Edomae Sensual Sushi

Sorry to my faithful readers, It has been a long time since I had proper sushi, almost 5 months. This season is one of the best for sushi because the waters are cold yet this season we see the effects of climate warming impacting the weather more and more. I won’t get into this topic, it is just a fact and the seas and sealife are definitely impacted as are those living in rural areas.

This is 100% Edomae sushi something you see outside Japan they advertise it as if anyone has a clue what it means. The Edo period was key to the development of Japan’s commoner and the widespread idea of fast foods, street culture. The period was characterized by economic growth, strict social order, isolationist foreign policies, a stable population, “no more wars” and popular enjoyment of arts and culture. But at the same time, code of laws was established to regulate the daimyō (feudal lords) houses.

The code encompassed private conduct, marriage, dress, types of weapons and numbers of troops allowed; required feudal lords to reside in Edo every other year, prohibited the construction of ocean-going ships, proscribed Christianity, restricted castles to one per domain, etc. And the rice was the base of the economy with 80% of the people were rice farmers. Rice production increased steadily, but the population remained stable, so prosperity increased. Without any doubt neo-Confucianism played an important role, it was an attempt to create a more rationalist and secular form of Confucianism by rejecting superstitious and mystical elements of Buddhism that had influenced Confucianism during and after the Han Dynasty.

Members of the samurai class adhered to bushi traditions, these Japanese warriors have existed throughout the times. In the Japanese archipelago in the Middle Ages and the early modern period from the 10th century to the 19th century, there was a hierarchical structure of warriors, called bushi or samurai today with a fixed image of appearance and lifestyle, and their families.

But with a renewed interest in Japanese history and in the cultivation of the ways by Confucian scholar administrators, another special way of life—chōnindō—also emerged. Chōnindō (“the way of the townspeople”) was a distinct culture that arose in cities such as Osaka, Kyoto, and Edo (now known as Tokyo).

It encouraged aspiration to bushido qualities—diligence, honesty, honor, loyalty, and frugality—while blending Shinto, neo-Confucian, and Buddhist beliefs. The study of mathematics, astronomy, cartography, engineering, and medicine were also encouraged. Emphasis was placed on the quality of workmanship, especially in the arts.

Advanced studies and growing applications of neo-Confucianism contributed to the transition of the social and political order from feudal norms to class- and large-group-oriented practices. The rule of the people or Confucian man was gradually replaced by the rule of law. New laws were developed, and new administrative devices were instituted. A new theory of government and a new vision of society emerged as a means of justifying more comprehensive governance by the bakufu, the Shoguns office.

Each person had a distinct place in society and was expected to work to fulfill his or her mission in life. The people were to be ruled with benevolence by those whose assigned duty it was to rule. The government was all-powerful but responsible and humane. Although the class system was influenced by neo-Confucianism, it was not identical to it. Whereas soldiers and clergy were at the bottom of the hierarchy in the Chinese model, in Japan, some members of these classes constituted the ruling elite.

For the first time, urban populations had the means and leisure time to support a new mass culture. Their search for enjoyment became known as ukiyo (the floating world), an ideal world of fashion, popular entertainment, and the discovery of aesthetic qualities in objects and actions of everyday life. The increasing interest in pursuing recreational activities helped to develop an array of new industries, many of which could be found in an area known as Yoshiwara. The region was better known for being the center of Edo’s developing sense of elegance and refinement. This place of pleasure and luxury became a destination for the elite and wealthy merchants who wished to flaunt their fortune. Their economy relied primarily on the patronage of such individuals in order to sustain itself. For many of those who inhabited and worked in this region maintaining the illusion of grandeur was the only way of supporting their business. (source internet)

Now fast forward into the 20th century and street culture has been replaced with the idea of sleek counters and exclusive sushi with the formality of sushi has taken a new and improved look; stylish food made available to the upper class. The idea of eating sushi prepared and sold on the streets included simmered broth steaming from the pot on charcoals and today the fire hazard restrictions of using charcoal (bincho-tan) make it harder and harder for chefs to use traditional tools.

Yet one of the key elements in sushi is and was the charcoal grilling of eel, and for those who are diehard fans, the boiling if eel is what eventually replaced the smoke-filled streets, and the smooth pure texture and sea taste of eel prevails under those chefs who are fortunate enough to have a real lineage: https://mesubim.com/2016/12/13/tsume-4/

The sweetness or the eel stewed and seasoned with sugars is used to add another dimension, and the seaweed used to protect a customer’s hand from the sticky rice is now replaced by hashi.

No doubt the rice is and was key to the idea of eating raw fish, and almost all of the tenets of sushi are based around vinegar and sugar. I used to say sushi is 90% rice and it is if you measure the volume. The rice is carefully prepared by each chef to enhance the taste combination and without good technique and vinegar, it isn’t possible.

Yet the umami of the fish lures us into the commoner’s world of seawater and farmer’s rice fields off and hidden away from the seashore of the fishermen. And we have the marination of zuke one of my favorites, it is deep in taste and has this kind of intensity.

The fish in autumn are similar to the trees (bright and colorful) and the fish are sumptuous yet prices are rising as demand grows. The akagai (red clam) is more orange than red, it is not a fish I frequently eat, now is the best season and the ripples of the fish surface and the pointed intensity of the orange tongue, it has been reaping the benefits of the sea.

Not only tuna but many fish if they are domestic and from the coastal areas of Edo, they are becoming more and more scarce. The kobashira is fascinating, a muscle of the abductor, if you look closely you see the muscle and the freshness, the edge of the seaweed cut by the chef’s knife, it splintered, and color of yellow and white, it is autumn.

I guess so many dreams to eat sushi in Japan become real life, we can eat it on the internet, just seeing sushi seems enough sometimes. But only for some of us, while others cannot resist the temptation of eating any raw fish anytime. This puzzles me and I do understand the idea of addiction, and how people are addicted to enjoying over and over (repetition) the same foods. I suppose and without much doubt, this has to do with our early developments when our parents/grandparents fed us the same foods, the mush, and the chew of nutritious foods.  The structure of our brains takes us to pleasure umami, the bittersweet, salty, fatty, and tangy taste. So what is it that draws us in? Sushi is simple, it is based on texture and taste, the idea of salty water between our lips and the rich rice and sweet and sour vinegar, all topped with a fresh cut piece of perfectly cut raw fish.

The katai, the crunch of the awabi between your teeth, it is awesome and one of my favorite gai, shellfish. I cannot believe anyone can enjoy struggling to eat a food, it is rock hard, and the fascination, the seawater envelopes your mouth as you bite down and the swash of the chefs nikiri: https://mesubim.com/2015/08/28/oooo-toro-nikiri/

Or the goma in toro-taku one of my favorites made seaweed maki, if it is made with scooped out tuna, forget it and the leaf of Chrysanthemum must be top quality. The roll of the seaweed must be done expertly and eating within minutes, a dab, only a dab of shoyu is used the entire lunch. Toro is the tuna, taku is takuan, pickled daikon, and the leaf and sesame and sushi rice, it all comes together with maki seaweed rolled, and it makes my favorite roll toro-taku, but dare order it abroad or for that matter anywhere and compare it!

Don’t forget when you eat to use your eyes and see if what you are about to eat is truly fresh, and not too fresh, but that is another topic.  And if you eat any sushi outside Japan make sure 100% it is blast chilled, or risk disease. Since January 2006, it has been obligatory for all restaurants in the European Union to freeze fish that is going to be used for sushi and sashimi for a minimum of 24 hours at a temperature of at least -20° Centigrade.

But who can forget the silver of the kohada it is only this time of the year we see the skin so perfectly grey and missing the common dots. The kohada-wow is so pink meaty and filled with lots of sea umami, topped in ginger and scallions (chopped green onion) this fish when it is freshly peeled is amongst the best. be careful not to eat those fish laying around in sushi restaurants already peeled and cut. That is a disgrace and was one of the reasons I fired my sushi chef – that’s another story. The skin must glisten or stop!

The old faithful saba is quickly cured with salt and vinegar and if you are a sushi fan, this is one of those fish that has the balance needed to be perfect and nikiri and you are done. The season begins and so do the dot patterns: https://mesubim.com/2016/01/13/kohada-silver/

Edo period, it changed the way we all eat and think, we will have a hard time looking back to normal if there was a normal. I think of this period as a period similar to what took place in Japan over centuries and how the social expectations and fashionable ways of life have changed the way we think and live and communicate and eat.