Sunday, March 25, 2012

IKIZUKURI=Eaten Alive!

They say fresh is best. Well, it doesn't get any fresher than this...

IKIZUKURI is live sashimi. Not a typo. "Live", as in "not yet dead". Usually fish, however squid, shrimp or an unfortunate octopus may also find itself plucked from a tank, sliced, quartered and served "reassembled" to waiting guests. Usually the Chef is careful to leave the organs and internal structure intact. The body is filleted, quivering, and ready to be devoured even as the heart beats on...

Red snapper ikizukuri. After, the head, bones and skin are used as well

To many this may seem barbaric and certainly some Japanese are also uncomfortable with "ikizukuri". Not something you'll see on the menu at the next PETA fundraiser to be sure. The goal from the Chef's point of view is to present the sashimi as fresh as possible. In a strange way, it's perhaps an attempt to show the ingredient/creature respect by serving it as delicious (fresh) as possible. The ultimate sacrifice made for the greater culinary good?

Squid, shrimp and lobster are also served in ths manner

Often the head, bones and other parts of the fish are simmered or used to make a hot pot. So rarely is anything wasted. Even the skin and fins may be toasted and eaten.

A Snapper's simmered (and now very dead) head
Eating the living is not unique to Japan. "Yin/Yang Fish" is now banned in Taiwan but still popular in mainland China. A live fish is deep fried from the head down and served immediately. The "live head" shows how very fresh the fish is. Personally, I'm ok taking the Chef's word for it....

"Drunken shrimp" are another Chinese delicay. Large prawns are soused in liquor before being consumed. Being drunk is said to make them more amenble to being eaten...

In Korea, "Sannakji" involves consuming the tentacles of live chopped octopus. Its food that "sticks to your ribs"...and your chopsticks....and everything else. Every year several people choke to death eating the dish. Even baby octopus don't go down (your throat) without a fight...

Are the above examples of "extreme freshness" too much for Canadian diners? Possibly. However we still slurp back live oysters by the plate full at restaurants from coast to coast to coast....

Sanbiki is not looking to incorporate "ikizukuri" onto our menu anytime soon! But our guests are often interested in learning more about Japanese cusine and culture. We've got many cook books, Japanese magazines and kids books available at the restaurant for you to read. And we are always eager for more topics to research and blog about!

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Every cuisine has at least one, often many. Call them dumplings, potstickers or perogies, they are all delicious little packages of yumminess. Usually they're savoury but sometimes sweet. You'll find them pan fried, deep fried or steamed. In Japan they're"gyoza". Gyoza fans are hard core. Tokyo has a "Gyoza Stadium" where you can sample hundreds of different varieties...

Sanbiki is no gyoza stadium! But we make our gyoza by hand from a Tokyo friend's recipe.

SoonJa makes gyoza by hand in our open kitchen. In Korea, similar dumplings are called "mandu"
Circular pieces of flour dough are filled with a mixture of blanched cabbage, Chinese chives ("Niira") pork and seasonings. The wrapper is then folded over and the edges pinched to keep the stuffing inside.

When customers order, the gyoza are placed flat side down in a hot pan with a bit of oil and left uncovered. The bottom crisps up to a golden brown. Then water is added and the pan is covered as the gyoza continue to cook through. When they are plump and juicy, they slide out of the pan and get served with a simple sesame sour sauce made from soy, sesame oil, vinegar etc.

Want quick and easy? Not a problem! Gyoza make a great takeout snack, and we have them at Mori Mori. A minute or so in the microwave and they are ready to go...

Many frozen options exist as well. Spicy Korean kim chi flavour, pork, seafood, or veggie are all available. Cook them from frozen in a pan (same method as described above at Sanbiki). Some are precooked and microwaveable. Check the label for best results!

More dumpling posts to follow...Have you tried Chinese shu mai or har gow ? In Korea, mandu is the name of the dumpling game. Tibetens have "mo-mo". Parlez vous francais? Can you say "Quenelle"? Stay tuned for more! I do love my research work...burp!

Thursday, March 15, 2012


"A mouth from front to back" Or so Aristotle thought when he described the sea urchin in his "History of Animals". A long time ago. And they have quite the mouth. Filled with self-sharpening teeth, they can chew through coral, stone and pretty much anything else that gets in their way. And they do move (albeit not terribly fast) on many tiny hidden feet.

It doesn't get fresher than this!
"Uni" is usually translated as "sea urchin roe" In fact, its the "gonads"(that's right; the testicles and/or ovaries...) not just the eggs which are consumed. Uni is served up in Japan, Korea and coastal areas of Spain, Portugal and other countries. Almost always in a raw preparation. In Japan, nigiri sushi or sashimi is very popular.

Uni nigiri sushi is usually served "gunkan"("battleship"shape) style

Winter is considered the best season in Japan and Canada. At its best, uni tastes something like the ocean smells. Slightly salty, but clean and fresh. The texture is buttery but firm, and melts wonderfully in your mouth.

BC is blessed with an abundant, well managed uni fishery. It's taking time for Kamloops palates to warm to the taste and texture of uni, but we've managed a few converts!

A few fun uni facts too interesting to ignore....

Sea urchins are humans closest relative in the inverterbrate world and we share more than 30% of the same genetic make up.

It appears that sea urchins have one of the most highly developed immune systems humans have studied. Researchers hoping to cure Alzheimers and Parkinsons disease as well as cancer are very interested in uni!

Some red sea urchins have lived to two hundred years old!

They've got no brain...but they've got very great tasting gonads! And Sanbiki's got them, but only at certain times and limited quantities to ensure top quality.

More curious culinary blogs to come....

Sunday, March 11, 2012


A bento is a Japanese-style lunch box. Not just for kids, bento are enjoyed by everyone and can be found all over Japan. Pick one up at the train station, where they are referred to as Ekiben; "eki"=station. You'll pay around 1000 yen (about $12) and have a varied and delicious meal for the ride to or from work. If you are indeed living in Japan that is probably how you will be spending most of your time. Going to work. Working. Working overtime, drinking with co-workers after work, and going home to sleep. All rested and ready guessed!

In a restaurant, bento are often served in beautiful black laquer boxes called Shokado Bento. Similar to the disposable take out bento boxes, there will be a variety of different foods displayed in multiple compartments. However Shokado Bento will often include local, seasonal delicacies and the presentation will be more elaborate.

Care to eat a (Hello) Kitty for lunch? A Japanese Mom can show you how. "Charaben" are bentos for kids with food items arranged to resemble popular animation or cartoon characters. Charaben can be outrageously detailed with moms battling for bento supremacy.

Sanbiki's bento boxes may not look quite as spectacular as that! They are however, popular with Kamloops customers who haven't got a lot of time, but crave variety at lunch and want it fast and fresh. Our $10 Sushi Set is the most popular, with cali/dynamite rolls, salads and tempura. The Chicken Bento is a good hot option with rice, sushi, tempura and sides. A vegetarian option is always available, alongside our "Variety Bento". Raw foodies love the Sashimi Bento with sustainably-sourced Wild Sockeye and BC Albacore tuna.
Bento are available for take out from the restaurant as well. Call us at 250 377 8857 and tell us when you'd like to pick it up and we'll have it waiting. No time to order ahead? Grab a sushi pack from next door at Mori Mori's Asian Deli. Freshly made sushi, rice bowls and appies starting at $2.50! And we deliver!

Thanks to Fadamoranga and vingt_deux for the amazing bento pics! More photos and postings from our Sanbiki/Mori Mori team coming soon...

Saturday, March 10, 2012


My perfect home...

I am neither a powder nor a paste. I am more like a water cabbage. Pollution in Japan's once pristine rivers and streams pretty much wiped me out. Clean, moving water is essential to my survival. Scarcity increases price, and my case is no different. You have probably never encountered me, even at your fanciest Japanese restaurant. I am now more expensive then the seafood I was originally intended to garnish.

Real wasabi root with traditional sharkskin grater

For the price you pay, you won't want to waste me! I'm delicious from the tips of my leaves, down my stalks to the tip of my spicy hot root. If you have the opportunity, add some wasabi leaves to a salad for a kick of pepper and heat.

Wasabi root is best known as a side to sushi and sashimi. Real wasabi starts to lose it's heat as soon as it is grated. That's why in Japan, your Itamae (Sushi Chef) will add the wasabi himself and sneak it in between the rice and the fish in your sushi. He knows how much you need for the fish you have ordered, and limiting the wasabi's exposure to air preserves it's heat and flavour. But even in Japan, it's rare to get the good (real) stuff.

There's nothing really wrong with my "imposters". They pack a punch and will give you the necessary quick sinus sear. Unlike chilis, wasabi's burn goes up through your nose, not down your throat. While intense up front, it fades quickly. Like real wasabi, wasabi mixes contain high amounts of sulforaphane which is believed to have cancer-fighting properties.

You can find many different "wasabi" powders and pastes at Mori Mori Grocery or your local Asian grocery. Wasabi mayo is a great dip for veggies or tempura yam fries. Wasabi flavoured snacks are also popular. Wasabi peas, rice crackers and seaweed are common.

I've made some influential friends over the years. My leaves feature prominently on the family crest of one of Japan's most poweful clans.

Tokugawa "kumon"(family crest)
Tokugawa Ieyasu was Japan's first Shogun and responsible for unifying modern Japan and moving the capital to Tokyo. Wasabi was presented to him as a gift in the early 1600s. He was impressed. Rumour has it that those who grew and consumed me recieved his protection...

Keep checking back for more on Japan's fascinating food and culture!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Tuna Time!

Mmmmm...Scombidae. Most of the the "family" tastes good. But we're talking! Scombidae Thunnus in plain English means "tuna". Try it seared or grilled. Need cheap and easy? Straight out of a can, mix the "chicken of the sea" with mayo and slap it between slices of fresh bread. But if you can get the right quality, cut and freshness; serve tuna simply. And serve it raw.

Sanbiki's Big Eye (red) Tuna Sashimi is sustainably sourced

In Japan that means sashimi or sushi. Sashimi=slices of raw fish by itself, while sushi involves seasoned sushi rice. Don't soak it in soy! A splash will do, with a teeny bit of wasabi or citrus to let the fresh flavours shine through. Tuna rolls are traditionally called "Tekka Maki". They are named for the gambling dens (Tekka) where they first gained popularity. Rumour has it gamblers liked the fact that the seaweed wrapped on the outside of the sushi roll stopped rice from sticking to their fingers. The games could continue while they ate!

Sanbiki's Tuna Roll uses BC Albacore (white) Tuna

If price is not a consideration, Bluefin tuna is the first choice for a Japanese Sushi Chef. The red meat is tender and the fatty belly (toro) is melt in your mouth delicious. Toro is divided into different "grades" depending on how much fat is present and how well-marbled the meat is.

Earler this year a single bluefin tuna fetched a record-breaking $736, 000. The number of large Bluefin tuna left has dwindled and scarcity has driven prices sky high. Many Bluefin populations are considered to be endangered. Sadly, this does not seem to be slowing demand. Mr Kimura, who owns a chain of sushi restaurants in Japan, poses below with his $736, 000 fish. That works out to roughly $90/piece for nigiri sushi.

Fortunately, there are sustainable options when it comes to sushi quality tuna. The seas off the coast of our beautiful B.C. support a healthy population of Albacore tuna. The fishery is well managed and supports many coastal communities. Albacore tuna is a white tuna with a mild flavour and soft texture. They can grow very large, but in BC they are usually caught under the age of five. There are concerns over mercury and other contaminant levels in large fish such as tuna. Catching them earlier means less toxins have bioaccumulated in their flesh. But they are still rich in omega-3 fats (the good kind!)

Chef Hiro cuts Albacore at Sanbiki

Sanbiki buys the quartered tuna and our Chefs cut and trim the fish themselves. We sell precut tuna and salmon frozen next door at Mori Mori for making sushi at home. But we like to keep the quality as high as possible in the restaurant.

The fins and skin are removed and then the loin roughly cut. It is trimmed to order for sashimi and sushi orders.

Red tuna lovers need not go without. Many Big Eye and Ahi tuna fisheries are well managed and sustainable. There are now several excellent "sustainable seafood guides" which can be downloaded for free on the internet. Check the Vancouver Aquarium's website for Oceanwise guides that will help you identify the best seafood choices for the oceans. And look for the Oceanwise (fishhead) logo on restaurant menus. The program has recently gone nationwide with over 3000 partner restaurants and groceries. And Sanbiki was the first Japanese restaurant in Canada to join!

More soon!