close in temperature.” Sushi Mieda’s Keisuke Ohno says the rice should be eaten hitohada—that is, at skin temperature.


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Better than Fresh

While most sushi restaurants boast about the freshness of their fish, there’s no one better in Singapore than Ashino to tell us about the importance of aging seafood a couple days. After all, his restaurant specializes in the procedure. “Aging is a new technique whose purpose is to maximize the umami of the meat,” he explains. “It softens the sinews and makes it combine better with the rice.”

Minimal Intervention

One of the great pleasures of grabbing a seat at the sushi counter is to watch the graceful sushi pressing sequence by the chef—everyone’s is a little bit difference. But the idea here isn’t to pack the rice and fish as tight as possible. “Don’t touch the fish and rice too much,” Ashino reminds us. “Just shape it beautifully—not too hard, not too soft, just enough to spread nicely in the mouth.”


Sushi Moriawase at Sushi Mieda

Perfect Seasoning

You won’t find little dishes of soy sauce at the luxurious Sushi Mieda. That’s because sushi master Keisuke Ohno believes each piece of sushi should be eaten as is. At his restaurant, he is careful give each piece of fish a light spread of nikiri—soy sauce evaporated with sake—for the perfect amount of savorinessFlavors also come from additions such as spring onion, seaweed and the process of aburi—if you opt for the latter, be sure to experience the pleasures of a charcoal aburi, even though the gas torch is all too common.

The Order of the Fish

When you opt for an omakase, your sushi master knows that even the best prepared sushi can be ruined when eaten in the wrong order. “When you eat something very strong or sweet right at the beginning,” explains Ohno, “your palate becomes fuzzy.” Start with the simple, relatively bland flavors of white fish, moving onto stronger-tasting fish such as toro. In between, be sure to refresh your palate with a vinegary preparation such as kohada or something sweet, such as the Japanese tiger prawn. Finally, finish out with maki mono, tamago yaki and finally, the soup.

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