Yesterday, June 18th, was International Sushi Day! I don’t normally celebrate these holidays because there’s something like this happening literally every day. If I ate whatever food was being celebrated, I’d gain even more weight than I already have. Anyway, I decided to use this fun occasion to tell you a little bit about sushi.
Sushi Was Not Invented in Japan
This Japanese staple is not actually Japanese! Sushi was introduced to Japan during the Yayoi period which dated 1,000 BC – 300 AD. Believe it or not, sushi was invented accidentally after originally being used to ferment fish. At first, only the fish was eaten while the rice was discarded. Later on, people began eating it together.
“The earliest form of sushi, a dish today known as narezushi, has its probable origin with paddy fields along the Mekong river in Southeast Asia. The prototypical narezushi is made by lacto-fermenting fish with salt and rice in order to control putrefaction. Spreading southwards down the Mekong, narezushi then entered Austronesia.
Narezushi appears in the Chinese dictionary in the 2nd century CE as the character sa (鮓, pickled fish with salt and rice),which was during a period in which the Han Chinese were expanding south of the Yangtze river, adopting the food from the non-Han peoples.”Wikipedia
It Was Once Equivalent to McDonald’s
Well not exactly McDonald’s, more like popcorn. Sushi used to be the cheap snack that you ate while enjoying a theater performance. People even ate it with their hands – that’s right, no chopsticks necessary. It is amazing that sushi went from fast food to fancy food. Although today, it is available for cheap at malls but also at gourmet Michelin-star restaurants.
At more formal restaurants, sushi is the complete opposite of fast food today. Rushing a sushi meal could actually be offensive.
“Don’t expect a quick meal at the sushi bar. Don’t rush a meal or a chef. The sushi bar is the place for people to enjoy sushi —where else can you watch the chef make your meal and talk to them at the same time? Do take your time and enjoy interacting with the chef.”Chef-owner Tim Archuleta, Ichi Sushi & Ni Bar, San Francisco, California
There are also more rules when it comes to eating sushi today. Although these don’t necessarily have to be followed, the following are recommended:
Chef Masaharu Morimoto, Morimoto, New York, New York:
- Do not put wasabi directly into your soy sauce. The sushi chef has already placed the proper amount of wasabi for the fish in nigiri.
- Do dip your nigiri into soy sauce fish-side down —otherwise, the rice may fall apart.
- Do eat nigiri in one bite to enjoy the perfect harmony of fish, rice, and wasabi. If you bite halfway, the balance will be lost.
- Do enjoy the pickled ginger as a palate cleanser. Eat it between different kinds of nigiri.
- Don’t eat the ginger in the same bite as nigiri.
You can read more dos and don’ts compiled by famous chefs in this article.
Japanese food gained popularity and spread all over the word because of Japanese immigrants but also Japanophilia. Which is the appreciation and love of Japanese culture, people and history.
“Sushi was already being served in the United States by the early 1900s, following an influx of Japanese immigration after the Meiji Restoration. The first sushi shop in the U.S. reportedly opened in 1906 in the Little Tokyo neighborhood of Los Angeles.”Wikipedia
Your Wasabi May be Fake
Wasabi is an acquired taste. I used to hate it but grew to hate sushi without it. Don’t tell the chefs, but I do put it in my soy sauce and add some to my sushi as well. Even my dogs love wasabi, which is bizarre because dogs shouldn’t like spicy things.
“Yes, it’s true. Over 95% of wasabi served in sushi restaurants does not contain any real wasabi. Most fake wasabi is made from a blend of horseradish, mustard flour, cornstarch and green food colorant. This means that most people who think they know wasabi have actually never tasted the stuff!
Real wasabi paste is made by grating the wasabi rhizome (the subterranean stem of the plant). When you grate wasabi, the volatile compounds that give it its distinguished taste begin to break down within minutes. That’s why real wasabi paste has the best taste when it’s really fresh. Wasabi is also considered difficult to grow and that makes it an expensive plant. The fake wasabi paste on the other hand is cheap and has a long expiration date.”Make Sushi
Sushi Can Kill You
No, I am not talking about salmonella. Which is a risk you take whenever you eat raw fish. But apparently, also when you cut an unwashed avocado. Seriously, look it up. The dangers that I want to tell you all about are specifically about puffer fish.
“Almost all puffer fish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them foul tasting and often lethal to fish. To humans, tetrodotoxin is deadly, up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. There is enough toxin in one puffer fish to kill 30 adult humans, and there is no known antidote.”National Geographic
So why make sushi out of puffer fish? Humans are strange creatures with a God complex and love a good adrenaline rush. Just know that when you order puffer fish, one wrong move by the chef and you will die. I suggest that you prepare your will before you enjoy your meal.
Sushi is amazing and you should eat it the way you want. Unless you are in a restaurant – let’s not offend anyone. Stabbing the rolls or nigiri with chopsticks is probably the worst thing you can do as it resembles Japanese funeral traditions. You’re better off eating it with your fingers since that is how it was originally meant to be eaten. Chopsticks were exclusively for sashimi.
Anyway, sushi comes in so many different forms and styles. You can read more about it online or if you’re fancy you can buy this complete guide to sushi and sashimi with beautiful photos. If you’re looking to make your own sushi, which is a lot of fun, check out this kit on Amazon!
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