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When I visited Boston's Oishii restaurant to learn more about the Japanese cuisine right here in Boston, I had no idea my trip would begin at the fish pier, where I met dinner: a 400 lb. tuna.

Chef Ting Yen and his fish monger, Manny, educated me in what to look for in an excellent fish. Manny took a long hollow needle that he stuck into the fish in order to get a sample. Our tuna was particularly fatty, which indicated that it would be extremely good to eat. Let me tell you, when Chef Yen and I made our yellowtail maki sushi, he slipped me a few slices of the tuna and it was out of this world. Buttery, rich, and definitely something to savor on a special occasion.

After the fish pier visit, I witnessed the butchering of the enormous tuna Chef Yen picked up. The process required five people, a hammer, a butcher knife, a three-foot-long blade, and Chef Yen standing up on top of the table to get the right amount of leverage. What may sound like a violent process was actually done with the utmost respect to the fish. I felt as if I was witnessing a tradition and skill that had been passed down for generations. I love how Chef Yen says, “We talk to the fish.”

As we turned the filets into sushi, Chef Yen taught me three crucial elements in Japanese cuisine: One, always use the freshest and best ingredients, as evidenced by our fish pier visit and his restaurant's rice and seaweed. Two, find the umami flavor in every dish, which I learned while preparing the sweet miso sauce for our grilled black cod dish. And three, pay special attention to presentation.

See more about Oishii and learn about Boston's Japanese cuisine on Neighborhood Kitchens, Saturday at 4pm on WGBH 2 or online.