Japan’s Best-Kept Culinary Secrets: Sokyo’s Master Chef Explains the Do’s and Don’ts of Sushi and Sashimi

One of Australia’s top chefs explained the do’s and don’ts of sushi and sashimi.

Daniel Kwak has perfected the art of sushi making after working for more than five years alongside renowned Japanese chef Chase Kojima – who has run kitchens across the US, UK and Dubai for the famed Nobu Restaurant.

Kwak, the executive chef of Sydney’s two-hatted Japanese restaurant Sokyo, offered his simple rules for properly eating fresh fish served with fiery wasabi, ginger and soy sauce.

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Some common mistakes he notices diners make include putting too much soy or wasabi on the dish and dipping the rice in the condiment first.

“I recommend dipping the fish in the soy sauce only, not the rice. This is because the rice absorbs the soy sauce,” Kwak explains. 7life.

“Always start with the traditional way with soy sauce and wasabi, then if you want to try something different you can order a new style of sushi with mayonnaise and chili sauce.”

Daniel Kwak is the executive chef of Sydney’s two-hatted Japanese restaurant Sokyo. Credit: Luisa Brimble/Supplied

Talk to 7life for National Sushi Day on June 18, Kwak explains how sushi and sashimi should always be eaten in “one bite.”

Another mistake he sees diners making is not eating pickled ginger with sushi or sashimi.

“Balance is key,” says the chef.

“You need pickled ginger to cleanse your palate.

“[But] you should never eat pickled ginger with sushi or sashimi at the same time – it should be eaten separately.

Fish side down

He says sushi should always be eaten with the fish touching your tongue.

“Eat with the fish side down to get all the flavor of fresh fish,” says Kwak.

According to the chef, sushi should always be eaten with the “fish side down to enjoy all the flavor”. Credit: Luisa Brimble/Supplied

When it comes to traditional cooking, the chef says to always avoid eating ingredients like brown rice and spices.

“Brown rice is not traditionally used to make sushi in Japan,” Kwak explains.

“Also try to avoid anything with a lot of spices, as sushi and sashimi are very delicate and clean dishes.”

If you’re looking for the perfect drink pairing, Kwak suggests ordering sake or green tea if you don’t drink alcohol.

He adds: “Japanese cuisine is one of the only cuisines to combine raw fish and vinegared rice – sushi is strongly linked to us historically and geographically.”

Nail sushi at home

For those looking to create their own sushi at home, Kwak has offered some simple cooking tips.

One mistake the chef notices diners make is putting too much soy sauce or wasabi on the dish. Credit: Luisa Brimble/Supplied

“First and foremost, you need to make sure your rice is perfectly cooked – that’s the most important part of making sushi, because no rice, no sushi,” he says.

“Another trick is to use less water than when making normal steamed rice.

“The sushi vinegar is also important for adding balance and be careful not to add too much sugar – you don’t want your rice to be too sweet.”

Add crunch for texture

If you are making sushi rolls, you can include anything from fresh seafood or chicken to tofu or vegetables.

“I also like to add crunch for texture,” says Kwak.

“For nigiri sushi, you can easily get fillets of tuna, salmon or trevally from your local fishmongers.

Daniel says that sashimi should always be eaten in “one bite”. Credit: Luisa Brimble/Supplied

“My advice would be to make sure you get the freshest seafood you can find and the best quality you can afford.

“And if you’re unsure of your knife skills, cooked shrimp sushi is a great option.”

Do not overfill

It warns you to avoid “overfilling” your sushi rolls with ingredients.

“It’s a common mistake people make when making sushi at home,” he says.

“Use less rice, take your time and roll.”

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