Preface: Welcome to Beijing, China. This will be the first post related to my current whereabouts. I must first sincerely apologize to readers & subscribers for such late update. I have been enrolled in a summer Chinese Language program for ~2 weeks now & it has certainly been intensive.
Will try to blog more often! Last time I was in Shandong, China (2014) & I did not blog for several months. That was a huge shame since Shandong food (鲁菜) is one of China’s Eight Culinary Traditions (八大菜系).
In any case, I have access to my website in China this time around, so Beijing food (京彩), here we go!
I’m going to be different & start my Beijing food series with Japanese food. Last weekend, we went out for lunch & visited the Beijing Zoo. Somehow, we ended up @a Chinese-operated Japanese chain restaurant called “Sushi Express” (争鲜回转寿司) Why this place? 1. the store exterior looked very aesthetically pleasing 2. the fish looked very fresh 3. it was affordable (6 yuan 元 per plate) 4. conveyor belt food!! (くるくる寿司)
Just to give you an idea of the Sushi Express dining experience:
The food rotate around & around on small plates w/ hygienic plastic covers (which is apparently not practiced in the super-neat Japan). There is 100s (exaggeration?) of menu selections to choose from: desserts to sashimi to teriyaki chicken.
Every station is provided w/ tea cups, unlimited green tea (weak) bags, self-serve hot water (which appears from a mysterious source) & the usual Japanese or sushi condiments. They also provide 1 pack of wasabi & sanitary tissue for each customer. The overall feel is super clean & efficient.
From bottom to top: grilled clam nigiri sushi, cream-filled matcha & cocoa mochi, pudding & inari sushi filled w/ cucumber & crab meat.
Turns out the inari sushi also contain fish roe (mentaiko). Far back: futo maki (giant maki)
I’m pretty sure this is kurage (jelly fish) in sweet & salty sauce. Meh. Not a great choice.
No idea what kind of fish but tasted like unagi (eel) & salmon or mackerel(?) aburi sushi (grilled part-raw sushi)
Some kind of maguro sashimi (tuna). So fresh the blood bleeds into radish.
Salmon aburi sushi. Btw, their mayo is super ^%%R$%^&%^* I don’t know how they make it, but it makes me hate myself for liking it so much…
Hokkigai nigiri sushi (surf clam)
Yellow herring w/ kazunoko (preserved fish roe) sashimi
Gunkan-maki w/ curried crab filling. Meh.
Gunkan-maki w/ crab, squid & cucumber. Not so great.
In terms of taste, it’s a gamble. The aburi sushi, inari sushi, sashimi, maki & desserts were the best imo. The gunkan-maki, cold dishes like kurage or tako (octopus) in sauce weren’t so great. Over all:
What about the nutrition? Many people tend to think of sushi or Japanese food (for that matter) as a healthy food. Is it really?
Sushi in itself is a very clean, low-fat food containing mostly good fats like omega-3 fatty acids (from cold-water fish), plenty of minerals like zinc, iron, phosphorus (most seafood), vitamins (i.e. vitamin Bs), in addition to protein & carb. These are many of the nutrients you need to grow/repair your cells & maintain high energy levels.
A typical 8-piece salmon maki roll (w/ salmon, cucumber, avocado, rice & nori) may contain something like:
26 g protein
62 g carbs
10 g fat
cholesterol 18% (daily recommendation)
6 g fiber
Vitamin A 27% (daily requirement)
Vitamin C 17%
Vitamin Bs >100%
Vitamin K 30%
To put simply: all kinds of sushi, especially those w/ a high filling : rice ratio, will contain a lot of nutrients. The kind of nutrients & amounts will vary depending on the filling.
Is sushi fattening?
Any kinds of food (except for maybe vegetables?) can be fattening (& potentially harmful) if consumed in large amounts. Most sushi (8 pieces) tend to range between 400 – 700 calories. These are similar amounts of calories comparing to a typical meal.
However, sushi tend to be less filling than a meal of (for example) teriyaki chicken w/ rice. This is because sushi, especially maki rolls tend to contain less protein & more rice. The amount of vegetables use tend to also be less, resulting in less fibre content per serve. Fibre is important in promoting satiety, digestive & heart health. Sushi on the other hand, is also high in simple carbs which combined w/ small amounts of fibre, can result in high blood sugar.
When high amounts of sugar in the blood stream is not used, they will quickly become stored as fat.
We also don’t often pair sushi w/ vegetable dishes, unlike in typical Japanese rice dishes, which often come w/ vegetables, meat & sides of pickles & miso soup. As a result, we tend to combine sushi meals w/ less nutritious sides or beverages i.e. sweetened iced tea or diet soda. This can possibly lead to weight gain.
In fact, sushi is not a meal Japanese people indulge in on a daily basis. Sushi is often saved for special occasions, parties & consumed in small amounts. I would advise Japanese food lovers to turn more towards healthier dishes like udon soup, soba, grilled fish w/ rice, Japanese hot-pot, donburi, etc., & only have sushi every once in a while.
Many kinds of sushi consist of raw fish. The most prized raw fish are usually large marine predators, such as tuna. Not only do large marine predators may harbor plenty of parasites, they may also contain high levels of mercury.
Mercury can be very toxic when consumed in large amounts (usually gradually & regularly over a period of time) & it can interfere w/ body functions like blood pressure, heart beat & create skin discoloration. Pregnant, nursing women & young children should avoid raw or cooked large fish completely (list of mercury levels in fish here).
Raw fish will always have the potential to contain some parasites i.e. flukes, roundworm, tapeworms. These can wreck some havoc in your body. Luckily, most high-quality raw fish we eat today have been flash-frozen ( −60 °C) as soon as they are caught or kept frozen until they arrive at the restaurant. This maintain both the freshness of the fish & kill the parasites.
As have mentioned in the previous part, it’s best to keep sushi/sashimi for certain occasions. You might just get lucky one day.
Sushi Express’ map & details here: http://www.dianping.com/shop/6048469