Category Archives: Did You Know?

The Secrets of Japanese Grilling

Robata Grilling: Serious Grilling by Japanese Chefs

Just how serious do Japanese chefs get when it comes to grilling? They employ the ancient style of grilling – the tradition of robata. Robata means “fireside cooking” in Japanese, with results that are dramatic and delicious. It’s tradition and history are much longer than Japanese sushi.

Hardwood charcoal are stacked in such a fashion that creates an even heat source. It is devoid of binders and tends to burn hotter than ordinary charcoal, like briquettes. Depending on the tree-source of hardwood, this high-quality charcoal can burn in incredibly high temperatures. For Robata grilling, the white binchotan charcoal is favored for super-hot heat.

There is a stacking method used to avoid big differences in heat distribution across the grill. Hardwood charcoal is stacked Jenga-style, not dumped, creating a tower. The hardwood pieces, picked up by tongs, are arranged in a crosshatch pattern about the size of the meat on skewers. Leave about an inch of space between the meat and the heat, but if it is chicken, the charcoal is about three to four inches from it, which allows the skin to crisp while the chicken fat slowly renders.

Generally, if the charcoal tower is too short the meat won’t cook fast enough, and too tall – the meat will burn. One other detail is to use the hands-on approach, literally using your fingers. Using tongs can bruise the meat and release juices, affecting the overall taste.

This style doesn’t use barbecue sauce, but sauces that heighten the taste of the protein being grilled.
The traditional tare sauce, salty with just enough sweetness, works well with chicken, beef, pork, or seafood. It’s the perfect grilling glaze; specific measurements for every pound of protein.

Savory, Smoky Aromas from Issaquah Sushi Restaurant

Enjoy the smoky flavor of Aji Sushi grilled meats in Issaquah. We are passionate about our grilling to bring you authentic Japanese dishes from our grill to your plate.

Japan’s Most Popular Seaweeds

Seaweed Varieties and Uses

Let’s look at five of Japan’s best loved seaweeds – the most consumed varieties and how they’re used.

Nori (海苔) is the most familiar, a type of red algae that appears green to the eyes. It looks like paper and is used to wrap sushi rolls and onigiri or rice balls. It’s being consumed by ancient Japanese as paste and not until the Edo period in the 1750’s did they discover the paste can be formed into paper-like strips and taste as delicious.

Nori is also a popular seasoning in ramen soups and noodles, sprinkled atop some dishes, and can even be eaten as snacks. Aonori (青海苔) is blue green nori, actually a different species of sea algae used to flavour many dishes. It is usually available as a dried and powdered ingredient. When sprinkled over food, it releases a very powerful aroma and brings out the flavors dishes like yakisoba noodles, octopus balls, tempura (shrimps), and also used to flavor Japanese potato chips.

Then there’s the Konbu (昆布) a sea kelp which grows in long strips and is the main ingredient for making dashi soup (stock) where its dried form is boiled into dashi. Konbu is also pickled in vinegar, chopped into fine strips, or made into tsukudani, a chilled side dish, or as powdered konbu made into Japanese tea. Hijiki (鹿尾菜) is one more seaweed, a type of brown algae but looks black and usually sold dry. It is added to fish or vegetables, eaten as side dish, and flavors sushi.

Finally, the Wakame (若布), also a sea kelp like konbu, but much more tender and succulent. It is a brown algae, even though it is bright green. It goes with root vegetable, added to miso soup, salads or eaten by itself. It is also a very rich source of Folic acid.

Classic Dishes Flavored by Seaweeds

Enjoy Japan’s popular seaweeds in your classic favorites at Aji Sushi, your Japanese restaurant in Issaquah. Have seaweed in our salads, sushi and miso soup and look no further than Aji Sushi.

Agedashi Tofu: A Heartier Tofu!

Not a big fan of tofu? Think again.
In the West, we don’t have a terribly high regard for tofu. It has a reputation as a “diet food”, with great potential for health value but little little in the area of taste satisfaction. In Asia, on the other hand, the culinary practice of cooking tofu is old enough to have been honed as a cultural art form.

Japan brings us a wide range of tofu dishes, sure to tempt even the strictest carnivore. Therefore, if you’re looking for something more out of your tofu, our Issaquah Japanese restaurant invites you to give agedashi tofu a try.

The word “agedashi” translates to “deep-fried”. Agedashi tofu is a well-known recipe dating back hundreds of years. A cookbook from as early as 1782 shows us what may be the earliest depiction of the dish. This recipe traditionally calls for a square of tofu to be dusted in potato or corn starch and deep fried to a golden-brown color.

It is then topped with chopped onions and served with a hot sauce made with soup stock, rice wine, and soy sauce. The end result is so hearty and flavorful, you just might forget that you’re not eating meat! Try it out at Aji Sushi and Grill today.

The History of Rice

How much do you know about rice?

We tend to take rice for granted in the modern world, but have you ever thought about the history behind this remarkable grain? From ancient times to our Issaquah sushi restaurant, rice is undoubtedly the most important crop ever cultivated by humankind. It has been a primary source of sustenance for more people over a longer period of time than any other food, with a story going back thousands of years.

There are also numerous types of rice. Not just white rice or brown rice. There are long-grain, short-grain, jasmine, black rice, etc.

The earliest record ever uncovered of rice being farmed for food goes back to 2500 BC in ancient China. It spread throughout the world from there, its great versatility proving to be a boon everywhere it went. It could be grown in anything from deserts to wetlands, and its nutritional value made it a staple in Japan and throughout Asia and the Mediterranean area. Come get a taste of this ancient tradition with Aji Sushi in Issaquah!

Chopsticks from Across Asia

Have you ever looked closely at your chopsticks?

The next time you eat out, try seeing if you can spot how one restaurant’s sticks are different from another’s. The sticks we use at our Issaquah Japanese restaurant may not be the same as those at a Chinese place, or a Korean venue. You might find that there are distinct styles in the chopstick world. Indeed, though these sticks may seem as simple as utensils can get, it is actually possible to identify somebody’s country of origin based on the sticks they eat with:

  • Japan: (ha-shi) Traditional Japanese chopsticks are made of lacquered wood or bamboo. They tend to come in different lengths for men, women, and children, and they taper off with a thin, round tip at the end. Historically, Japanese nobles were fond of having their sticks made from jade or precious metals, particularly silver, as it was believed that silver would stain when it came into contact with poison.
  • China: (kuàizi) The birthplace of chopsticks, China is fond of longer sticks than the other countries. Chinese chopsticks are usually crafted from unfinished wood or bamboo, and have a thicker, blunter tip than those employed in Japan.
  • Korea: (jeok-ga-rak) Korea’s chopsticks are particularly distinctive, as theirs are the only ones commonly made out of steel, but you can still find wooden chopsticks. Such sticks are shaped with a flat, rectangular cross section that tapers off to a round, slender tip. Many Korean sticks are decorated with ornate designs along the broad sides of the grip.

The Terrific Bluefin Tuna

A Million Dollar Fish: Pacific Bluefin Tuna

The terrific bluefin tuna is an apex predator from the moment of hatching, feeding on salmon, mackerel, swordfish, saury, sharks, squid, anchovies and other tunas as well. Built for speed and agility, adult bluefins are just too big and fast for killer whales and sharks to catch; bursting at 30mph speed. They roam the Pacific Ocean from East Asia over to the Northwest coast of the U.S., actually thriving in temperate zones, being somewhat warm-blooded. They can regulate their body temperatures to suit the surrounding waters, hence, they are far-reaching and can survive in both cold and warm open seas. Hunting by sight, they have one of the sharpest vision of any bony fish.

The Pacific bluefin is large and torpedo-shaped with retractable side fins, many reaching 10 feet and weighing 1,000 pounds. Considered mature at 5 years of age, some can live 25 years but averaging 15. They spawn in the area near the south of Japan and the Philippines from April to June, and commercially fished from May to October. They migrate over 6,000 nautical miles to the eastern Pacific, eventually returning to their birth waters to spawn. Highly prized for their meat, about 80% of Pacific bluefins caught worldwide is destined for the sushi restaurants of Japan.

Eaten raw, the bluefin is very tasty due to its high fat content. However, it is not advisable to cook it as it leaves a fishy taste and odor. There is no canned tuna, except for albacore and yellowfin tuna as all bluefin tunas are mainly caught for the sashimi and sushi market. Annually, at auction markets, bigtime restaurateurs pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the first catch of the season, for publicity and good luck.

Prime Sashimi or Sushi Bluefin in Issaquah

You will love our fresh and delicious bluefin tuna – as only our esteemed chef can prepare for you. Visit us at Aji Sushi, your Issaquah sushi restaurant, and experience true Japanese classics in casual atmosphere.

Facts You Probably didn’t know about Japanese Food

Japanese etiquette, chopsticks, and more…

The popularity of Japanese dishes embraces the whole known world and the cuisine is not only praised for its beautiful presentations, but also its unique flavors and tastes. A few exciting facts about Japanese food make for great conversation at the table. Aji Sushi spills a few for your delights.

Ever heard of the Japanese slurping their food while dining? It’s not bad manners to them at all. It’s a sign that you appreciate the food served to you, if you slurp. Besides, you want to cool down some hot foods before you start eating them. Another similar tidbit is this: do not leave your chopsticks straight and upright in your rice bowl. It’s not good manners. They only do that if it is in memory of a deceased loved one or is a sign of impending doom.

Did you know that you’ll find the world’s most expensive fish in Japan? Almost 80% of bluefin tuna caught in the world is used in sushi and sashimi, especially in exotic dishes. Someone paid a hefty $1.7million for the first catch of the season last 2013, the highest ever. Now as far as seafoods go, Japan is the world’s largest market for fresh, frozen, and processed seafood selling over 700,000 tonnes of seafood each year. Topping it all, the country’s food has been adjudged as one of the Top 3 best cuisines in the world by the United Nations cultural organization. The principles of preparation and eating of Japanese dishes have proved vital to the survival of Japan’s traditional culture and holistic way of life.

Sushi and Sashimi Cravings in Issaquah

When you come visit our Issaquah sushi restaurant, know that we only serve some of the finest and authentic Japanese delicacies this side of Washington. We keep tradition well amid a casual, comfortable setting, one of the best ways to enjoy sushi and sashimi is Issaquah.

The Hearty Freshwater Eel of Japan

The Japanese word “unagi” refers to freshwater eels, specifically the anguilla japonica variety native to the country. You can find this eel on the unagi nigiri and the “eel bowl” at our Issaquah Japanese restaurant. This is one of the more traditional varieties of sushi that you will commonly see with cooked meat, representing a popular choice for native diners and American sushi lovers alike.

In Japan, it’s not uncommon for a restaurant to specialize entirely in unagi-based food. Such restaurants are often easy to spot, making use of a picture of an eel to represent the Japanese character for “u-”. The meat is well loved on sushi and in “unagi-don” rice bowls.

Unagi meat is high in protein, calcium, and vitamin A. This has given the eel a reputation as a strong source of stamina. During the summer, unagi is traditionally eaten during the Day of the Ox in midsummer, when people hope to harness its stamina-boosting to help them through the hot summer days. Try some for yourself today at Aji Sushi and Grill!

The Benefits of Fish Eggs

Have you ever eaten fish eggs? Fish eggs, or roe, is a common sight in our Japanese restaurant in Issaquah. Whether they’re sprinkled across a roll or piled onto a piece of nigiri, it’s a delicious addition to any sushi. Many Americans need to work their way up to trying roe, but they’re generally glad that they did. After all, not only does roe taste great, it’s also surprisingly healthy.

As you likely already know, seafood is a great source of essential omega-3 fatty acids. These highly beneficial fats help maintain a healthy heart and circulatory system, offering a slew of important benefits. You can get a good dose of omega-3 from fatty fish like salmon and tuna, but the absolute greatest source of omega-3 is fish eggs. A minimal consumption of roe, in particular salmon roe, can easily give you your recommended serving of fatty acids. Come and make roe a bigger part of your diet at Aji Sushi today!

The Forgotten Rules of Sushi

Are you making any mistakes in your sushi-eating routine?  The answer may surprise you.  Even if you’re a veteran of the sushi menu at our Issaquah Japanese restaurant, try reading through this list of simple sushi-eating pointers to see if there’s some way to enhance your dining experience:

  • Sushi is a finger-food!  A lot of people feel more comfortable using chopsticks or even a fork, particularly with some of the messier fusion-style rolls, but it’s perfectly okay to eat sushi with your hands.

  • It’s best to eat an entire piece of sushi in one bite.  This is a good way to enjoy the full combination of flavors in the sushi, and also a good way to keep the sushi from falling apart in your hands.

  • Sushi generally comes with a side of thinly sliced ginger.  Some make the mistake of using this as a condiment, but it is actually there to cleanse the palate between sushi.

  • If you’re eating nigiri sushi, put it into your mouth upside-down so that your tongue is touching the fish instead of the rice.

  • Go easy on the soy sauce!  This can dissolve the sushi rice that is holding your sushi together, and it can also be seen as an insult to your chef.  If you’re eating nigiri sushi, remember to dip the fish in the sauce, and not the rice.

  • Be careful with your wasabi!  It can easily overpower the rest of the sushi.