Kazari-sushi (飾り寿司) are "decorative sushi". The term was coined by Ken Kawasumi, the founder of the Kawasumi Kazari Sushi Association and the author of not only the Sushi Art Cookbook reviewed here, but also the Encyclopedia of Sushi Rolls. Mr Kawasumi is the principal lecturer at the Japanese Sushi Institute in Tsukiji, Tokyo. His sushi credentials are without doubt impressive. And so is his cookbook, a treasure trove for anyone with the slightest culinary or academic interest in sushi.
Kazari sushi are both traditional and decorative sushi made into artful shapes: saikuzushi (layered sushi arranged with rice tinted in different colours), nigirizushi (sushi nuggets made of a bed of hand-formed rice and toppings), chirashizushi ("scattered sushi", rice in a box or bowl and seaweed on top), and oshizushi ("pressed sushi", similar to nigirizushi, but formed with an oshibako, a wooden mold). Skimming through the rich illustrations, one cannot help feeling that these spectacular creations are too exquisite to be devoured.
The book is a complete guide, starting with the fundamentals of preparing sushi: the basic ingredients, rice and nori (seaweed sheets), as well as natural ingredients needed to colour the sushi rice red, yellow, green, brown, black, and white; the utensils: sushi mats of various sizes, cutting boards with printed measurements, scales, rulers, bamboo skewers, craft scissors, as well as nori punches. One chapters deals with matters of hygiene, rolling and cutting techniques, and the preparation of sushi rice, including meticulous instructions for different types of sushi rice: mild, standard, sweet, and strong. Since some of the required ingredients may be hard to find outside Japan, the author provides thorough instructions on how to substitute them: ikura (salmon roe) can be replaced with red caviar, fish sausage (kamaboko) with hot dogs, rice wine (mirin) with sweet sherry, etc.
Chapter 1 starts out with basic sushi rolls and simple shapes, such as square rolls with tuna (kakumaki), tringle rolls (sankakumaki), and raindrop rolls (shizukumaki). Each roll is accompanied by step-by-step instructions and detailed illustrations (measurements are metric and imperial). As the reader becomes more adept, the rolls turn more and more colourful and elaborate: flower rolls (hanamaki), cherry blossom rolls (sakura-no-hana), intricate Seven Treasure and Peach-Blossom rolls, Water Chrysanthemum rolls, and many more.
Chapter 2 presents less traditional, but no less amazing decorative rolls: smiley face rolls, clowns, samurai, bell, Santa and reindeer rolls for Christmas themes, elaborate floral designs such as sunflower rolls, tulip rolls, and cherry tree rolls, as well as animal-themed rolls (panda, penguin, bunny rabbits). Most impressive are mojimaki, rolls representing kanji characters: 日, 本, 日本, 祝 (iwai, celebration), 寿 (kotobuki, longevity), 福 (fuku, good fortune). So-called novelty rolls include sparrow rolls, guitar rolls, Mount Fuji rolls, and Seashore rolls.
Chapter 3 raises the bar by introducing the basics for cutting tuna, squid, white-fleshed fish, and gizzard shad, for shaping rice and for sculpting squid into sleeping cranes, swimming squid, cherry blossoms, rabbits and even proud peacocks. Another classic are battleship rolls (軍艦巻 gunkanmaki), a type of nigirizushi consisting of an oval bed of sushi rice with a strip of nori wrapped around its perimeter to form a vessel that is filled with some soft, loose or fine-chopped ingredients such as roe, nattō, oysters, uni (sea urchin roe), etc. Variations include daikon and cucumber battleship rolls and battleship numbers. Other more unusual creations are reverse rolls (tezunazushi), inside-out rolls, such as the famed California roll, pressed sushi (oshizushi), vegetable sushi variations, and scattered sushi such as delicate hydrangea chirashi bedded on shiso.
The last chapter delves into elaborate sushi arrangements for festive events: kazari sushi as crowd-pleasers in the shape of mandala arrangements, fan arrangements, or designs for particular Japanese celebrations such as Girls' Day or Doll's Festival. The author's Mount Fuji Sushi Art, a 35 x 20 cm tapestry of rice, layered rolls, mackerel, salmon and vegetable is a veritable feast for the eyes and simply too stunning to touch. Rich in mouth-watering illustrations and attentive to details, yet never overburdening its readers, the Sushi Art Book is a perfect guide for sushi aficionados and chefs alike.