Sushi Recipe Condiments

One thing your sushi recipe may not list is the assumption that you know a large part of the ritual of eating sushi is in its presentation. The sushi chef (itamae) arranges the sushi artfully on the plate. Also vital to both the presentation and the flavor of the meal are the condiments. Those tasty side dishes which accompany the sushi to your table are absolutely necessary to the experience.

Umami is the fifth taste sensation (along with salty, bitter, sour and sweet), and means, roughly, “tasty” or “savory.” It describes the taste of amino acids in things such as meat, mushrooms and cheese. Sushi is a renowned source of umami, and this unique flavor is accentuated by the condiments usually associated with sushi.

Let’s examine each of our condiments in detail!

Soy sauce is the most basic condiment in Asian cuisine. Called shouyu by the Japanese, soy sauce comes in a baffling array of varieties. The salty-musky flavor helps to bring out the umami sensation when eating sushi.

Wasabi is a spicy root that is related to mustard and horseradish. In paste form, it can be incredibly spicy. The spiciness, however, is generally felt in the nose, rather than on the tongue. A dab of wasabi can be placed into your soy sauce to liven it up when eating sushi. Of course, it can also be placed within a nigirizushi or makizushi to embed the flavor in the sushi itself.

Ginger, called gari, is pickled when served with sushi. It is thinly-sliced and presented on a separate plate. It is generally used to clear your palate between different types of sushi, allowing you to more fully appreciate the different flavors being presented. Ginger also aids in digestion.

Pickled vegetables, such as turnip, cucumber, cabbage and the Japanese radish daikon are often served as side-dishes with sushi, to serve as a counterpoint to the taste of the main dish.

Sesame seeds are often sprinkled on top of makizushi servings, and are frequently rolled into the outer rice covering of uramaki to lend a subtle flavor.