The idea of temperature and texture playing a significant role in taste. I posted yesterday night about Temperature, Texture, and Taste and I am carrying forward the idea by simple illustration.
In most cases food has a temperature that is optimal, a temperature that exploits the best taste. This temperature can range below or above our mouth’s temperature with our ordinary mouth temperature @ 35°C. Now imagine the sensation of a cold anything in your mouth. The sensation is immediate, the temperature drops by as much as 5°C-10°C, what I refer to as “temperature excitable”.
When it comes to vegetables, we do not need to cook them to optimize their taste, we can chop, dice, mire poix and or grind them into a puree. Now think of sushi as a vegetable, a cuisine so pure, little cooking is needed. Fish in its second purest state, Japanese are so meticulous about their fish; fishing, packing and transporting their fish is down to a science.
In the case of sushi’s freshness, the fish is often various degrees of chewy. If you think about it, raw flesh should be chewy, not anything else. The Japanese have a common name for certain foods that are chewy, rather hard to chew, or even crunchy. In the picture below, this fish is amongst the toughest to chew, named Awabi.
The name “katai”, describes the crunch of Awabi, it’s about the influence of texture, something I talked about before, and I raise again. You can eat Hirame’s engawa, a muscle of the fin and it is more or less the same taste as the flesh. The main difference is the texture, the engawa is more chewy.
The chewy is thought of encouraging more mastication. During the mastication, we gain the sensation of being in contact with our food, food contact, the longer it takes to chew the more we notice it, the more we either connect or disconnect. So when we eat raw fish, it is not always the fish itself that influences us, it’s a combination of factors.
Shellfish are more on the side of chewy, and Awabi is extreme, its super crunchy. What is interesting about Awabi is, the outer shell of the fish is “katai”, while the interior is silky and much less chewy. Can you imagine any food in the West that has the same sensations, except for some fruits. Seldom in the West that foods have dual textures, eaten raw and adored by so many.