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Celebrating Sushi With Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto

We got the inside scoop on sushi from one of the world's experts—Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto.

 

While sushi started as a humble street food, it’s turned into a worldwide foodie favorite. The sushi roll has taken on a life of its own in the past decade, with various styles and flavors being added, such as fried chicken and dessert versions. 

Though you can find some form of sushi in every major city, few names are as synonymous with sushi and Japanese cuisine as Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. Foodies and fans can find his restaurants in some of the most prominent cities in America, like BostonLas VegasNew York CityPhiladelphiaOrlando and Waikiki. We got a look at Chef Morimoto’s take on sushi and a recipe for his Spicy Tuna Maki. 

Chef Morimoto at Morimoto Las Vegas | WhereTraveler
Chef Morimoto at Morimoto Las Vegas (Courtesy MGM Resorts)

Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto Talks Sushi

WT: What initially drew you to cooking?
Morimoto: After a shoulder injury ended my dream of becoming a professional baseball player in Japan, I began studying sushi in my hometown of Hiroshima. As a boy, I idolized the sushi chefs working quietly and surely behind the counter at the restaurant my family visited on special occasions. After studying the technique of sushi making, and at age 24, I opened my first restaurant. 

WT: The perfect sushi roll is such a work of art. What do you love best about sushi?
Morimoto: I agree - it is a work of art. I always say all sushi is worth trying. You should pay close attention to the chef’s hands as they prepare it—it truly is magic. Each piece of sushi is designed to encapsulate the perfect balance of flavors and textures, making me fall in love with it and the art of preparing it.  

WT: You have so many fantastic restaurant concepts all over the country. What is one item you always have on the menu?

Morimoto: At all my Momosan restaurants, noodles are front and center. They highlight the varieties of Japanese-style flavor-forward noodles. Guests can always expect a selection of ramen dishes ranging from traditional to spicy to unique. 

WT: What is your favorite sushi?
Morimoto: To this day, my favorite kind of sushi is temaki – it is nori rolled by hand into a cylinder or cone shape around vinegared rice and a filling. It’s the only type of sushi—perhaps the only dish of any kind, in fact—that the chef passes the dish directly to the diner. There’s a reason, of course: passing it directly to the customer is meant to encourage them to eat it immediately, so the nori is super-crispy and crackles under their teeth as she bites. 

Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto | WhereTraveler
Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto (Courtesy Momosan Boston)

Spicy Tuna Maki Recipe

Ingredients:

Bamboo rolling mat
½ Sheet sushi nori
2 T of black and white sesame seeds, toasted
1/3 C of seasoned sushi rice
1 Tsp of spicy mayo
1 ½ Tsp of thinly sliced green onion
2 Strips of bigeye tuna cut into pieces

Recipe:

  • Place sushi rice on nori in a thin, even layer.
  • Sprinkle sesame evenly onto rice and flip over rice side down.
  • Put spicy mayo in a thin line in the middle of the nori.
  • Place tuna onto the line of mayo and spread scallions evenly alongside tuna.
  • Using slightly wet hands, roll nori around ingredients.
  • Place the bamboo rolling mat centered on top of the roll and apply gentle pressure on the sides and the top.
  • Using a wet knife, cut the roll into six even pieces.

Chef Morimoto’s spicy mayo recipe: 

(From Chef’s book, “Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking”)

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 Teaspoon of tobanjan (chili bean sauce), preferably a Japanese brand
1/2 Teaspoon of toasted sesame oil
1/2 Teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 Teaspoon of freshly squeezed lime juice

Directions:

Combine the mayonnaise, tobanjan, sesame oil, lemon juice and lime juice in a small bowl and stir well. It keeps covered in the fridge for up to 2 days. 

Spicy Tuna Maki | WhereTraveler
Spicy Tuna Maki (Courtesy Momosan Boston)