A next-level sushi lesson from a Wazuzu chef

Jet Tila

How the hell do we get fresh fish in the desert? People always wanna know. To which I say, how the hell did you get here? You put your ass on a car or plane, right? Fish gets here the same way. It’s only 18 hours from here to Japan, after all.

The truth about “fresh.” A lot of the freshest fish has been frozen … and this is a good thing. Freezing technology has come a long way: We have the sci-fi ability to cryogenically preserve the tissues of the fish. So when we slow-thaw the animal, it’s like we caught it that day. Sure, some fish are caught close enough to port and flown in fresh. But trust me, you don’t want a “fresh” fish sitting on a ship for a week, on a plane for 18 hours and on a truck for four or five more.

The rice matters most. A real sushi connoisseur chases perfect rice. Others might not even realize sushi rice isn’t simply plain cooked rice. Magic proportions of rice vinegar, sea salt, sugar and kombu (kelp) make up the seasonings, but the real hallmark of an amazing sushi place is the ability to cook the rice. It’s not easy. Some tips: 1. Pick amazing rice. It ain’t cheap, but it’s worth it. 2. Wash the rice with cold water and massage off the extra starch left over from polishing (milling-off of the bran). 3. Diligently rinse the rice seven to 10 times with cold water until the water totally runs clear. 4. Strain off all excess water and let the rice rest for a bit.

Some quick etiquette. The soy sauce dish is not a witch’s brew cauldron. You wanna actually taste your sushi, so use a modest amount of soy with each piece. Wasabi should be dabbed directly onto sashimi (fish-only pieces), along with nigiri (fish-over-rice) and maki (roll) sushi that don’t already have some on it. Things that already have a sauce shouldn’t be dipped in anything. Your nigiri should touch your soy sauce fish-side first, then be eaten in one bite.

Can you really make it at home? You totally can, but it’s gonna be a real pain in the ass—and probably more expensive than going out. First you have to accumulate all the hardware: rice cooker, sushi mat, knife, mixing bowl, plates … and then you need to seek out sushi-grade fish, the right rice, wasabi, ginger, your vegetables, etc. If you’re still feeling tough, by all means, throw a sushi party. Feel free to email me at jettila@yahoo.com for some basic rice and sushi recipes.


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