HESO Magazine

Photography, Music, Film, Hitchhiking, Craft Beer – Cultural Pugilist

Tag: Sushi

The Nature of Wabi-Sabi I

The Nature of Wabi-Sabi I

“In the Perfected Mahayana – everything, every speck of dust even, can be seen as conditioned arising. Thus even in a hair there are innumerable golden lions.”- Tractate of the Golden Lion — Fazang

My friend Tomohiro once asked me why I was living in Japan, “You not married, don’t have girlfriend, not getting paid shit-ton cash like finance assholes, have no real prospects, kind of smell bad…so why you come to Japan…for the sushi?”

“Tomo, I’m seeking satori…duh.”

“You drink too much beer for satori. Even you run bar you drink all the profit, so why you wanna be Buddhist?”

Actually I get this question a lot. Japanese people are curious about an outsider’s views on what makes Japan attractive. Occasionally whomever it is I’m talking to continues the conversation with another whopper of a mystical/metaphysical/meaning-of-life type of question like, “Can you use chopsticks?” or “Wow, you sure are good at using chopsticks!”

I nod imbecilically and smile, saying, “Chinese food everywhere in America!” while adding, “Oscar Wilde said that when given a choice between going to heaven and attending a lecture on heaven, an American would attend the lecture. Because quoting Oscar Wilde to people, especially in Japanese, gets awkward quickly, the subject changes rather quickly as well.

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Sushi American Style

Sushi American Style

Saucy and Deep-fried, that’s how I like my sushi.

Sushi’s expensive, so I look for something filling, like the Colossal Roll.

I don’t like the taste of seaweed, and they don’t have soy wrappers here–I don’t know why–so I get the inside-out caterpillar: lots of avocado!

— Typical statements heard at sushi bars all over the United States.

The fact that sushi is considered by many to be a “health food” makes one think about the current state of health in the U.S. Supposing that rice and fish–buried as they are in deep-fried, oil-soaked batter and spicy mayo–are healthier than hormone-filled CAFO-lot raised beef burgers is not completely crazy, especially if it’s the average American middle class citizen making the assumption. Consumers are seeking new food choices and quality appears to be chief among desires. Yet as the desire for better food makes economic headway in the market, we must also look to biological reasons as to why a cuisine as simple and delicious as Japanese style sushi got Turduckened into Franken-roll Sushi American Style.

Sushi American Style

Anago Nigiri - Simmered Sea Eel on Sushi Rice with Ginger Shoot

Anago Nigiri – Simmered Sea Eel on Sushi Rice with Ginger Shoot

Japanese style sushi is all about the fish. Less about roll-sushi and more about nigiri. Forget the overbearing sauce and taste the subtle flavors of vinegar and fresh raw fish, be they the upfront oily aji to the smooth, buttery sake or the creamy, oleaginous maguro or even the slightly sweet ama-ebi and anago, there are a vast frontier of undiscovered tastes within the world of Japanese sushi, each so exquisitely slight that to oversauce, or in the case of much of the rest of the world–to freeze anything that is harvested from the sea–is to destroy that delicate polish from a discerning palate.

In its own inverse way to the American version, it too is about size. But rather than an 8-piece roll deep-fried and doused in syrupy soy-based sauce, Japanese style sushi, what is called Nigiri-zushi, is really about the process of enjoying life’s small pleasures to the fullest.

Sushi American Style

Bitchin’ Roll – King Crab, Avocado & Cream Cheese – Deep Fried

Bitchin Roll – Deep Fried Sushi

The western most sushi restaurant in North America, Harbor Sushi combines the best of traditional Japanese sushi & pub food with an American edge. The Bitchin Roll–with fresh Alaskan King Crab, avocado, cream cheese rolled up, tempura fried, and topped with a sweet Unagi sauce–is a great example of that.

But let’s not misunderstand what’s going on. We are taking very delicate fresh seafood ingredients, wrapping them up in flavored rice and seaweed, slathering them in a tempura style batter, and deep frying them in 350 degree vegetable oil for 2.5 minutes until the cream cheese starts to melt. I didn’t actually eat one until I was pretty much black out drunk. By that time it was cold. But I ate three. Three Rolls. COld. Semi-soggy. They were still awesome. I did feel guilty the next day when I managed to remember it all.

To be clear, this style of “sushi” represents a kind of life that, despite my past, I no longer lead, so it is hard to come to grips with the shear sales that deep fried sushi generates. My purer inner self wants to take it off the menu and offer a crispy autumn leaf and barley tea instead with a dry winter twig for teeth cleaning. I cannot fathom the kind of person who goes into a sushi restaurant–sober mind you–and orders something like this willingly, thinking that they are getting anything like a traditional sushi experience. But maybe that’s the secret. It’s nothing like traditional. An even if it were, 1) they wouldn’t know and 2) they probably wouldn’t like it at all…So fuck it, enjoy.

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