Japanese Delicacy (III): Sushi
Sushi is the most representative Japanese food. It is made of sushi-meshi (vinegared rice) and various ingredients, including raw, cooked, and marinated seafood, eggs, and vegetables. Sushi can be served as cheap fast food and a pricey formal dinner. Its versatility and taste make it a popular dish inside and outside Japan.
History of Sushi
The history of sushis dates back thousands of years ago when farmers in Southeast Asia preserved fish in a method called “narezushi”. Fish was fermented with rice, vinegar, and salt, after which the fish was consumed and the rice was discarded. The technique of preserving fish with Lacto-fermentation was introduced to Japan in the Yayoi period (300 BC to 300 AD). In history, the word “sushi” literally means "sour", which refers to the sourness produced from fermentation.
The turning point came in the Edo period (1603-1867CE). Hanaya Yohei (1799-1858), a famous chef, invented Edomae Sushi, which was all the rage in Edo (contemporary Tokyo). From then on, fish began to be enjoyed with vinegared rice and nori. Nowadays, the term Edomae Sushi is used as a byword for quality sushi.
Misunderstand of Sushi
Sushi seems to be a mysterious food outside Japan. There are many misunderstandings about sushi.
1. Sushi is all about fish.
Fish is an important part of Sushi, but apparently, it’s not everything. The rice, flavored with vinegar, sugar, and salt, is as important as the fish. Moreover, it’s totally wrong if you think sushi must contain fish. There are many types of sushi, which will be introduced in the next part.
2. The fresher, the better.
Do you remember the Edomae Sushi we mentioned before? In that age when there was no refrigerator, sushi restaurants simmered or cured fish in vinegar or soy sauce to stop the spoiling. For some ingredients, it is true the fresher it is, the better the quality is. While for the others, they carry on the same way as before - they will be aged for days for better flavor.
3. Sushi is fast food.
You can indeed get sushi from convenience stores and supermarkets. However, in Japan, many exclusive sushi restaurants are providing formal and quality sushi.
4. Only Michelin restaurants have quality Sushi.
In Japan, some of the best sushi restaurants don’t have Michelin stars. They may be unknown to travelers but highly respected by the locals and sushi lovers. Normally, they have to be booked months, even a year, before.
5. Sushi should be eaten with soy sauce and wasabi.
If you eat sushi in casual restaurants, you can add wasabi and dip soy sauce as you like. If you eat in an upscale sushi restaurant, the Sushi is already seasoned by the chef, therefore, adding extra seasonings is not encouraged.
6. You should eat Sushi with chopsticks.
Similarly, if you eat Sushi in casual restaurants or at home, eat in the way you like! However, high-end sushi restaurants share different opinions on whether sushi should be eaten with chopsticks. In most cases, it’s recommended to eat with your hand.
Types of Sushi
Sushi varies in different regions. Here are some of the most popular sushi.
- Nigirizushi (hand-pressed sushi): It is the most well-known sushi, consisting of a slice of raw fish atop, oval-shaped rice, and a strip of nori sometimes.
- Makizushi (rolled sushi): Strips of vegetables (carrot, cucumber, etc.) and fish are laid in rice and rolled inside nori with a bamboo mat.
- Uramakizushi (inside-out rolled sushi): It’s similar to Makizushi but the rice is in the out layer.
- Temakizushi (hand roll): It’s a cone-shaped Makizushi with one end closed.
- Chirashizushi (scattered sushi): It’s a bowl of sushi rice topped with sushi ingredients, such as nori and seafood.
- Oshizushi (pressed sushi): Fish is pressed onto the Nori and sushi rice is laid in a wooden box.
- Inarizushi: A sushi made of thin fried tofu and sushi rice.
- Gunkan: Oval-shaped sushi rice wrapped with a wide strip of nori topped with ingredients.
- Western-style sushi: California roll, Alaskan roll, Mango roll, etc.