(Vegan Sushi: Soba no Shinme/Buckwheat Sprouts)
Wasabi has arguably become the most famous single Japanese condiment/spice in the World, but how many people that it originated in Shizuoka Prefecture, which incidentally grows 80% of the total production in Japan?
(farmers have started growing it South Korea, Taiwan, Tasmania and elsewhere with various degrees of success)
It is mass-produced in the Izu Peninsula and at the foot of Mount Fuji, but the best wasabi is cultivated in altitude (500~1,000 meters) in Utougi, Shizuoka City, about 33 km up the Abe River.
An organic vegetable by definition, it requires a full two years to mature into constantly flowing pure water in comparatively cold environment.
(Utougi/Courtesy of Shizuoka Shinbun, Januray 21st, 2009/Start of harvest season!)
Widely known in its wild form all over Japan, a resident in Utougi first successfully grew it in 1604. Tokugawa Ieyasu, the Shogun of Japan who had just retired in Sumpu (present Shizuoka City) after closing the doors of Japan, fell enamored with the condiment and actively promoted it.
The root is grated, preferably on a sharkskin grater, before being used, not only for sushi and sashimi, but also for raw or cooked meat, o-cha zuke (vegans, rejoice!) and almost any seafood.
(Courtesy of Dominique Corby)
The stems and leaves are edible and a rare treat in their raw form in salads, in tempura, or steamed as demonstrated by Dominique Corby in his Osaka restaurant.
The stems and leaves (and flowers!) are also cut and pickled into sakekasu/sake white lees to become “wasabisuke”, another Shizuoka gastronomic specialty!
Tamaruya, the first shop to sell it at the beginning of the 17th Century, still exists in Shizuoka City, and even has a stand at Haneda Airport in Tokyo!
(Fresh whole wasabi)
The wasabi served and used in Shizuoka restaurants (and in many homes) is naturally of the best quality. If you happen to stop over in Shizuoka City, make a point to visit Sunpu Raku Ichi shop inside the JR Station where the plant is sold fresh and whole for a ridiculous price!
Shizuoka Prefecture is not only blessed with wasabi (and green tea), but also prides itself in catching some of the best fish in Japan thanks to the rich waters of Suruga Bay and Peninsula Bay. It is an open secret that most of it finds it way onto Tokyo restaurant tables!
As the icing on the cake, know that Shizuoka Prefecture has acquired national fame for providing some of the rarest and best sake thanks to the extravagant abundance of pure water flowing from the Southern Alps and Mount Fuji!
Which naturally leads me to the main them of this posting, namely sashimi and sushi.
There is a widespread misconception that it is all about fish and meat.
Not true at all as vegan and vegetarian friends will read in this account of the mission Foodbuzz had agreed to follow me on.
There was no way I could fit everything into one dinner.
The obvious solution was to have two meals, lunch and dinner and a couple of friends to help me out!
Therefore, I booked lunch both at Yasatei and Sushi Ko in Shiszuoka City. Neither place usually open for lunch, buy I had enough reasons to persuade my good friends to indulge the old geezer.
Lunch was all about Sashimi:
I ran first to yasaitei to sample their vegetable sashimi of the day:
(See pic above, left to right, bottom to top)
Celery, tomato (Ameera variety from iwata City, as sweet as a fruit!), organic carrot from Chiba Prefecture, Myoga, Red Radish, Cucumber (su yoo/四葉/four leaves variety) and daikon all grown organically (but for the carrot) in Shizuoka Prefecture. Shiso/perilla leaves and chopped white winter onion from Shizuoka, too.
As for the dressing, they were served with sesame oil, salt and miso mix.
Just took the time to call my good friend Mika and off to Sushi Ko, one of the best (and the most reliable) sushi restaurants in town for all the other sushi promised!
Explaining the taste, texture and what else will make this blog too long (I promise to answer any queries!), so I shall keep to simple names and explanations:
The first sashimi plate was:
(from right column to left column)
Shirauo/Japanese anchovy, Buri/Amberjack, Mebachi Maguro Akami/Big-eye Tuna Lean Part, Torigai/Surf Clam, Akagai/Blood Clam, Ishidai/Snapper variety, Aji/Saurel=Horse Mackerel, Katsuo/Bonito.
Served with shiso/oerilla leaves and flowers, Wakame/Seaweed and edible Chrysanthemum/Kiku.
As for the second sashimi plate:
(front, then back)
Mooko Ika/Cuttlefish variety, Matako/Octopus, Hotate/Scallops stuffed with nori/dry seaweed, Seguro Iwashi/Black-back Sardine.
Minami Maguro Chutoro/South Pacific Tuna semi-fat part, Kinmeidai/Snapper variety.
The last sashimi are for the barbarian (I’m one of them) eat-eaters:
Gyusashi/Raw beef (above), Basashi/Raw horsemeat (below)
Served with a mix of soy sauce, raw quail egg, grated ginger and chopped thin leeks.
Well I basically took care of all the sashimi, while my friend got herself lost in the following sushi:
Chirashizuhi: Cubes of tamagoyaki/Japanese omelette, salmon, amberjack (do you remember the Japanese word? LOL), Akami, Ikura/salmon roe, and mini tomatoes.
Thin slices of cucumber, shari/sushi rice, avocado, shari, maguro akami, shari, tobikko/flying fish roe.
That is when Mika’s eyes got bigger than her stomach and ask for Sushi Ko’s special “Pirikara hotate maki/spicy scaloops roll” consisting of finely chopped cucumber and a mixture of chpooed scallops, mayonnaise, chili pepper, sesame oil, tobikko, wasabi and “tenkasu/fried tenpura batter”!
I was still hungry enough to ask for a set of 6 vegan/vegetarian sushi:
(from left to right)
Menegi/leek sprouts, Soba no Shinme/buckwheat sprouts, Mitsuba, avocado, Takuan/pickled daiko and shiso nd cucumber gunkan, mizuna gunkan.
That was it for lunch!
As for dinner, I asked Marcus, another foodbuzz member living in Shizuoka City to help me back at Sushi Ko as some serious drinking was involved,too!
We kept to sushi as the sashimi (24) had been taken vare of!
The is the chronoligical order.
I found out later that some pics were a bit fuuzzy. I took all pictures with my mobile phone as a real camera would have bothered some of the customers in that very busy place. At least, they have the merit to be authentic!
Tachiuo aburi/lightly grilled Scabbard fish with ponzu, momioroshi and chopped thin leeks
Botan ebi/large raw prawn (very sweet!)
Hirame/Sole (fuzzy pic/sorry!)
The deep-fried heads of the botan ebi. Tasted like rice crackers!
Maguro zuke/Marinated Tuna (my favourite!)
California roll/japanese size!: boiled prawn, tamagoyaki, cucumber and black sesame.
Kani Tsume/Taraba Crab Pincers
Cute soy sauce saucers, aren’t they? (inedible!)
Uni gunkan/Sea Urchin gunkan
Shako/Mantis shrimp. “Shako” also means “garage” in Japanese. Would you believe that a lot of japanese customers actually say “Garage, kudasai!”?
Ikura gunkan/Salmon roe gunkan. Very generous serving!
Anago/Conger eel. Traditionally cooked and served with sweet sauce.
That’s the way they serve sake all over Japan!
Kobashira/Round Clam Round Twin Muscles gunkan.
Maguro Te-maki/Maguro Hand roll.
Vegan/vegetarian Te-maki: natto, shiso, ume/Japanese pickled plum.
Tamagoyaki/Japanese omelette sushi for first dessert.
Vegan/vegetarian Kanpyo-maki/dry gourd shavings roll for second dessert!
Now, I know I have just 24 sashimi, but I have the impression that I had more than 24 sushi!
Oh well, no worries!
I can send extra pics to anyone asking for them!