Category Archives: Did You Know?

The Okinawan Diet: For Long Lifespans

The Secret to Longevity

Okinawa in Japan is known for the longevity of its residents. This is attributed to a diet of ‘major on vegetables, minor on meat’. Okinawan cuisine is distinctly different from that of mainland Japan, with some notable Taiwanese influences. While Okinawans also love to eat pork, most Okinawan ingredients include vegetables rarely seen on the Japanese mainland such as bitter melon or goya, purple yam, and tropical fruits including mango, papaya, pineapple, dragonfruit and the sour lime-like calamansi.

Vegetables in Okinawa get three to four times more sunshine than those grown in other prefectures, apart from thriving in rich soil and absorbing the mineral-rich ocean air. Thus, these vegetables contain more antioxidant components. Okinawans also have special, healthy cooking methods that they have been practicing since long ago. For example, with pork, they blanched it first to remove excess fat before cooking. To cut down on salt intake, bonito broth is used instead of salt.

Healthy Foods of Okinawa

There’s the shikuwasa citrus juice, packed with vitamin C. A bowl of traditional squid-ink soup is a viscous black broth filled with nutrient. A block of Okinawan tofu has three times the protein found in mainland tofu. Okinawan delicious breads and pastries are made with whole wheat flour, and free from eggs, dairy and preservatives.

Eating for longevity is about how you eat, as well as what you eat. The traditional approach in Okinawa is to major on vegetables, minor on meat and dine in moderation: “Eat until you are 80% full,” is the mantra. Elderly Okinawans are markedly active, socially and physically, so hence, food isn’t everything.

To illustrate this penchant for vegetable diet, there’s the Okinawa Daiichi Hotel in Naha founded in 1955. The very small, 5-room hotel is very famous among visitors and locals. It offers an exceptional yakuzen breakfast, worth the trip to Okinawa. Breakfast features dishes made from 50 different Okinawan-grown vegetables and wild plants. It can be enjoyed by both hotel guests and visitors alike. Favorites include the yushi (Okinawa-style) tofu soup, island carrot salad, boiled otani-watari (fern) and papaya stir fry. Each home-style dish is filled with nutritional benefits and with no meat or oil used, the entire breakfast comes in at less than 585 calories. This is a taste of Okinawan cuisine, considered to be the secret to longevity.

Enjoying Vegetables in Issaquah

We love veggies as well at AJI Sushi & Grill, your Japanese restaurant in Issaquah. Have vegetables in our salads, tempura, rolls and appetizers. It’s also our secret to long life.

Japanese Plating: Art of Pleasing Palate and Eye

Concepts that Guide Japanese Plating

The beauty of Japanese plating is a highly codified process, an interplay of cultural factors and accepted plating principles. Most important is the intention of Japanese cuisine to appeal to the taste, as well as to the eye. There are concepts when it comes to the art of Japanese plating.

There is balance in Japanese plating even as one appreciates that there seems to be no symmetry on a crafted Japanese dish. It is considered well harmonized when it feels peaceful to look at. It can look a somewhat off-kilter, but is tantalizing, engaging and pleasing to the eye. The same Japanese dish can hardly look predictable, hence, the absence of symmetry.

Japanese culture values asymmetry in numbers – 3, 5 and 7 are common in plating. Five is regarded as favorable and is reflected in many facets of Japanese cuisine because the five senses (sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch) are important in a balanced meal. Red, yellow, white, black, and blue (interpreted as green) are the 5 colors also represented in many dishes, as well as the five tastes – sweet, salty, savory, bitter, sour – key to balancing flavor. Contrast is also important to balance. That is why there is silky egg custard and briny roe, bitter greens and sweet rice, there’s black contrasting with orange.

Western restaurants and homes mostly dine on plain plates. In Japanese culture, it’s the opposite – there is enjoyment in the expression of a variety of vessels. Japanese receptacles come in different shapes, sizes and colors, are made from pottery, glass and lacquer, emblazoned with decorative patterns. In Japanese culture, plates, bowls and cups are chosen based on the dish to be presented, and often inspires it.

Seasonal Foods

Seasonal eating is important in Japan’s culture. Each season defines the type of food presented and eaten. There’s a complete change from season to season – from what’s on menus, cooked at dinner parties, in bento boxes, and at convenience stores. Plating showcases seasonal produce, as well as theming the colors of ingredients and serving ware. That’s why for spring- pink and green, reds and gold for autumn. Noodles are served in large bowls in winter and chilled on top of ice in bamboo baskets for summer. Even chopstick rests – they have a cherry blossom in spring and maple leaf in autumn.

Food arrangement on the plates is dictated by the rules of moritsuke, or serving arrangement. The styles draw on the ideas of balance and contrast, depending on seasonality. The most common is hiramori, the arrangement of food on a flat plane. Similar food sizes and colors are placed together in a slanted direction. Yama no katachi is a mounded, mountain-like arrangement. In sugimori, food is in a conical shape resembling a cedar (sugi) tree. Kasane-mori is vertically layered arrangement; Nagashi-mori is a mountain arrangement in a sunken vessel. Yosemori comprises two or three contrasting ingredients gathered centrally. Chirashimori is a ‘scattered’ arrangement, which relies on the ability of chef to balance aesthetics of random arrangements.

Grilling in Japan: From Fire To Pan

Understanding Grilling without The Fire

When in Japan, it is not difficult to find a Yakitori shop or cart, a space that specialize in grilled chicken served on skewers, a truly grilled meal, cooked over a hot, direct fire. Then comes along the invention of the large, heated metal plate, and fire was no more.

You find this in bars, food courts and fancy restaurants where they cook your food at your table even. Many of the world’s greatest recipes have been taken off the fire and put on this large gas burner heated metal plate. It’s fast, safe, convenient and easy. But it does nothing for the flavor.

If these great dishes, such as beef sukiyaki, were to be grilled over an open fire, the way they were meant to be cooked, you can bring back the authentic flavors. Beef sukiyaki is grilled steak cut into thin strips and grilled with vegetables tossed in to complete the meal. Most Japanese dishes start this way, with thin strips of meat, whether it’s beef, chicken or anything else.

What is the secret to great Japanese food?

The key ingredients are the meats, seafood, and vegetables, and not the sauces and coatings that drip over them. Any sauce, spice mixture, marinade or seasoning is meant to enhance the flavor of foods, not overpower them.

For example, if you want to make beef teriyaki, start with a good steak, lightly marinade it in a thin teriyaki sauce then cook it on a hot grill, occasionally brushing with the marinade. When done, you serve it with a small amount of teriyaki sauce on the side, not pour it over the meat.

If you are familiar with true Japanese cooking, you’ll find many foods have grilled origins. The Japanese developed Hibachi grills and charcoal hundreds of years ago for the express purpose of grilling food. Today, to satisfy people’s desire for a quick lunch or dinner, we’ve got the stovetop solution – grilling on hot plates instead. However that fire can generally lend flavor to food, many chefs still can come out with flavorful dishes even on the hot plate. The Japanese can be true adaptors and, with honed skills, are food craftsmen beyond compare.

Grilling With Flavors in Issaquah

Come dine at AJI Sushi & Grill, your Japanese restaurant in Issaquah. Taste our grilled flavors in a cozy, trendy spot. Have a proper Japanese-style dining experience with the kind of work ethic and respect that goes with centuries of Japanese tradition.

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Teaching How To Eat Japanese Dishes

How To Eat the Top 6 Japanese Foods

Aren’t we so familiar with “bon appetit!” In Japan, it is customary to say the same, but it goes differently. We say “itadakimasu”. It literally means “to humbly receive” or “to thankfully receive food.” With this in mind, we are most certainly ready to eat Japanese the way the Japanese do.

As steamed rice goes, cradle the base of the rice bowl with 3 to 4 fingers in one hand with your thumb on the side. Use chopsticks to pick up small portions from the bowl, which should not touch the lips but just a short distance to the mouth. For the bowl to touch your lips is considered poor manners. Also, please do not pour soy sauce, mayonnaise, chili peppers or chili oil directly over steamed rice in your rice bowl.

Now miso soup. Sip the broth from the bowl supporting it with both your hands, or you can also use one hand, similar to eating steamed rice.To eat the other solid ingredients of the miso soup, use chopsticks, but the bowl should still be cradled in one hand and lifted closer to your mouth.

To eat sashimi, use chopsticks for each piece, dip into a separate dish of mixed soy sauce and wasabi. Do not lift the soy sauce dish off the table or pour soy sauce all over the sashimi. To eat nigiri sushi, simply pick up a piece of sushi with the fingers, dip it in the soy sauce and then eat it in one bite.

For tempura, add the grated daikon radish and freshly grated ginger first into the tempura dipping sauce then enjoy it. If salt is served with the tempura, simply dip the tempura into the salt or sprinkle some of the salt over the tempura, then enjoy.

It is culturally acceptable, not impolite to slurp Japanese noodles. Hot noodles are eaten directly from the bowl with chopsticks. A large spoon can lift the noodles and drink the broth with the free hand. Tsuyu is poured over cold noodles served in a shallow bowl with different toppings and is typically eaten from the bowl. If cold noodles are served on a flat plate or over a strainer, with a separate small cup, fill the cup with dipping sauce and eat the noodles out of the small cup.

Finally, say, “gochisou-sama” which in Japanese indicates that you are full and have enjoyed your meal, and that you are all done!

Learn, Eat, Enjoy in Issaquah

With these simple tips to follow, you’re ready to eat Japanese as the Japanese do. Come over to Aji Sushi in Issaquah and learn more. Best of all, enjoy!

How The California Maki Came To Be

An Interesting Story of Innovation

Who doesn’t or has not heard about the California Maki? A California maki or roll is a traditional sushi roll made inside out. So instead of seaweed wrapped around the roll, it is wrapped in rice. California roll ingredients usually include cucumber, avocado, and crab meat or imitation crab. It’s now a world-famous delicacy that most know as created in Japan. But, it’s interesting to note that it took root all the way in North America.

There were at least three theories about where and who invented the beloved sushi roll. The most popular is that one out of Vancouver, Canada by a Japanese chef named Hidekazu Tojo. After training as a chef in Japan, Tojo moved to Vancouver in 1971 and opened his first restaurant in 1988 – Tojo’s. He discovered that sushi was unpopular and few Canadians and Americans had a taste for hand rolls and sashimi. When served sushi, his customers would peel off the seaweed nori and discard it. He also struggled to find fresh sushi-grade fish, available fish was not as fresh or of high quality. So Tojo realized he had to adjust.

His sushi invention included cucumber, cooked crab, and avocado. There was no mayonnaise or sesame seeds yet. The original California roll was wrapped traditional style, with the nori seaweed was on the outside. So Tojo invented the “inside-out” roll (called uramaki version), which was something against the Japanese tradition. But his customers love it! He called it the California roll as many of his dining customers were from Los Angeles. For many North Americans, their first introduction to sushi was most likely the ubiquitous California Roll.

Tojo’s creation might be unorthodox but he still created other dishes that draws on traditional Japanese culinary techniques and has helped raise the profile of Japanese food around the world. After decades of making the iconic sushi rolls, Tojo was awarded by the Japanese government as one of only 13 overseas ambassadors for Japanese cuisine.

Sushi Rolls and More at AJI Sushi & Grill Issaquah

At AJI Sushi, sushi restaurant in Issaquah, find an array of innovative, delectable sushi selections, hand-crafted by our top-notch chef, including our California Maki. We are creative yet we keep tradition alive in our casual, comfortable surroundings.

Obon: Summer Festival and Summer Foods in Japan

Top Summer Food Favorites

In Japan, summer is marked by the Obon festival, celebrated annually sometime during the months of July to August. The festivals take place at Buddhist temples to honor ancestors. Families reunite, pay homage to their altars, and visit ancestral tombs. They also celebrate with dancing, or bon odori, the highlight of Obon festivals, representing joy and appreciation for ancestral sacrifices and for loved ones who have passed on.

Everybody wears light summer kimono, known as yukata. Different Japanese foods are available for sale and there are games for children as well. There’re many traditional Japanese foods at the festival, also Hawaiian-Chinese, American, and other Asian-fusion dishes.

Japanese Favorites

Futomaki (or maki sushi) is traditional sushi roll filled with vegetables such as dried daikon cooked in dashi, cucumber slice or cooked spinach, tamagoyaki (egg roulade), and a sweet dried fish that is dyed pink, known in Japanese as sakura denbu. All the ingredients are wrapped in sushi rice and seaweed.

Chirashi sushi is also called bara sushi or scattered sushi. Sushi rice is served in a bowl and topped with various cooked and fresh vegetables, fish, seafood and kinshi tamago or egg.

Inari sushi is sushi rice wrapped in ageh or fried tofu, cooked in a sweet dashi. Sometimes the sushi rice used is mixed with five types of vegetables and is known as gomoku sushi. Kids love them and sometimes are referred to as ‘footballs’.

Teriyaki chicken is sweet and savory teriyaki marinated chicken grilled and served on a plate with rice and tsukemono (pickled cabbage) or side salad. It’s very popular.

Yaki soba is Japanese pan fried noodle with chicken or beef and stir-fried vegetables such as cabbage, celery, and carrots, and often topped with dried green seaweed or aonori.

Other popular Japanese foods are takoyaki, Japanese snack balls; grilled corn, or yaki tomorokoshi, mitarashi dango, glutinous rice flour balls on a bamboo stick served with a sweet soy sauce; and shave ice with sweet red beans and green tea syrup. Summer is just delicious in Japan.

Celebrating Obon in Issaquah

It’s just like celebrating Japanese summers when you come to Aji Sushi restaurant in Issaquah. You will find most of these favorite festival foods on our menu even if it isn’t summer here.

Albacore Tuna: How Different From Other Tuna

Amazing Albacore is A Cut Above Other Tuna

Albacore is the only type of tuna that can be labeled as white meat tuna. Solid albacore refers to canned white tuna in which the fish remains in larger pieces. When the albacore is chopped into smaller pieces and canned, it’s called chunk white tuna.

Albacore tuna is a larger fish with a lighter colored flesh, a firmer texture, and a milder flavor than the solid or chunk light fish varieties. We’ve all heard that there are many types of tunas: the bluefin, yellowfin, skipjack, bigeye, bonito, blackfin and the albacore. The albacore is the only tuna among the seven types that is regarded as having the truest white meat.

Albacore is the second largest commercial catch in the U.S., after yellowfin tuna. They are the two tunas readily available at seafood restaurants and sushi bars. At Japanese restaurants , albacore is usually prepared as sushi or sashimi. In the grocery stores, if you are shopping for ‘fancy white’ or simple ‘white tuna,’ you will find the albacore. It is more expensive than regular tuna.

The fish is found in tropical and temperate waters across the globe and in every ocean as well as the Mediterranean Sea. However, it is usually obtained from the eastern Pacific oceanic areas. They are unique from other tuna as their primary food source is mollusks, like octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish, though they eat other fish. They reproduce via as many as 2 million eggs at any one cycle.

They share the same nutritional advantages as other types of tuna: It’s a rich source of complete protein, selenium and vitamin B-12. However, it has two significant differences. Albacore is a better source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than other tunas, a healthier choice that is good for one’s heart and even fights certain types of cancer. It contains the two types of omega-3 fatty acids – EPA and DHA – that lower triglycerides, slow the growth of atherosclerotic plaques and prevent arrhythmias.

Healthy Tuna in Issaquah

Experience the whitest tuna meat and the healthiest of all tuna here in Issaquah. Try our albacore in sushi and sashimi and you’ll say it’s the most delicious you’ve ever tasted.

Shrimp: Little Nutritious Wonders of The Sea

Amazing Benefits in Shrimps

Shrimps belong to a broad classification of any one of hundreds of small crustaceans that inhabit all the oceans of the world. They are a widely consumed delicacy. Most shrimp species are small, approximately 1-3 cm long, but sometimes growing up to 25 cm long. Shrimp variety is huge but most species maintain a similar organic makeup, hence, provide very similar health benefits for those who add shrimp to their diet.

The meaty and tasty tail of shrimps is the main food source. There are cultures and cuisines that choose to eat other parts of the shrimp as well. This delicacy provides a wealth of nutrition when added to the diet.

If you are on a diet, shrimp is a popular option. If you want to eliminate excess carbohydrates from your daily meals, having shrimps is a great choice. They have zero carbs and very low calorie content. There’s approximately 1 calorie/1 gram of shrimp. They are packed with protein, high in water and with a small amount of fat.

These crustaceans have loads of vitamins and minerals. See that you have your daily requirements of these nutrients from shrimp – iron, calcium, sodium, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, and potassium, along with vitamin A, vitamin E, and B6, and even vitamin B12. It also contains iodine, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin.

What are health benefits in shrimps?

A shrimp diet improves bone and brain health, contributes to weight loss and a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. Shrimp has anti-inflammatory, cancer preventative, and anti-aging properties that help to reduce the risk of various health issues.

Like in other forms of marine life, there are also health issues with shrimps. Firstly, the presence of trace amounts of mercury; you just have to be careful about where you source your shrimps. Shrimps have moderately high amounts of purine that can exacerbate gout, if you have it. If your uric acid levels are normal and you don’t have gout, surely you can enjoy shrimps. Finally, allergic reactions, which can be found in certain seafood, including shrimp.

Healthy Shrimp Indulgence in Issaquah

Enjoy fresh or cooked shrimp classics in out Issaquah Japanese restaurant. If you’re not allergic to shrimps and don’t have gout, you can always have shrimp indulgence at Aji Sushi here in Issaquah.

Hail to the Halibut: The Good Side

Halibut Can Be Healthy

The halibut is divided into two species: Pacific and Atlantic. Pacific halibut is one of the largest species of flatfish found in the Pacific Ocean, residing in between Asia and North America. It has recently been gaining some degree of popularity for its mild and delicious taste in spite of its size. The life span of halibut is about 55 years.

The main sources of Pacific halibut are the United States and Canada. About 80% is fished off Alaska, 15% from off British Columbia, and 2% from Oregon and Washington. Its season for halibut fishing is determined by the International Pacific Halibut Commission and the individual U.S. states or Canadian provinces.

Medical benefits of wild-caught halibut are impressive. Halibut may reduce risk of dementia owing to its high concentrations of omega 3 fatty acids. Studies have shown that consumption of marine oils is linked with higher cognitive function in later life. The fish may also help lower breast cancer risk. Halibut has high dietary intake ratios containing omega-3 PUFAs, such as DHA and EPA.

Omega-3 PUFAs has been observed to have an inverse relationship with breast cancer risk in prospective cohort and large-scale case-control studies. Regular consumption of halibut may help relieve symptoms of autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis due to the anti-inflammatory properties of omega 3 FAs. Lastly, the fish protects against cardiovascular disease risk factors and helps reduce risk of metabolic syndrome.

Happy Dining on Halibut in Issaquah

At Aji Sushi Japanese restaurant, we assure you of the safety of our halibut – sourced reputably, prepared and cooked well. There is no reason not to enjoy the flavors of this good catch or deny yourself its amazing health benefits.

Know the Nutrition in Chicken Teriyaki

Marinated Chicken Teriyaki Made Healthy

Most people have chicken in their diet and enjoy it in its various preparations – fried, boiled, baked, barbecued, among others. Chicken is a rich source of protein that the body needs to perform its functions in growing, repairing and maintaining cells and tissues. It is also vital in strengthening immunity. It’s a good source of phosphorus, selenium, iron, magnesium and B vitamins.

Health experts and the US federal guidelines recommend eating lean meat, instead of fatty meat which is high in saturated fat and rich in calories. Considered unhealthy, meats that are not lean contribute to high cholesterol, high triglycerides and heart disease. They’re also responsible for weight gain and obesity.

Where being healthy is concerned, certain parts of the chicken are commendable, some are not. Chicken breasts are healthier than chicken legs, drumsticks or thighs. The breast part is naturally lower in fat and calories, and removing its fat and skin before cooking makes the breast even leaner. Note that a 3-ounce chicken breast without skin is 138 calories versus 166 calories if with skin, 3 grams versus 7 grams total fat for the same. Now, for a 3-ounce chicken leg without and with skin, its 159 versus 196 calories, 7 grams versus 11 grams total fat.

It’s teriyaki sauce that makes cooked chicken delicious and flavorful, but is also awesome in sodium. Sodium helps regulate blood pressure and muscle and nerve function, and as we know, if we go consistently beyond the 2,300 mg a day in recommended intake, it can contribute to high blood pressure in most susceptible people. Excessive consumption of sodium is also harmful to the heart, liver and kidneys. Marinating chicken in teriyaki sauce makes a great dish, but it will better to avoid additional salty condiments at the table. There’s always low-sodium teriyaki sauce which may have only 284 mg of sodium versus the regular version’s 611 mg.

Here are some tips for eating a healthier marinated chicken teriyaki. Remove all visible fat and skin before cooking, grill or bake the marinated chicken instead of cooking with oil, and use a non-stick pan to minimize the amount of oil needed if saute or stir-fry is desired. Be sure to pair this meal with other nutrient-dense foods, like whole grains, fruits and vegetables. So actually, marinated chicken teriyaki can also be healthy.

Healthier Teriyaki in Issaquah

For people who don’t prefer sushi, you can still dine with us! You will love our healthier chicken breast teriyaki in Issaquah. Here at Aji Sushi, we do our teriyaki right and delicious. It’s one of our specialties.