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What is Edomae sushi and how does one recognise a chef who has mastered this cuisine?

Three-Michelin-starred chef Masaki Miyakawa has spent a lifetime perfecting his craft.

He left Hokkaido to train to become a sushi master. But it was his pining for home that led chef Masaki Miyakawa to become his own man.

He was at the helm of his mentor Masahiro Yoshitake’s Hong Kong outpost Sushi Shikon – and catapulted it to three-Michelin-star status within two years of opening. Returning to Hokkaido in 2014, Miyakawa opened his eponymous sushi restaurant in Sapporo, followed by Sushi Shin in Niseko. And, despite the Michelin stars to his name, he remains completely unaffected. “I am honoured, of course, but it is not something that I think about. It is not what I am about,” says the 46-year-old with a serene smile.

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To be clear, Miyakawa, who was recently in Singapore to be a guest chef at Nami Restaurant at Shangri-La Hotel, emphasises that his cuisine is not even about him. It is about the fishermen – most whom he knows by name – who have mastered the art of preserving the freshness of their catch, and in so doing, brought about more pronounced umami flavours in Edomae sushi today, compared to two decades ago. It is about the farmers who grow the different grains that he uses to craft his sushi rice, so that it attains a unique texture. It is even about the craftsmen who shaped the specially commissioned flatware used at his restaurants.

His cuisine might be a showcase of masterful techniques, perfected over time, but he executes every step with reverence to the many others who have laboured over every element he uses and prepares.

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Here’s a closer look at his cuisine – one seasoned by time, respect and a zen state of mind.

  • Spanish mackerel sushi from Sushi Shin

    01 TASTE OF TIME

    Miyakawa might specialise in Edomae sushi today, but the Hokkaido native had his first taste of it only when he went to Tokyo as an 18-year-old. While the vinegar-cured sushi shocked him initially with its salty and sour flavours, he soon came to the appreciate the style as he felt that the marinated seafood blended more harmoniously with the sushi rice. Incidentally, one of the most time-consuming elements to prepare on his menu is an aged Spanish mackerel used for his Edomae-style sushi pieces. The fish is first marinated in vinegar and salt for two hours, then smoked over straw. It is then wrapped in kelp and kept sealed in a cool place for about five days. In this process, known as kobujime, the seaweed draws the moisture out from the fish with its salt, and infuses it with its distinctive umami flavours.


    02 FINE-TUNED ADJUSTMENTS

    For optimal texture, Miyakawa makes his shari, or sushi rice, with about 80 per cent Koshihikari, which has firmer grains, and 20 per cent Hokkaido Yumepirika, which is softer and mochi-like. The proportions are also adjusted according to the quality of each harvest. To him, there is no golden topping-to-rice ratio, or strict rules on the serving temperature of each element in nigiri sushi. The only rule is harmony. He might shape a piece of shari more quickly to retain the heat of the rice, in order to match that of the tuna slices laid out at the counter. He might also use a little less rice to go with a meaty tail of prawn, and more for a delicately thin slice of kohada (gizzard shad) – so that there is harmony in the consistency of how each piece of nigiri fills the mouth.

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