Getting to know Tsukiji by eating my through the market is such a privilege.
It’s still surreal I figured out a way to give myself the opportunity to eat sushi at the different sushi bars inside the market. The varieties of fish and ingredients available are unbelievable. The prices are beyond reasonable for sushi of the highest quality.
Since there are so many sushi restaurants packed in such a small radius, I can eat at a different place daily and not get sick of sushi. Each place has a signature and the same fish tastes differently dependent on the chef. From where the piece put in front of you is cut from the fish, how it is cut, to how it is prepared and served, it is absolutely mind blowing how the same fish over rice can be transformed into completely different tastes.
I’ve been thinking a lot about sushi and how inspirational it is. Each piece is simple: fish, vinegar, rice and garnish.
On top of picking and choosing the ingredients the order the pieces are served require so much thought. (In Japan, there are hundreds of vinegars and rice varieties to choose from. Not to mention tens and hundreds of salts and soy sauces, citruses and other misc. condiments used for garnishing. Then of course the fish. We are fortunate in this country to have so many varieties of seasonal sea life.)
Piece by piece they are served. Some places serve slowly. Others quickly. The timing is up to the chef. Every piece has distinct characteristics, cut, constructed and garnished in ways they taste the best. Sometimes the piece is lightly brushed with soy sauce. Other times, sprinkled with grated seasonal citrus peels. The sushi can also be topped with ponzu (soy sauce with yuzu), daikon oroshi (grated Japanese radish with soy sauce, ponzu or citrus), or sometimes with grated garlic or ginger with soy sauce or ponzu. There are many, many ways one piece of sushi can be finished.
In Western or European cuisine and even with Japanese cuisine, I really can’t think of anything else like sushi. Sushi isn’t just about the food, but, I love how the dinner is centered around the chef, watching the pieces comes together while the chef builds a rapport with the diners. Sushi chefs are always paying close mind to their customers: if they are right or left handed, how they eat, reactions and expressions to gauge personal preferences. It stresses me out just picturing the many thoughts that must go through a chef’s mind, all the while displaying his craft.
Observing different chefs bringing their respective expertise, experiences, knowledge, creativity and skills to a piece of fish and vinegared rice has unknowingly made me look at, think about and approach every day things in ways I never thought to approach them in the past. If the same piece of tuna can be re-invented in the hands of chefs, why can’t everything else in the world?
If you’re ever in Tokyo, I highly encourage seeing Tsukiji beyond just the tuna auction and eating at the immensely popular Sushi Dai and Daiwa. Ideally spend a few days at Tsukiji to eat and compare the restaurants in the market. If you are a food lover, it will make you think about food in new and different ways. But more so, I hope it brings inspiration like it does for me.