The origin of sushi was a conserving method for fish. Japanese chefs developed it into the popular snack it is now, says Chang Ching, owner of Dutch sushi company Beij-Ching.
Ching visited Japan and China a few times, for research and inspiration on sushi and Asian food trends.
“The authentic Chinese and Japanese cuisines have inspired us in shaping our company. And they also inspired us to specialise in sushi.”
Making good sushi starts with top quality rice and fish, he continues. “The rice has to be sushi quality, with the right structure and stickiness. You have to be able to shape it the way you want. The rice then has to be cooked properly, and marinated, with Japanese vinegar, sugar and salt. That’s the basis for good sushi.”
Beij-Ching makes three basic shapes of sushi: nigiri (handshaped), maki nori, rolled with the filling in the middle and the seaweed (nori) outside, and ura maki, or inside out rolls, with the rice on the outside. “For example, the very popular California roll, with avocado.”
Sushi means acidified rice, Ching explains. “Its origin is a preserving method for fish, used in Japan and China. Raw fish was rolled in rice and seaweed and buried in the ground, to ferment. The rice originally was thrown away, but at some point people discovered it had taken on the taste of the fish and was very tasty. Years later Japanese chefs developed this into sushi.”
Beij-Ching produces Asian fresh products, sushi being the main one, says Ching.
“Salmon is our main ingredient. We use between 250 and 350 kilos of salmon each week, depending on demand and season. Slices for nigiri, strips for the rolls, and belly parts for marinated salmon minced meat, that we use in sushi rolls, salads and other dishes.”
Their salmon supplier is Poisson et Cuisine, from Stellendam. “They developed a smart way to produce the sizes of slices and strips we need and also for using the rest of the material, to keep the price at a good level for us. The whole chain is safeguarded, and they buy very high-quality salmon for us, not too fatty, so it doesn’t fall apart when you process it, and pre-rigor, so we can cut it very thin.”
The increase in salmon prices has had an impact on the company, says Ching.
“We had to raise our prices and we had to look at our sushi sets, to see if we could make them more economical.”
But salmon remains popular, in spite of the higher pricing. “Even supermarkets had to increase the price of smoked salmon. For us it is a necessity: it’s a popular and attractive product and it brings colour to our products, it makes sushi look attractive!”
Sushi is a year-round product, with only slight seasonal influences, Ching explains.
“We have a small increase in demand at Easter and New Years Eve. And, when it is either really hot or really cold, the demand decreases.”
Short shelf life
Sushi is of course, being a product containing raw fish, susceptible to listeria. But Beij-Ching has not had any problems on that account. “Our products, both rice and toppings, are periodically tested by an external lab. But because of our very short shelf life of only three days, the risks are fortunately not that high.”
That short shelf life period is also a big challenge, Ching explains. “We want to make sushi bar quality: cold fish and lukewarm rice. That’s how it is produced. But then you have to chill it to 7 degrees, according to Dutch health and hygiene rules. Actually, that is the reason for the three day shelf life: bacteriologically the product is still good, but the cooling is disastrous for the rice: after a few days it dries out, gets hard and suffers loss of flavor.”
Read also: ‘Salmon made sushi popular in Europe’