Making good sushi depends on a number of things, but for Silla Bjerrum, founder of British restaurant chain Feng Sushi, where her ingredients come from is key.
“I serve a lot of fish. I buy a lot of fish,” she explains. “Ten percent of my turnover is spent on buying fish, so I think I have a duty of care to the fish and the people who eat the fish.”
Each year the award-winning chef teaches small groups of enthusiastic foodies traditional and not-so-traditional sushi-making skills in one of her London restaurants.
From maki rolls to more daring “inside-out” rolls, she offers helpful tips to like how to wash sushi rice (at least 10 to 12 times!) and how covering your sushi-rolling mat in plastic wrap will make it easier to clean up later.
For her, a variety of factors make up ecologically-friendly fish but one of the most vital is sourcing.
While I roll haphazard-looking California rolls during one of her classes, Bjerrum poses several questions to consider when purchasing fish: Is it farmed? Where is it sourced from? Is that source sustainable?
To reduce the carbon footprint of her ingredients, Bjerrum says that the majority of the fish used in Feng Sushi kitchens is from the United Kingdom. She looks abroad only if she can’t find a supplier closer to home.
Salmon is one of the mostly commonly used ingredients in sushi-making and, over the past decade, Bjerrum has built a relationship with Loch Duart salmon farm on the west coast of Scotland.
She says these fish are the best tasting because they are reared in sea pens at low volumes, making them leaner and fitter, and are fed fish meal made from fish caught in unpolluted waters.
With shellfish like scallops, Bjerrum recommends, if possible, sourcing produce from day boats. These are boats that go to sea for a few days and fish in sustainably designated waters before landing the catch back to sell later that day.
Bjerrum also recommends branching out from tried-and-tested fish like salmon and tuna and experimenting with varieties that are in plentiful supply locally.
Using more vegetables in sushi is another way to be more eco-friendly, says Bjerrum. While this is not strictly traditional, the addition of avocado, chives, pickled ginger and rocket leaves to a maki roll is an unusual and delicious alternative.
“We need to be realistic,” says Bjerrum. “Why have meat or fish seven days a week? We do need a balanced diet. And I do think that is the beauty of sushi. I think that it is nice to be inventive with sushi.”
After a day-long lesson, my bag is packed with enough sushi to feed six people, all made by me.
It’s a shock there is so much because it has all come from one scallop and a single portion of salmon and tuna.
Bjerrum says that this is the great sushi secret: “I try and teach in the class to buy really good quality (fish) and have a little amount because it goes a long way. The good thing with sushi is that it yields a lot.”
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