Why do Sushi Chefs Use Akazu on Sushi?

Discovering Akazu: Best Vinegar for Sushi Rice

We know that sushi is a Japanese delicacy that makes use of rice and raw fish and it takes skill to master this art in Japan. Combining sushi rice and fish needs right consistency and that’s why it needs vinegar – to balance the fishy taste of the raw seafood. The acidity brings out the real taste of fresh and raw seafood, particularly the fish. Sugar and salt are also added to the vinegar to make it more flavorful. This brings out “umami”, considered the fifth basic taste, popularized by the Japanese.

Preparing good quality seafood will not count much if the rice is not good. In fact, sushi chefs are judged first and foremost on the quality, attributes, and taste of their rice. What makes the taste of sushi rice great is the type of vinegar used to season it. Chefs use either rice vinegar (kome-zu), red vinegar (akazu), or a blend of the two when seasoning sushi rice. And akazu is considered to be the vinegar of choice for traditional Edomae-zushi.

What is Akazu? Akazu, also called kasuzu vinegar is made using sake lees, which is the yeast slurry left over or as a byproduct from sake-making. During the Edo period, it was used as the cheaper vinegar as rice vinegar was expensive then. These days, akazu is more expensive to make, as it takes 3 to 5 years to age. The color is reddish-black and the more akazu is used, the darker the rice will be.

To make Edomae-zushi, akazu is a critical component. It provides the umami, the deep, flavorful, refreshing taste of sushi rice. Chefs who use akazu instead of komezu (or rice vinegar) do not add sugar to the rice, it is not needed because akazu is naturally sweet. Just a little bit of sea-salt is all that is needed when seasoning sushi rice with the red vinegar.

As mentioned, some Edomae Sushi chefs come up with their unique recipes for sushi rice by blending the two types of sushi vinegar – the red vinegar and the rice vinegar. When choosing or shopping for akazu, be sure to get a high quality red vinegar that many top sushi chefs both in Tokyo and abroad prefer.

Akazu-ing for The Best-Tasting Sushi in Seattle

We, at I Love Sushi in Seattle, are now seasoning our sushi rice with Akazu (a.k.a. Kasuzu, red vinegar). We recognize akazu is a critical component of Edomae-sushi which brings a deep, flavorful, refreshing taste full of umami to sushi. We just serve one of the best-tasting sushi in town.