Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oishinbo: Fish, Sushi and Sashimi

The fourth volume of the fascinating Oishinbo series has just been released and is titled, Fish, Sushi and Sashimi. It deals with various types of fish, prepared in a number of ways, including sushi and sashimi. I enjoyed this volume and learned some interesting facts about fish.

Like the previous volumes, this book begins with a recipe: Grilled Salmon Skin. Then there are eleven chapters and also like the prior volumes, the back of the book has a series of notes, many dealing with Japanese terms, concerning the text.

The initial chapter deals with a contest, to see whether sashimi tastes better from a live fish taken out of a tank or a dead fish, brought in from elsewhere. You might be surprised to learn the dead fish fared better, and the chapter explains the logical rationale. The second chapter is also another contest, this time revolving around the question of which sashimi is the best. Yamaoka, the hero of the manga, states the best sashimi he ever ate was chub mackeral. Most consider this is be a common, low class fish and thus can't see how it could ever be the best. Yamaoka though captures a more unusual chub mackeral, wowing the others.

Chapters Three is once again a contest, this time over who can make the best sweetfish tempura. Yamaoka loses this contest though learns an important lesson. "A dish will only turn into a work of art once it has been able to move the person who ate it." (p.81) The contests continue in Chapter Four, a challenge to create a better fried dish than tianji, a type of frog. The winner was the fried head of a tiger blowfish. Chapter Five though lacks a contest, and discusses different preparations for making dishes with freshwater goby.

The next chapter, Six, is intriguing. A boy fails to get into his first choice of college and is very depressed, though he did get into his second choice. Then Yamaoka is brought in to help the boy and uses the differences between right-eyed and left-eyed flounders to help the boy happily accept his second choice college. Left-eyed flounders ("hirame") are commonly considered better tasting than right-eyed flounders ("karei"). Yet Yamaoka casts some doubts on this conventional wisdom.

Chapters Seven through Nine deal with a salmon contest, which ends up as a challenge between a raw salmon dish, prepared by Yamaoka, and a number of cooked salmon dishes. The raw dish is criticized though because of the possibility the salmon contains parasites, an apparent taboo I have never heard of before. Yet Yamaoka defends his dish, first indicating that he had a parasite specialist examine the salmon. Yamaoka also took other measures in the salmon preparation to ensure it did not contain parasites.

This volume of the series was both educational and thought provoking. I definitely recommend the entire series to any foodie. I will continue to look forward to the next volume of the Oishinbo series.

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