The certification program of Japanese Food and Ingredient Supporter Stores Overseas
Interview of Suppoter Stores Endosushi
A Long-Established Sushi Restaurant 100 Years Old and Counting
Endo’s Original “Tsukami Sushi (Soft Pressed Sushi)” even Wins the Heart of Thai People
Bangkok / Thailand
Osaka’s Sushi Restaurant, Popular Among Thai People, Opens in Bangkok
Thong Lo is the trend-setting, vibrant street of Bangkok. In this gourmet battleground with the latest bars and restaurants, Osaka’s 108-year-old Endo Sushi opened its Bangkok branch one and a half years ago. Japanese customers patronize the restaurant for dining and for business entertaining, Thai people come for an authentic Japanese experience, and also there are many who come from afar—all full of expectations as they enter through the somenuki-noren curtain. The founder of Endo Sushi originally came up with the “tsukami sushi” idea for the workers at the fish market, which was called “zakoba,” the largest fish market in Osaka in the early-modern times. This approach to making sushi has been passed down through the generations.
The characteristic of Endo’s tsukami sushi is the vinegar rice that has been cooled down to an appropriate temperature. The rice is not pressed as hard as Edomae (Edo style) sushi but very softly so that it retains a light and fluffy consistency. The moment it enters your mouth, the rice gently falls apart coming together perfectly with the umami of the fish as it passes down your throat. It is a unique texture that can only be experienced here. The basic eating style at Endo Sushi is ordering the “jomaze,” a selection of five pieces of nigiri sushi. This is counted as one plate, and customers then proceed with ordering the second and third plates, each plate comprising different nigiri sushi. Inside the sushi counter stands Mr. Yasutaka Nanba who has 30 years of experience as a sushi chef. He trained in Edomae sushi for five years before taking on a job at Endo Sushi through the introduction of an acquaintance. He recalls the first time he tried tsukami sushi saying, “It was so unique. I had never tasted sushi like that before. I was truly shocked.” Endo’s unequaled sushi has not only gained many local fans, but its reputation gradually spread throughout and beyond Japan. The main store located in Osaka Municipal Central Wholesale Market now has a line of customers waiting to be served. The fast-increasing number of foreign customers is mainly from Asia, such as Singapore and Hong Kong, but what was notable was the number of Thai customers. So it was only natural that Endo Sushi decided to open a store in Thailand, for the first time abroad, and that an experienced sushi chef was selected for the job.
Ingredients Arrive Four Times a Week from Japan
“Seventy percent of our ingredients come from Japan. In order to have a shipment come on a regular basis—twice a week from the Osaka Central Market and four times a week from Tsukiji Fish Market—we pay attention to the weather and the condition of seasonal products and make detailed orders to our suppliers. The fish we have prepared for today’s ‘jomaze’ is young yellowtail from Miyazaki Prefecture, crab from Kasumi in Hyogo Prefecture, and mill shellfish from Aichi Prefecture. Tachiuo (cutlass fish) is quite often from Chiba Prefecture, akami (part of the tuna that is red and lean) from Ehime Prefecture, and octopus from Akashi in Hyogo Prefecture. Octopus is cooked using the same recipe from the very early days of the restaurant. The taste of the Osaka main store is our yardstick, or our taste axis so to speak, and it is important that the customers never feel that the taste here is different from the one at the main store.” The shijimi clams used generously in Endo’s specialty, akadashi miso soup, are from Lake Togo in Tottori Prefecture. Japanese myoga ginger and mitsuba (honewort), which enhance the aroma and texture, are also sourced from Japan. There is also a good selection of seasonal dishes, such as “buri daikon (amberfish and daikon radish),” “komochi ayu no shioyaki (salt-grilled sweetfish with roe),” and “kaki ponzu (oysters with ponzu vinegar).” Large-sized photos of these limited seasonal menu are placed in between the regular menu to introduce them to customers. Mr. Nanba says, “I want to increase our offering of seasonal ingredients more.”
Thai People’s Taste in Food is Different from the Japanese
Six brands of Japanese sake are offered at Endo, including Takashimizu and Tamanohikari. Among the varieties of Dassai, which is well-known among Thai people, there are three types of daiginjo sake with different polished rice ratio, as well as the sparkling sake. The shochu (Japanese distilled spirits) offering is well-balanced; there are altogether five brands consisting of barley, potato, rice, and brown sugar shochu.
In comparison to Japanese people, not many Thai customers drink sake with their sushi, but instead prefer to drink it as an aperitif or digestif. Their taste in sushi is also divided. Thai people tend to favor fish that are rich in umami, such as salmon, sea urchin, and fatty tuna. As for tuna nigari, Japanese customers prefer southern bluefin tuna, which is a lighter type of tuna, whereas Thai people enjoy the fattier bluefin tuna. Japanese people like to order smaller quantities of different varieties of sushi à la carte, and Thai people tend to order their preferred nigiri in larger quantities, sometimes five or even ten of the same nigiri, with a tendency of eating what they want as much as they want. Their different preference in the firmness and temperature of the rice is also notable, “We are always trying to come up with ways to serve sushi in the most delicious way. The taste we produce in our Osaka main store is our standard, and from there we think about to what extent we can maintain and permeate our original style in Thailand,” says Mr. Nanba. While maintaining a good balance between tradition and change, Endo Sushi pays attention to each customer and serves the best sushi at the best timing. Endo’s tsukami sushi that “shocked” Mr. Nanba and decided his career path thereafter are quietly and surely spreading in Bangkok.