Sushi for Vegetarians

SUSHI IROHA

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Why is it that the best places deserve the name of “kakureya/Hidden spots” in this country?
After all, you need some courage to try and entice customers away from their usual haunts.
Or is it because you simply have a lot of confidence?
Mr. Mamoru Miyaji and his sweet mother, Fusae, certainly deserve all the praise and fame for having offered first-class local products and creations in their tiny establishment for the last 34 years.
Sushi Iroha was originally opened by Mrs. Miyaji as a traditional sushi restaurant very close to the sea. Ten years ago her son, having spent a few years learning his chef skills at various establishments, took over under the guidance of his dame and added sushi made exclusively with vegetables grown in the area. Obtaining such produce after all is not so difficult as the Hamamatsu-Iwata vegetables growers are famous in the whole country. But he certainly needed all his savoir-faire to accomodate them.
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On Friday, January 18th, I took the opportunity to visit Sushi Iroha as it stands only two stations away from my university. Having gone off at Toyoda JR Station I had to take a taxi (1,000 yen) as I had no clue as to which bus to ride.
I arrived just as it was opening. A good strategy as the place sits only 7 guests and is quickly full unless you had previously reserved your seat, a must on weekends.
Mr. Miyaji is a very friendly and immensely knowledgeable gentleman who will be happy to answer any questions, however tricky.
Not only his ingredients are local, whenever posiible as demonstrated by the succulent kinmeidai/golden-eyed seabream I savoured with the tuna “akami”, but he also has the whole range of sake made by Senju Brewery in Iwata City:
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Tamaran is actually a private brand used for “atsukan”
Shochu fans are not forgotten as they can enjoy an extravagant kome/rice shochu called Inaizumi from the same brewer:
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Ladies also can please themselves with a great umeshu, too!
This said, I chose a junmai sake before ordering the vegetable sushi set I had come for!
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Incidentally all vegetables are cooked or marinated, some as far as two days in advance. Moreover, Mr. Miyaji uses only salt of his own making by slowly heating sea water from Yaizu for 48 hours!
The above vegetables are from top to bottom and left to right:
Konnyaku/Devil’s Tongue Tuber
Celery marinated in Amazu/sweet vinegar and pickled Japanese plums
Shiro negi/White leek
Na no Hana/Rape Blossoms
Gobo/Burdock roots
Satsuma Imo/Sweet yams
Daikon/Long Japanese radish
All absolutely perfect! I’m not a vegetarian, less a vegan, but I certainly would not mind becoming one if served that kind of food!

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Next I was served a sublime creation concocted with Ebine Imo/Ebine Tuber served mille-feuilles style intersped with sushi rice and presented with dashes of olive oil, seame oil/goma abura and soy sauce/shoyu. Enough to satisfy a hungry gourmet!

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To top it all, I was served another of Mr. Miyaji’s creations, which would please anyone with a sweet tooth!
Hot pudding. The top half being a traditional cream pudding, the bottom half sweat meat/anko, the whole decorated with local strawberry!

Who said sushi does not make full? I certainly was, and I was doubly thankful when Mr. Miyaji told me not to bother another taxi as he offered me a lift! (the bill was more than reaonable!)

Sushi Iroha
Iwata City, Kusazaki, 116-4
Tel.: 0538-35-7159
Opening hours: 11:30~13:30; 17:00~21:30
Closed on Wednesdays
Reservations advisable especially for lunch and weekends
HOMEPAGE (Japanese)
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Here are other very typical examples of sushi fit for Vegetarians and even vegans!
So next time you are planning to eat sushi, come armed with your knowledge and tease your favourite sushi chef with it!

Top picture:
From right to left, top to bottom:
Yuuba (tofu sheets), Takenoko (bamboo shoot), Myoga (ginger sprout), Gobo (burdock roots)
Ki no mi (leaf vegetable variety), Awafu (cooked tofu), Kamo Nasu (pickled eggplant/aubergine variety), Hakusai Maki (Chinese cabbage roll)

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From top to bottom:
Sugiku no Ha Maki ((pickled chrysanthemum plant roll), Kabu Tsukemono (pickled turnip), Takenoko (bamboo shoot)
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Sushi for vegetarians! Can you name them all?

From right to left, top to bottom:
Yuuba, Takenoko, Shooga, Zenmai;
Ki no mi, Awafu, Kamo Nasu, Hakusai Maki

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Except for the bottom left (Thin leeks),
all sushi are made with Buckwheat Sprouts

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From top to bottom:
Takenoko, Kabu Tsukemono, Sugiku no Hamaki

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Rape blossoms/”Na no Hana”
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I thought that since the first message received about this blog concerned vegetarian sushi, it is only fair that the first introduction to a seasonal ingredient to sushi should a matter of joy for Vegetarians (incidentally I am not a vegetarian). Moreover, vegetarians will have little excuse to refuse an invitation to a sushi bar/restaurant any longer!

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“Rape Blossoms” (a strange name if there ever was!), or Na no Hana in Japanese, are Spring plants used both for their edibility when young and later for their oil pressed out of their tiny seeds. The same flowers are used in Eurpe and America for their oil and also their decorative value in gardens and parks.
When you buy rape blossoms (usually sold in bunches), check that the bottom end of their stems haven’t dried out. Incidentally this also apllies to green asparaguses which can prepared in almost the same exact manner.
First drop them in a pot of slightly salted water jut before boiling point for as long as you would do for fresh spinach. One minute maximum. Then transfer them immediately into a bowl of cold water to stop them cooking and preserve their colour.
Drain and gently press water out of them. Fold them inside kitchen paper for a few minutes to take as much as water out as possible.
You can arrange them on “nigiri”, “gunkan”, “maki” or simply as a slad appetizer. Season them to your taste, although they are their best added with crushed sesame seeds dressing (“goma tare” in Japanese). Before arranging them as sushi, it might be better to mix them with a bit of such dressing, unless you wish to go for their real taste and paste the rice with a little wasabi first. A tad of lemon juice would go weel with it, too. If you do not use “goma tare”, just sprinkle some roasted sesame seeds on top!

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