Sushi 101

Sun Choe’s Scoop on Sushi

“Sushi today is not like it used to be,” explains Sun Choe, Sushi Chef at Laishley Crab House in Punta Gorda. “People think all sushi is raw, but this is not true anymore. Years ago, sushi was made with all raw ingredients and was considered exotic. But sushi has evolved so now it can be made with cooked shrimp, beef, chicken and fish, and of course vegetarian rolls too.”

In fact, about half the sushi menu items at Laishley Crab House are made with cooked ingredients. The Florida Roll has fried white fish and asparagus, for example; the YumYum roll pairs fried shrimp with avocado and cream cheese; and the Mexican Roll – a customer favorite – substitutes spicy mayo in place of the cream cheese.

Even the wrap around the sushi can be adapted to personal preferences. “For those who don’t like the taste of the seaweed paper wraps, we have soy sheets that are very light in texture and taste,” says Sun.

Of course, the sushi menu at Laishley Crab House still includes a wide variety of items with the raw ingredients many people love, from shrimp, squid, octopus and salmon to mackerel, eel and conch.

Sun demystifies sushi by explaining the various types:

Nigiri – thumb sized rice balls topped with your choice of raw or cooked fish, shrimp, crab or caviar

Sashimi – raw or cooked items with no rice

Maki – rolls that are cooked or raw with seaweed inside or outside, optionally sprinkled with sesame seeds or roe

Tamaki – also called hand rolls, made like an ice cream cone with rice and choice of raw or cooked items

Gunkan –known as battleships, thumb sized rice balls wrapped with seaweed and topped with caviar, scallop, spicy tuna, etc.

There are two secrets to great sushi, says Sun. The first is the rice. “Sushi starts with the rice itself. It should be firm, and soft, but not hard, and not mushy.”

The second secret is using only the freshest ingredients possible. “We only buy from distributors who we know have the freshest foods,” Sun explains. “Our ingredients are never more than a day old, because we use such a large volume of food that we go through it daily. And we prepare all our sushi to order. We never make it up ahead of time.”

Sun also explains a problem that has existed in the U.S. for several years – restaurants misrepresenting one type of fish by selling as another type. “Escolar is an example. In most parts of the U.S., this fish is called ‘white tuna’ or ‘superwhite tuna,’ but there is no such type of fish as white tuna. We have escolar on our menu, and we identify it as escolar, and tuna as tuna. Here at Laishley Crab House we will not sell any item as other than what it really is.”

So-called “white” or “super-white” tuna is different from the canned “white albacore” canned tuna, says Sun. That is really tuna, but it looks white because it has been cooked. Raw escolar is much lighter in color than raw tuna, with its noticeably darker, reddish flesh, which is why people are easily fooled when they are told it is “white tuna.”

“Another example is grouper,” says Sun. “For many years, seafood companies were selling swai or basa fillets as grouper. People ate it and thought this is what grouper tastes like. We have never served another fish and called it grouper. So when people would eat grouper here – or at any of our other restaurants like Harpoon Harry’s, Captain’s Table or Goal Post — they would be puzzled and ask why it tastes a little fishy because they are used to the milder fish. We tell them that’s because they are eating real grouper at our restaurants.” Now that the Florida health department is fining restaurants for selling another fish as grouper, this practice is waning, and people are beginning to know what real grouper tastes like.

“We also want to reassure our customers that all shipments coming from Japan are being inspected and tested by the FDA immediately upon entering the U.S.,” says Sun. “They do not expect to find radiation or contamination, but as a precaution they are testing every single shipment. “At Laishley Crab House and our other restaurants food safety and quality control are always most important. We make sure our food is always the freshest and tastiest.”

by Barbara Bean-Mellinger, Sun Newspapers

Also see:

Sushi Basics

Sushi Glossary

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