Which date is correct and what do you know about shari, neta and gari?

japonský národní sushi den


Sushi Day is coming. For years, I thought it was an international day, and as such we celebrated it every year in Miyabi. But on the internet you find that International Sushi Day is June 18. So how is it? This date was picked up and established as Sushi Day in America in Detroit in 2009, so that sushi could be celebrated twice in one year and gain in popularity. But many of you know that there already was one world recognized Sushi Day festival, which is older and which started at the country of modern sushi origin, Japan, from where sushi spread to the world. That holiday is now called National Sushi Day and what’s great about it is that it is just around the corner! It’s November 1st. In 1961, the All-Japan Sushi Association established this day as thanksgiving associated with sushi. The time is after the rice harvest and the fish is by that time grown to the best quality. Good sushi is about good ingredients. Do you remember the almost hedonistic dinner parties called Sushi Tabehoudai in Miyabi? You could eat sushi to the point of exhaustion. Are you sad that Tabehoudai will not be offered this year? Well, it won’t and I am very sorry. But change is a driving force that opens up new experiences and opportunities for us. In Miyabi this year, in our offer for Sushi Day we will look back at the extra-popular Miyabi original pieces and surprise you with something completely new and exotic to make you feel like you’re going somewhere in Hawaii. We will add a love story connected to sushi to enhance your mood of happiness. Love is what we all need the most in these days. The story, which happened some eight hundred years ago, reminds us that suffering and pain do not have to end in despair. Where we least expect it, something new, important and beautiful is born. Based on this story, the Japanese sushi masters designated the November 1, as Sushi Day. Sushi day in Miyabi banzai!

What is the story about?

A noble worrier Koremori Taira escaping from his enemy was helped by a sushi master at a restaurant called Yamato near the city of Nara. By making him his apprentice master masked his presence. The nobleman worked as an ordinary helper. He fell in love with his benefactor’s daughter, her name was Sato. Father of this girl, the master Mr. Yazaemon, eventually adopted Koremori into the family. It was November 1, when Koremori adopted the new name Yasuke from Sushi Restaurant. The story is extremely dear to the Japanese and became a model for one part of a Kabuki theater drama. The drama is called Yoshitsune Senbonzakura. In translation, it means A Thousand Sakura Flowers and Yoshitsune. Meaning Yoshitsune Minamoto. The act where this takes place is called Sushi-ya no Dan. The word ya means trade place, shop.

Sushi-ya, Ryouri-ya

Ryouri is food and therefore ryouri-ya is the place where food is served. Restaurant. My cousin Jára Štěpánek has been working in my ryouri-ya for more than fifteen years, and he remembers well that the chefs started to call the corner where sushi is prepared in Miyabi, by a familiar name sušárna, which is in a direct translation a drying room. Rather than the meaning the important thing is the sound which corresponds with sushi. I never get along well  with this name, because sushi is neither dried out food nor hung, and it shouldn’t be prepared in a hot place either. Exactly opposite. Sushi should be freshly moist, sit nicely on a plate and strict temperature and hygiene principles are observed during sushi preparation, especially when working with raw fish. But yes, there is a joke moment in the word. Su-šárna. Surely you know that “su” in the word sushi points to vinegar as a reminder that rice for sushi originally fermented along with the fish which was loaded in it. It was a proven Chinese preservation method. The sushi done closest to the method is narezushi. The name sushi as we talk about it has also derived from the original preparation of sushi, meaning food that has undergone vinegar fermentation and is worth tasting. And not only for tasting, it’s worth celebrating.

The word “juushi” which calligraphic kanji characters are often used today for sushi as the so-called applied ateji characters expresses a celebration and presentation sushi associated with the imperial family. These are the characters 寿司 and have been used since the end of the Edo period. So you can see where my explanation went – from sušárna adopted by chefs from Prague’s Miyabi as far as imperial family. Indeed sushi is a noble food. And to make the use of kanji characters more complicated, two more calligraphic notations are used for sushi at the same time. The original sushi character 鮓 means fish loaded with salt and rice and as such most closely expresses what sushi is. However, there is another character used since long. This character 鮨, which indicates mere salted fish, is still used too. So it is up to you to choose your favorite character for sushi.

Shari, Neta, Gari

Speaking of words, do you know what shari is? This is the rice tasted by sugar and vinegar, the basis of every sushi piece. The quality of rice in nigiri stands out the most. In maki rolls, small flaws are lost a bit more easily. And what is neta? That’s everything what is put on shari. The most admired are artfully cut fish fillets. It has become a bit of a paradox that a large slice of fish and a small oval of rice create the most prized nigiri. But who knows well, he or she does not rely on this sign of well-being. Well-balanced nigiri with fluffy rice, which does not disintegrate during the first handling, that is the beautiful nigirka that will please you. Do you know how big it should be? Supposedly so that it just fits in mouth. Today’s people probably have very long tongues, because originally the length of neta was measured by the length of the tongue. They are basically canapes. And do you know how to carefully soak those nigiri canapes in soy sauce? It is always neta and never rice! Otherwise, the rice will find itself in soy sauce very quickly and the neta will separate. And that’s a pity. Let me give you one more piece of advice: be careful about wasabi. You don’t want to kill your fish and rice. Their partnership is indeed what is celebrated!

Soy sauce – not to mention it would be a crime. Not only will a good soy sauce fine-tune the sushi pieces, it will also help with any stray bacteria. Wasabi will help even more. And also pickled ginger. It does especially great job in eliminating bacteria. It is called gari in Japanese. Often I see people putting gari straight on their  pieces of sushi, because they like it and also to protect themselves from bacteria. But I advise you to try some pieces without ginger. Just to discover the genuine taste of the respected sushi piece. Nevertheless do not leave gari on the plate, use it. The important task of gari is to separate the individual pieces so that you always have your taste buds set as if at the beginning. At point zero. Enjoy your meal!

Now, remember the three key words about sushi – shari, neta and gari. When all three components of sushi are in the best possible quality and harmony, you will eat sushi that makers would want to brag about. In Miyabi we try such sushi. Notice that this weekend we are on special duty. Glory to the Japanese National Sushi Day! To combine our Sushi Day with the story of Koremori and Yoshitsune Senbonzakura, there will decorate sakura flowers on the salmon pomegranate roll which we named SakuraZakuro roll. We look forward to your orders.

Yours, Miyabi Darja

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