The global sushi craze is adding pressure to our seas, not just because of the increase in seafood consumption, but because it generally relies upon on a handful of already threatened marine species – in particular tuna, salmon and eel. So, this year, Slow Fish has a sushi bar too – one that challenges us to address the question of how can we continue to eat this popular dish without causing great strain on the ocean’s dwindling resources.
The Sushi Island is the idea of students from the University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG) Slow Food Convivium, who wanted to bring this issue to Slow Food’s international sustainable fish event - being held in the Italian port city of Genoa this weekend. Together with chefs Kiyoshi Hayamizu and Katzoumi Ota they are running regular one-hour workshops over the four-day event, teaching visitors how to select alternative sushi species that have similar sensory qualities but much healthier green credentials.
“Since sushi has gone global it has been completely devalued,” said Stefano Ferrante, UNISG student and Slow Food member. “You can go to sushi bars and pay 20 euros for all you can eat sushi. But when we pay pennies for our sushi, we don’t justify the chef’s skills, the fisher’s hard work, or the flavor and freshness of the fish itself. At Slow Fish, we want to show that we don’t need to stop eating sushi if we can learn to do it well. We need to give it back its value, eat less, and stop using endangered fish.”
The UNISG students start the workshops with a tour of the main Slow Fish marketplace, identifying examples of good, clean and fair alternatives to the most commonly used fish for sushi. Producers talk about how their fish is caught and about is culinary qualities and how to use it best in preparing sushi and sashimi.
Back at the Sushi Island, the workshops continue with a cooking demonstration – today Chef Hayamizu is using Atlantic bonito as a substitute for bluefin tuna, due to its deep red flesh and rich flavor. “Atlantic bonito is not so different to bluefin in terms of preparation. I always prefer to use fish that are not endangered and my clients always love it,” he said. As participants tasted his sushi, other examples of local species that can work well were given, including horse mackerel, pompano or trout, which can be easily substituted for salmon.
The workshop also emphasized how simply switching species, is not the only factor - if we start using one species instead of bluefin tuna then we will exhaust that too. We need to choose fish based on factors such as their size, seasonality, locality, how they are fished, as well as their abundance. It’s a more complex answer, but an important message to remember and a good, responsible fishmonger can always help.
“All the suggestions we are giving today are delicious, seasonal, local and better for the environment,” said Ferrante. “If you use something like Atlantic bonito to replace bluefin tuna, the difference in taste is minimal, but the difference in your impact on the marine world is huge.”
For more information on Slow Fish, visit the website: www.slowfish.it
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Photo by Carla Ranicki