They say good things come to those who wait, and that’s certainly the case with chidori-su made by Kyoto’s Murayama Zosu. The rice vinegar takes more than six months to produce, and it’s a key ingredient in making mouthwatering sushi.
The long-established manufacturer, located east of the Sanjo Ohashi Bridge over the Kamogawa river in Kyoto, supplies restaurants and homes with its popular vinegar.
“Gentle flavors are prized in Kyoto cuisine,” says Motoko Murayama, the 64-year-old wife of the company’s 10th-generation president. “Our vinegar has been nurtured by this food culture.”
“I make dishes using vinegar daily, starting with salad dressing in the morning,” adds Murayama, who loves to eat and cook. Responding to inquiries the company receives such as “What is the best way to pickle ‘rakkyo’ scallion?” she publishes recipes for dishes using vinegar on the Murayama Zosu website.
Her recipe for this week is “temaki-zushi” (hand-rolled sushi).
“All you need to do to make sushi vinegar is measure vinegar, sugar, salt and mix them. Homemade sushi rice tastes exceptional,” she says.
The easy-to-remember ratio is 1 “go” (180 ml) of vinegar for 1 “sho” (about 1.8 liter) pre-cooked rice.
The amount should be adjusted depending on whether you use a bowl or wooden tub to mix the sushi rice. Since the tub will absorb vinegar, sushi rice mixed in a bowl may taste more sour in comparison. Adjust the amount of vinegar to taste.
Sushi rice goes well with a variety of ingredients. Chopped “takuan” (pickled daikon radish), “natto” (fermented soy beans) and avocado help spice up the rolls.
“Place the ingredient on some rice, shape it into a small ball using a piece of plastic wrap, and you will get “temari-zushi” (ball sushi),” says Murayama.
It seems that certain types of sushi taste better with sweeter sushi vinegar. “Hako-zushi” (box sushi) that is popular in Western Japan and made by pressing the rice and ingredients into a wooden mold is one; “saba-zushi” (mackerel sushi) and rolled sushi are two more.
With hand-rolled sushi and “nigiri-zushi,” seafood flavors stand out when sugar is used in moderation. The right amount of sugar is the key to making perfect sushi rice.
In July, Kyoto becomes even livelier than usual with the Gion Festival. Saba-zushi is a must-have item during this season. Murayama’s mother-in-law used to make 10 saba-zushi as gifts to employees and friends.
“You yearn for sour food in summer; and when you are tired, you feel like having food with a sweet vinegar flavor. Vinegar, which you can use however you like depending on the season or your physical condition, is gentle on the body and soul,” says Murayama.
Motoko Murayama was born in Kyoto in 1952. Murayama Zosu was established more than 280 years ago during the Kyoho Era of the Edo Period (1603-1867). Motoko has been married for 39 years to Tadahiko Murayama, the 10th-generation president aged 68. She has been offering “Suteki na reshipi” (Cool recipes using vinegar) on the company website for the past three years. More than 100 dishes using vinegar are featured.
Hand-rolled sushi. Serves four to five.
4 “go” (1 go = 180 ml) rice
10 grams dried kelp
2 Tbsp sake
Sushi vinegar (80 cc vinegar, 2 to 3 Tbsp sugar, 2 and 1/2 tsp salt)
Sashimi of sea bream (tai), tuna (maguro), salmon, deep-water shrimp (ama-ebi), amberjack (hamachi), squid and others
Salmon roe (ikura)
Full-size dried laver
Soak rice for 30 minutes to one hour before cooking and drain using sieve.
Add 720 cc water, sake and dried kelp to rice and leave for more than 10 minutes. Cook rice. Do not leave rice for too long after it is done.
Mix ingredients for sushi vinegar, heat and melt. When using microwave, heat for about 1 minute at 600W.
Empty cooked rice immediately into wooden sushi tub, pour sushi vinegar in circular motion while still hot. Mix swiftly in cutting motion. Cover with tightly-squeezed wet cloth to keep rice from drying
Lay sashimi, shiso leaves and other ingredients nicely on dish and place wasabi on the side. Quarter dried laver.