Garde Manger: Sushi

free essayThe culinary arts civilize humanity and are good for the soul. Food preparation process encompasses fancy, imagination, and taste. The human view on food is often inseparable from the delicacy itself. The mere smell of food provokes memories and takes back in history. Has anyone ever wondered who prepare the cold fresh looking and appetizing dishes like salads? Garde manger originates from a French term that means “keeper of the food.” Historically garde manger jobs were present only in the wealthy homes where pantries were critical before the advent of modern refrigeration. Pantries were often located in the lower level of the home away from sunlight and warmth. With the development of refrigeration system, the garde manger job has evolved and now it encompasses cold food preparation. The modern day pantry chef prepares stocks and plates foods from the cold kitchen side.

Sushi invention dates back to thousands of years ago in Japan. The original idea was not to prepare a delicacy as people enjoy it today but to preserve raw cleaned fish. The Japanese used to press a fleshed cleaned fish between rice and salt with a heavy stone for a period. After a few weeks, they replaced the stone with lighter materials. Seaweed was commonly used to cover the pressed fish giving it time to ferment. Yohei Hanaya, a chef from Tokyo of the 18th century eliminated the fermentation process and served the fish on its own. Fresh sushi gained popularity from then with two major preparation styles: edo style from Tokyo and Kansai style from Osaka. Edo style, which is most common in the United States, comprises chiefly of seasoned rice mixed with several other ingredients. On the other hand, Kansai style is prepared with a bit of seafood placed on a pad of rice (“What You Need To Know About Becoming A Chef Garde Manger”).

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According to Yuki Ishimatsu, the head of UC-Berkeley East Asian Library, the majority of Japanese enjoy sushi during special events because it is expensive. Unlike in Japan, the American sushi is quite different. The delicacy, however, is prepared in two major types: the California style and the traditional Japanese style. The California style is usually more experimental and imaginative with some garde manger chefs including avocados in the ingredients. To the contrary, the traditional Japanese style as the name suggests focus on the original form of sushi hence it contains mostly fish. Most of the chefs who prepare sushi associate their passion in the preparation process experimenting with smell, tastes, touch, and look. Initially, vegetarians could not eat this meal, but both vegetarians and non-vegetarians can enjoy today’s sushi made from cucumbers, fried tofu, avocado, rice, and ginger (Hiufu, 2016).

Being aware of the origin and the styles commonly used in the preparation of sushi, it is important to focus on the art behind a tasty sushi. A little rice ball and a slice of raw fish look like an affair to the untutored but Tetsuya Sakurai completely disagrees. Sukarai explains how intensive and stressful the training on preparation can be for one to become a sushi chef in Tokyo. It is estimated that the best student takes two years before mastering the art and being able to prepare this meal properly. The training involves learning how to select and cut the fish as well as combining the delicate rice balls also called nigiri with a sashimi slice. Cutting the fish in sushi preparation has been compared to performing surgery. A precise balance between the rice and fish and the pressure applied is significant to attain (“The Art of Sushi”).

The fact that one does not even have to cook it makes sushi sounds like the easiest dish to prepare. Masaki Teranishi, a sushi chef for over 30 years, considers every step of preparation process to be very broad in context. Teranishi is the head chef in a family sushi business that has been operational for more than 70 years. He teaches lessons on the ancient fish cutting style and the knife skills of an experienced chef. The first step to sushi preparation entails picking the right fish. It depends on seasons and regions. Fish names change depending on the season. For instance, snapper is referred to as “sukura dai” in spring and “tai” in winter. Normally, tai is more fatty and oily than sukura dai considering that fish store significantly more fats in winter (“The Art of Sushi”). The right fish is usually pink and red, have a swollen belly and clear eyes indicating it is a fresh catch. Fish with liquid oozing out will never make a good sushi.

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Gutting and cutting is the second step towards sushi. Experts suggest that the fish should be gutted and washed the same day and where possible consumed the same day. Two conventional methods are used in cutting the fish. The first one involves three-piece cut and is referred to us san-mai-oroshi while go-mai-oroshi represents a five- piece cut. In both processes, the cook slices the middle section with the bone out and separates it from the double side flaps. Small bones are removed from the fillets using twisser tools before making the sushi pieces (“The Art of Sushi”). Considering how delicate the fish filet proves to be, Teranishi advises less adventurous chef to buy ready fillet from the market. Continuous touching of the fish as one cuts it damages the meat degrading the quality of the final sushi outcome.

After preparing the sushi filet, making the rice is the next step. Though the fish often neutralize the rice’s glamor above it, rice must be cooked to perfection. Master Garde manger chefs claim that harder and older rice produce better sushi compared to soft rice. Harder mountain rice should be mixed with softer one to achieve a balanced texture. A fan is usually used to cool the rice off the moment it is well cooked. Simultaneously, the chef prepares the seasoning mixer comprising of sugar, salt, Japanese rice wine, and vinegar which is added to the rice. A cupped palm and two fingers help in slapping the rice into shape. The slapping must be gentle so that the rice sticks together without pushing the air between the rice pieces out (“The Art of Sushi”).

After this step, ready maki rolls are made. Mastery of skills is needed in making good homemade nigirizushi, but that does not mean it is impossible. Nigirizushi form an important part of sushi and can be made from numerous combinations depending on the preference of taste. Rice is often spread on dried sea kelp in making maki rolls instead of slicing fish and cupping rice. The ingredients are placed at the center of the spread rice after being cut into sticks. A chef uses a rolling mat to roll the combination into a tube-shaped sushi. The combination often comprises of fish and vegetables but can vary depending on preference and taste of the consumers (Gisslen, Wayne, Lou, and Jaclyn Pestka, 2010).

In conclusion, sushi is a delicacy consisting of cooled rice seasoned with salt, vinegar, and sugar and served with numerous diverse garnishes. The most shared and popular sushi contains raw fish or other fresh seafood. Sushi must not, however, include seafood or fresh fish. There are many sushi types with multiple variations of each type. Japan chef requires an individual to spend a year of apprenticeship under a sushi master before being allowed to practice the art on their own. A dedicated garde manger chef can, however, master simpler sushi recipes. The refrigeration technology has changed the Japanese traditional method of preparing sushi. Rice cooling was done without refrigeration until it was slightly warm but the western garde manger chef put the delicacy under refrigeration before serving.