"No dining experience is more associated with the concept of freshness than sushi: If the notoriously squeamish American diner is to consider eating raw fish, that fish had better be fresh. But the truth is, sushi’s not great because it’s fresh. It’s great because it’s actually sort of rotten.
That rice the chef presented to me was stored for a year or two before being cooked with sugar and rice-wine vinegar. The pickled ginger was probably made three months ago. The artisanal soy sauce could be four years old. The ikura has been cured in wet brine and stored for who knows how long. The nori hasn’t seen the ocean in ages. And the star of the show? Truthfully, unless you’re Tom Hanks in Cast Away or the kids from The Blue Lagoon, you don’t want to eat fresh fish. Once a fish has been dead for more than a few minutes, the flesh goes into rigor mortis, and it can take four or five days to relax and reach its apex of deliciousness.
We reflexively recoil from the word “rot” when it comes to food, and we shouldn’t. We pay a premium for dry-aged beef because we know the older the steak, the more tender it is and the more umami it develops. That beef is rotting (okay, “aging”), but under our terms and to our benefit. Many foods are rotted to make them edible at all: olives, chocolate, coffee. And there are those that we rot to improve: pickles, cheese, wine. I find it hilarious that even the freshest foods are seasoned with rot. We dress salads with vinegar, a.k.a. rotten wine. I can’t even come up with a list of foods that I enjoy fresh more than aged—it basically stops after orange juice.”
David Chang: Keep your fresh food. I want rot.