Edomae Sushi Explained

Edomae Sushi Explained

2024 年 Jun 03 日James Gallagher

Edomae is a somewhat of a buzzword in food culture right now. It’s used apparently by ‘people in the know’ when talking about sushi, but what exactly does it mean?  You could be forgiven for being confused because it actually contains several meanings.

What is Edomae Sushi?

Simply put, “Edomae sushi” is a traditional type of sushi that originally used fresh ingredients from the Tokyo Bay area, such as eel, kohada (gizzard shad), tuna, and blood clams, among others. “Edo” is the old name for Tokyo, and Edomae means “in front of Edo,” referring to Tokyo Bay.

The Broader Culture of Edomae Sushi

However, Edomae sushi has come to represent more than just the use of local ingredients. It embodies a broader culture of sushi that developed in “Edo” (Tokyo) during the Edo Period (1603-1867), encompassing various fish filleting techniques, recipes, standards for decoration and serving, and even the uniform of the sushi chef.

The Iconic Edomae Chef

When people say “Edomae,” I envisage a chef standing behind a wooden counter and display fridge wearing a business shirt and tie under a freshly pressed white smock, with a white apron tied expertly in a compact knot. They will be wearing a white chef's cap and holding a long and thin ‘Yanagi’ knife, which is used for slicing sashimi and sushi fish toppings. If the chef ticks these boxes, you know that you are in good “Edomae” hands. They are reverently revered to in Japan as “Itamae.” Remember, “Edomae” is a culture of sushi. There are rules that must be adhered to and traditions to be upheld. Edomae traditions.


The Skill of Itamae

‘Itamae’ (expert sushi chefs) are comfortable working with around 20 different types of fish. For filleting, they deploy a knife known as a “Deba - bocho,” which is shorter and has more heft than the “Yanagi”  knife. Although Edomae chefs make it look easy, it takes years to learn to fillet with confidence. Itamae must also master slicing fish for sashimi and the sushi topping, known as “Neta”.  (Neta is also used colloquially to describe ‘contents’ in Japan).


Mastery of Decorative Cutting

Itamae are also experts at decorative cutting of vegetables. The simple daikon radish that sashimi is often served on is actually a feat of astonishing skill. Using a 20 cm rectangular blade known as a “Usuba - bocho,” Itamae can cut a 10cm radish barrel into a paper-thin reel up to 3 meters long. They then layer it and thinly chop it into a stringy form upon which sashimi is presented. It has a bouncy airy quality which is a result of the fine slicing.


The Art of Sushi Rice

Some uninitiated describe sushi as “fish on rice.” But even the simplest of sushi rice preparations contains a recipe mixing vinegar, salt, and sugar, balanced in as many combinations as there are sushi chefs. Many chefs will blend more than one type of vinegar and will spend years developing a signature flavor. The true “Edomae” flavor of rice tends to emphasize the vinegar and balance sweetness and saltiness. Recently, Edomae chefs have been using ‘Akazu’ (Red vinegar) from artisanal vinegar breweries to achieve a more luxurious flavor. At Ezo Seafoods Fresh we blend two types of 'Akazu' red vinegar.

The Variety of Edomae Recipes

Itamae will also have a range of recipes for other sushi staples, such as the Zuke -- a classic preparation for tuna, where the fish is marinated in a sweet soy sauce mixture before serving. This technique not only enhances the flavor but also helps to preserve the fish. (A typical recipe would include 4 parts Strong Soy Sauce, 1 part Sake, and 1 part Mirin). Tamagoyaki, Kanpyo, Shiitake, and Inari are some of the other well-known sushi that require specific flavoring. 


So whether it is a sushi bento box you pick up at Ezo Seafoods Fresh in Niseko or a meal at a high-end sushi counter in Tokyo, all sushi is influenced by the principles of Edomae sushi. At Ezo Seafoods you can be assured that the sushi you are eating incorporates the traditions, flavors and quality of the highest standard. 

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