Raw Ambition

A four-month nationwide celebration of Japanese food, drink and culture will come to a climax at the Eat-Japan Sushi Awards in London next week when chefs compete in the world sushi Oscars, billed as a ‘battle of Seven Sushi Samurai’.

All 300 tickets, costing £60 each, were sold out two weeks after going on sale, leaving a long waiting list and the competition, now in its sixth year, has become a star attraction in the Japanese culinary calendar

The seven-person panel appointed to judge the Sushi Of The Year include Henry Harris, chef-director of Soho House’s restaurant in London, Kyle Connaughton, head chef of development at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, and Japanese chef Jun Tanaka.

Sushi actually came into being in China more than 2,000 years ago as a method of using fermented rice, or narezushi to preserve fish. A variant, known as namanarezushi, in which rice marinated in vinegar was eaten along with the fish, appeared in the sixteenth century.

The next development was oshizushi, a rice and fish mold, followed, in the 18th-century, by the heir to modern sushi, nigirizushi, known popularly as nigiri, in which raw fish was used for the first time.

Last year’s top Sushi Samurai was Jeff Ramsey, the Nippo-American head chef at the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo, with a creation of electric eel and pineapple. He will attempt to retain his title next week with The Whole Salmon, a dish comprising very part of the fish, from the roe to the head and cartilage in a single dish, marinated in passion fruit juice and served with a coffee mustard sauce.

‘Whoever wins the title,’ judge Tanaka told the Observer, ‘will be both welcomed and resisted by aficionados of the dish back in Japan.’

The Observer

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