Sushi has quickly become one of the most popular international dishes over the last century. That is why it is so easy to find a sushi restaurant anywhere in the world – especially in the United States, where there are over 4,000 sushi restaurants.
To expand, sushi traces its origins back for millennia, to the rice fields of Asia, China. This may be shocking to you, as most people assume that sushi was first created in Japan. However, this is not the case. While Japan is certainly the sushi capital of the world – and responsible for introducing the dish to travelers – sushi traces its origins back to a Chinese dish called narezushi. Narezushi was a dish made up of fermented rice and salted fish.
Quickly, the dish spread from China to Japan in the 8th century because of how practical it was. The first reference to “sushi” appeared in the Yoro Code, written in the year 718. Over the following centuries, the dish changed.
In the 1900s, Sushi was introduced to the West. This was following Japanese immigration after the Meiji Restoration. However, it was not popular among anyone except the upper-class, and as Japanese immigration declined in the late 1900s, it became much less common.
To increase the popularity of sushi in America, many restaurants began experimenting with new taste combinations and sushi rolls. One of the rolls that became the most popular among Americans is the now very well-known, California Roll. The California Roll is an inside-out sushi roll with cucumber, crab meat (or imitation crab meat), and avocado with white rice. Sushi lovers, young and old alike, mistakenly think sushi refers to raw fish. However, sushi means vinegar-flavored rice and the raw food accompanying it are called sashimi.
Types of Sushi Preparations
To begin, there are five kinds of sushi preparations: Nigiri, Maki, Temaki, Chirashi and Inari. Sushi rice is the staple ingredient in all of them. The types of preparations are distinguished by the kind of fillings or toppings used. However, these are just traditional ways of preparing sushi. The same ingredients can be served, assembled in non traditional and modern ways as well.
Nigiri sushi is the most popular form of sushi. It is served with an oblong mound of rice topped by wasabi and a thin slice of egg, seafood or any meat. While the egg is always served cooked, the seafood and the meat may be raw.
Maki sushi is served rolled in nori, which is a kind of pressed seaweed. The rice, seaweed and the toppings are rolled into a cylindrical shape using a bamboo mat. The roll is then sliced into various thick and thin pieces. The California and Boston rolls are examples of this sushi.
Temaki sushi is similar to Maki except that it is hand rolled into a cone and is not chopped into small pieces.
Chirashi sushi is a rare sushi. It consists of a bowl of rice with toppings of sashimi or raw seafood or fish.
Inari sushi, more rare than Chirashi, are served as fried pouches of tofu stuffed with rice.
Key Sushi Ingredients
All sushi preparations use short – grain Japonica rice mixed with a dressing of rice vinegar, sugar, salt, kombu and sake. The right stickiness is its essential quality. Also, this helps to hold the shape of the roll, and the flavors complement the fillings or toppings. When shopping for sushi rice, look for the words “sushi rice” on the bag. If you can’t find, short-grain white Japanese rice you can also use medium-grain California rice or, Calrose works well in a pinch.
These are wrappers made from seaweed, a type found in Japan. It is toasted before use. Nori by itself is edible. Furthermore, there are many kinds of ‘nori’ but only the best quality is used in sushi.
For culinary, sanitary and aesthetic reasons the fish eaten raw must be fresher and of higher quality than fish which is cooked. In fact, professionals are employed to select the fish. Fish served raw are sea fish like tuna, mackerel and salmon. Freshwater fish are cooked and never eaten raw since they are likely to contain parasites. The most valued sushi ingredient is “toro”, the fatty cut of tuna. Toro comes in many qualities.
Squid, octopus, shrimp and various shell fishes are also used for sushi toppings. It is extremely important to use sushi-grade fish and seafood products, as low-quality of products can not only result into a poor dining experience, but also into health issues, such as food poisoning. Make sure to use a retailer you trust! For our high-quality seafood and fish demand we always go to Sizzlefish. They got some of the best fresh fish such as Wild Salmon and an amazing seafood selection: Alaskan King Crab & so much more. Your order will be delivered to your promptly, so give them a look when preparing for your next sushi party.
Pickled Daikon radish, pickled vegetables, fermented soya beans, asparagus, yam, tofu and gourd are some of the topping vegetables.
Beef, ham, sausage and horse meat, often lightly cooked, are used for toppings.
Slightly sweet layered omelets and raw quail eggs are used as toppings.
The three main condiments are:
- “Shoyu”, aka. soy sauce
- “Wasabi” which is the grated root of the “wasabi” plant. Real “wasabi”, called “hon-wasabi” has antibacterial property which prevents food poisoning
- “Gari” which is sweet pickled ginger, cleanses the palette and aids in digestion
Lastly, presentation is important when it comes to sushi. Traditionally, sushi is served in an austere style in single or double tone colored plates. In smaller Japanese restaurants the dish is had straight from the wooden counter. However, in many places, particularly in the U.S., a European sensibility has been imparted into Sushi serving, resembling French cuisine.