It’s All in the Rice

The ex­ec­u­tive chef of Sushi Masa­taka, Masa-san de­liv­ers one of the most exquisite, and most ex­pen­sive, omakase ex­pe­ri­ences in Hong Kong. A se­ri­ous man and mas­ter of his trade, Masa-san does not entertain his guests, un­like many mod­ern sushi chefs, pre­ferr

Crave - - OPINION - Words Masa­taka Fu­ji­sawa

Ev­ery high-end sushiya uses the same sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents, and the chef’s way of craft­ing sushi may be sim­i­lar. So, when it comes to sushi, the rice and rice vine­gar used are what de­ter­mines whether the sushi is de­li­cious.

I’m picky when it comes to rice. I use Haenuki rice from Ya­m­a­gata pre­fec­ture in­stead of Hokkaido rice from my home­town. Al­though the lat­ter is very well known, Haenuki rice is smaller but more aro­matic and vis­cous in tex­ture, mak­ing it ideal for sushi. Be­cause each grain of rice is rounded, fluffy, just moist enough and has per­fect vis­cos­ity, once it’s pressed into a ball, it will never fall loose and will gen­tly loosen only in the mouth.

When I came to Hong Kong, I be­gan to grind the grains finely and cook them with spring wa­ter from Shizuoka in a tra­di­tional ket­tle, so the heat dis­tri­bu­tion is even, guar­an­tee­ing the qual­ity of the rice.

The rice-to-vine­gar ra­tio can vary and is very im­por­tant. A dif­fer­ent pro­por­tion will bring a dif­fer­ent taste, aroma and level of sat­is­fac­tion. Sashimi and vine­gared rice will al­ways com­ple­ment each other and make each other more de­li­cious.

I make my vine­gar my­self. Tra­di­tion­ally, the Ja­panese love richer, thicker red vine­gar, and for­eign­ers en­joy white vine­gar. I blend four types of red vine­gar with two types of white vine­gar and age it for four months. I then ad­just the sea­son­ing in my vine­gar blend with the rice in a wooden bar­rel.

Al­though tra­di­tional Edo­mae sushi does not in­clude su­gar, I add a lit­tle su­gar to the rice. Osaka’s Kan­sai sushi mas­ters love adding su­gar. I’ve adopted this method and guests love it. Ev­ery piece of sushi only has six grams of rice. If guests like to drink, I’ll use even less rice to pre­vent them from get­ting too full.

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