Toshi and Fish Prep


Spicy Tuna by Michael Kappel


At 4 PM, Toshi the head chef arrived and started his shift. His main job was to fillet and prep fish.

“You are still working on cucumbers?” Toshi came to the bar to check on us.

“Ohayo gozaimasu,” Jun said to Toshi. I immediately followed him and said “Ohayo gazaimasu.”

“Um, not yet.” I had four to five cucumbers left to do Katsuramuki.

“Well, do it fast,” Toshi said.

Toshi had a look, which at fist sight did not look so friendly. He had dark black hair and reminded me of Jim Morrison, or some rock singer from a Smokey dive bar in Hollywood.

One of the fish Toshi prepped was Tuna. Tuna came in 1/4 fish and was called Shibu-Ichi in Japanese. The whole Yellowfin Tuna weighs around 80lbs. and sometimes bigger. A quarter of that is approximately 15lbs. after head and bones removed. When filleting tuna, there are some parts of the fish that would be unsuitable for nigiri and sashimi. They are the part that is close to the skin, tail and back part of the fish. Tail meat especially has too much tendon, the white stringy things which are too tough to chew. So, someone thought it through and decided to make into a roll, I think. To do that, one needs to scrape the flesh with a spoon and separate it from the tendon. This was a tedious work and took good fifteen to thirty minutes, after which, your hand became smelling like fish. We turned this tuna scrape into spicy tuna.

After filleting the tuna, Toshi handed Jun and I the tail and skin part of the tuna for scraping. It took good fifteen minutes of scraping with a spoon to get all the fresh off from tuna’s skin. It was labor intensive.

“You add, mayo, house made chili oil, masago fish egg, and Shichimi peppers, ” Jun explained to me, as he mixed scrapped tuna and all the ingredients in a large stainless bowl. That was more tuna scrapes than I had ever seen in my life: good five to six pounds or so of spicy tuna mix.

Jun transferred it into smaller containers, placed two inside of the sushi refrigerator, and the remaining into the side refrigerator.

I had to remember both ingredients and how it tasted, too, just like crab mix for California Roll. I never knew I was supposed to write down all the recipes in the kitchen, as I learned by doing it and felt there was no need to write it down. I kept asking for recipes and where things were, which sort of drove some people crazy, later I found out

After tuna, Toshi brought some fresh cut hamachi, Tai and halibut to the front sushi bar. Jun places all the “Aniki” fish to the left side of the sushi refrigerator, which is where Toshi stood, the head chef side.

“How are we doing on Ebi?” Toshi asked Jun.

“I think we are Ok for today and maybe tomorrow?” I asked there we kept the extra shrimp and Jun showed me where in the walk-in.

Now the sushi refrigerator looked complete with al the fish beautifully laid out and ready for the business, when, Jun walked to the back kitchen and brought one of the stainless rice warmers to the sushi bar, and placed onto a small stool.

“Oh, I forgot to bring out the oranges,” Jun said.

“Oranges?” I asked.

“Yes, I need to grab this white bucket.” Jun grabbed a tall white bucket and walked to the back walk-in. I followed him and saw him fill the bucket with oranges and some ice

“We serve oranges to the customers at the sushi bar. Only sushi bar customers get oranges, not at tables. It’s a special thing.”

After the oranges, Jun told me that we were all done prepping for the day.


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