December 15, 2019
The technique of ‘ageing’ fish
I recall the first time that I sat at one of those big sushi bars in Tokyo. As the nigiris kept appearing, each delicately prepared by the itamae, I was filled with excitement and bafflement. What on earth had I been eating until now? I was experiencing totally new flavours, a novel acidic touch to the rice, and nothing like what I had ever tried until then. But without a doubt, the most impressive thing was the difference between the flavours of the fish that topped each mouthful of rice. Every texture, every flavour could be perfectly differentiated. I invite you to take part in this exercise: sit at a sushi bar with your eyes closed and try to distinguish the fish of each nigiri; you’ll see how hard it is to differentiate them. Of course, you’ll notice differences, but it would be very hard to correctly guess the exact species or even something very similar. After visiting Japan, I realised that this was due to various factors. The main one, and what I had been wrong about until then, was the way the raw fish was treated. I had always believed that freshness was the key to success. Wrong. Yes, the freshness of the fish and its death on the fishing boat influence the flavour, but the distinguishing factor is how it is treated after being cleaned. That is the moment when the subtle evolutions of flavour and texture start. And that is where Koji Kimura has broken moulds, opening up new paths. The word ‘ageing’ has even acquired negative connotations – at least in my mind – due to its incorrect use, when in fact it should refer to the way fish is stored at a particular temperature and length of time so that its flavour becomes more nuanced, it retains its freshness, but gains in texture and personality along the way. Each fish, each cut, require specific times, treatment and temperatures. Kimura works with unusual fish and wraps them in paper which absorbs the dampness and prevents them from rotting; a technique that allows the fish to be kept for up to three months. Thanks to Pablo Alomar (the great gastronomic link between Japan and Spain), we will be able to enjoy the legendary Kimura taking about this technique in detail at Madrid Fusión. That said, and to be able to compare this first hand, I suggest you buy your plane ticket for Tokyo. You won’t regret it.