Awabi Abalone

Awabi is best in April, May and June, and the opening day for divers to begin taking this shellfish is fixed as April i. It is always found in rockv underwater areas near the kombu and nori seaweeds on which it feeds. The divers pry the abalone from the rocks with a forked metal rod.

In the days before World War II, the flesh of this marine univalve mollusk was always steamed in salt water before

it was used as a sushi topping. Today, however, it appears uncooked, in spite of the fact that its toughness makes it hard on people with weak teeth. Most sushi shops serve only the firmer flesh of living male awabi, which is expensive. Sushi gourmets are especially fond of this topping.

In the United States abalone is found in the waters off the West Coast.

Awabi Where The State

Akacjai, Ark Shell Connoisseurs greatly prize certain inner organs, such as the hashira (adductor muscle) and the threadlike filaments known as himoy which together connect The monarch of sushi shellfish, the ark the Hesh to the shell, shell is a ribbed clam and has red Hesh Shellfish are an excellent source of and, clue to the presence of hemoglobin, vitamins. I he ark shell is especially rich red body juices. Some S cm. (about in Vitamin A, B, and B2.

3 i 4 in.) across, from the hinged side to the opposite side, it lives near the Iresh ^nvzo^

waters at the mouths of rivers. It is best

The Hesh of the akaijai is usually ^^^/Wj/njiP^

washed in vinegar to rinse away any ^jmi/MiJIfif 111 jUpf odor before being used as a topping NP^/yyu iliUv&F/

particularly attractive for its crispness. Akamai, ark shell

Bakagai, Round Clam

Scientists call this creature bakatjai— "fool shellfish"—a name said to derive from the foolish appearance of this round clam in the sea when its red loot projects from its shell like the lolling tongue of an idiot. Sushi chefs would feel awkward saying to their customers, "Here's your bakagai," so they solve the problem by referring to it as aoyagi, a term traceable to the name of a town in

Chiba Prefecture east of Tokyo. It is j about the same size as the ark shell, 8 cm. across the shell.

Formerly, aoyacji was always lightly boiled before being used in sushi. Today it is often served raw. The adductor muscle, which opens the shell, is as delicious as the body Hesh and is, in fact, an expensive delicacy served in the battleship-wrap style.

American sushi shops sometimes substitute raw bay scallops for these shellfish.

Torigai, Cockle

The beautiful torigai (cockle), which measures about 10 cm. (4 in.) across, is found in shallow waters in most Japanese coastal areas. It is good anytime from August through April and is a true gourmet s delight.

The muscular loot of this marine bivalve mollusk is prized for its tenderness. This dark end of the llesh is said to resemble a chicken's beak and the taste is similar to chicken, hence the name, torigai, from tori (chicken) and kai (shellfish). To choose the best

Torigai, cockle cockle for sushi, the shell is opened slightly to see if the Mesh is thick and the loot dark in color.

An especially tasty and versatile delicacy, torigai is one of the two ingredients characteristically included in traditional Edomae chirashi-zushi, the other being shrimp. It also goes very well as an accompaniment to sake after being dipped in a mixture of soy sauce, mi so and sugar.

Hotatecjai, Scallop

The opening and closing ol the shell that makes the scallop move is said to bring to mind the wavelike mot ion of a ship's sail—ho—and this is the source of the name in Japanese.

The best hotatcgai (scallops) in Japan are grown specifically for food in northern waters around Hokkaido and Aomori prefectures. It grows fast, about ] cm. (i 1/4 in.) in the first year,reaches 7 cm. (2 3 4 in.) the second year and 1 2 cm. (4 1, 2 in.) the third year.

Hotaltgai, scallop

The ivory-colored adductor muscle that opens the lovely Muted shell of this bivalve mollusk is the organ found in nigiri-zushi. It is largo and is sliced to be used on several "fingers." Other parts ol the hotatcgai appear in other styles of cooking.

Mirugai, Horse Clam

The main body ol this large marine bivalve mollusk is edible but watery and unappetizing. The tasty part is the long, muscular siphon, which juts above the ocean bottom like a chimney when the

creature is healthy and the shell itself is buried in the sand. To Iree the miruijai (horse clam) from its dwelling place, a jet of air is blown out of a pump to loosen the sand around it.

The function ol the siphon is to ingest water and nutrients and expel water. This is accomplished by the

Mirugai, horse clam

action of cilia inside the siphon. The tiny algae growing on the outside of the siphon are washed off before serving. Another common name lor this clam is mirukui, a play on words about the shell's looking (miru) as if it were eating (kui) the green algae (miru) that grow attached to the shell itself.

The horse clam is taken Irom waters around many parts ol Japan and is found in the sea oil the shores of northwestern America.

Shako, Mantis Shrimp

Abalone Sushi

Odd-looking relatives ol shrimp and crab, mantis shrimp spawn in the summer, when the females carrv roe on

their undersides between their many legs. They grow to a length of i t; cm. (6 in.) and burrow into the sandv bottom where thev live. They are found j J

widely, from northern Hokkaido to southern Kyushu.

To make sushi, mantis shrimp are boiled in salt water after the shell is removed, then brushed with a thick mixture (tsumc) ol soy sauce, sugar and stock before being placed on the rice. Sluiko continue to be popular as a sushi topping, though they are no longer used in tempura as they once were.

While the Hnglish word garage has been adopted into Japanese (pronounced, gareji), the Japanese word lor a place to keep a vehicle is shako, so punning sushi chefs have been known to call the mantis shrimp gareji and mean shako.

Kaiwarina, Natto

For the sushi-loving vegetarian, sushi can be made with fresh tender vegetables, fresh (avocado) or preserved (plum) fruit or natto, a kind of Fermented soybean, and other foods.

The appearance in ordinary markets of the delicate, freshly sprouted stems and leaves of plants of the mustard family is a recent phenomenon, and their development as a sushi ingredient dates back only a few years. This kind j J

of sushi is called kaiwarina, one example being kaiwari da ikon, the sprouts of the giant white radish so common in Japan. The flavor is light and slightly astringent. And they are refreshingly crisp.

Wrapped sushi made with fermented soybeans is called natto-maki. Natto is a j processed food made by bacterially fermenting soybeans and can be bought packaged in stores. It is most often eaten by adding soy sauce and mustard, stirring, and pouring the mixture on ordinary rice. In sushi it becomes the core of long, thin rolls wrapped in nori.

In the photo above, the top row is natto-maki. The core of the second row of rolled sushi is plum and beefsteak plant. At lower right, between two pieces of kaiwarina is the very recently developed tofu (bean curd) sushi. The kaiwarina topping is freshly sprouted beefsteak plant. The tofu sushi has a thin layer of dried bonito dipped in soy sauce between the tdju and the rice and is garnished with finely chopped chives and a dash of red pepper.

Nori-maki, Seaweed Roll

To make nori-maki the core material is placed on a bed ol rice which is then rolled up in nori seaweed. (See p. 68.) It was created around 1820, though there had been a few kinds of rolled sushi prior to that. It probably appeared first in the elegant vegetarian cooking associated with Zen temples (slwjin rydri). Nori-wrapped sushi may have been simply an improvisation, or it may have been made for the meals served alter Buddhist wakes and funerals, when 110 fish was eaten.

Lots ol things can be used in nori-maki. To sav almost anv food is only a


slight exaggeration. Making this sushi is a good way to creatively use such varied ingredients as shiitake mushrooms and o pickled plums.

This rolled sushi is either thick or thin. In Hdomae-zushi the thick roll is preferred.

The photograph at right shows in top two rows kampyô-maki, which is made with dried oourd strips. At the lett of the middle rows is tckka-maki, containing red tuna flesh. The pieces with the green core are kappa-maki, made with sliced cucumber. These three kinds are typical nori-maki.

The fresh color and irregular shape of the core make nori-maki very appealing to the eve. Each piece is nicely bite-size and can be popped into the mouth easily, so it is a convenient food for picnics or other times when the hands might be a little soiled. The taste is liaht and simple.

Tamago-yaki, Omelet

The two kinds ol tamacjo-yaki (omelet) are thick and thin. Both are used in sushi. (See p. 62.)

In the photograph below at lower lei 1 and lower ri^ht is thin omelet on rice. To fit it to the rice it is cut partwav through lengthwise and folded downward. Since its shape is like that of a saddle, it goes by the name ol kurakakc (kura meaning saddle).

The thick sweetish omelet to left and right of the center in the photograph is often eaten at the end ol a meal as a dessert. The wav to ask for it is to sav j J

ichinin-mae, a term which can be used anywhere when ordering food. In a

sushi shop it invariably brings forth thick omelet.

In Season

Seasonal changes are very important to the Japanese. No people on earth are more conscious of them, and their literature and culture as a whole are strongly colored by an awareness of the transition of time.

There was a time when the first foods ot any season were ritually offered lor the enjoyment ot the imperial court. The word for these offerings was shun. At the present time the word occurs in a broader context; shun denotes agricultural and marine products when they are in season and at their peak ol flavor, quality and abundance.

Some fish and shellfish are at peak condition when the females carry roe, others when fattened to endure the coming winter cold. In any case, there o J

is no denying fish and shellfish for sushi j t>

are best, and usually cheapest, when in their natural season.

The following list indicates when typical sushi toppings can be expected to taste best in Japan (Tokyo) and on the northeast coast of the United States.

In any country those who buy and sell j j J

tish will know when certain species are in season and will explain what and when to buy the varieties available locally.








ark shell

sea urchin




(from Maine)

b akagai

maika (mid spring




to mid summer)

horse mackerel

soft-shell crab




spear squid




katsuo (mid spring to mid summer)


tako torigai

ark shell blue abalone blue-fin crab

porgy red abalone sea bass



Boston tuna

sea urchin (from





stripped bass



Meiji tuna





Boston tuna mackerel

sea bass sea urchin (from





kuruma-ebi makajiki


surume ika


sea urchin

littleneck clam

(from Maine) sweet shrimp


surume ika



s aba

Abalone Sushi

Powdered wasabi comes in a variety of packages. The cans at top and at bottom center and the packages with designs are all wasabi. At right top is rice vinegar, at right bottom rice as it is sold in plastic bags.

I. Kampyd calabash strips. 2. Shiitake mushrooms, 3. Nori seaweed. 4. Powdered green tea (seucba grade). 5. Natto (fermented soybeans). 6. Can (pickled ginger root).


I. Hatttjiri ricc tub. 2. Stainless colander (kome agezaru). 3. Wooden container for serving ricc (ohacbi). 4. Bamboo colandcr. 5. Chopping board. 6. Stainless mixing bowls. 7. Kitchen chopsticks. 8. Ricc spatula. 9. Fish scaler. !0. Paper fan. 11. Bamboo rolling mats. (Sushi is this book is made with the larger one.) 12. Vegetable knife. 13. Large and small cleavers. 14. Blunt ended and pointed fish knives.

Continue reading here: Materials Utensils and Procedures

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