Sushi is the first name that strikes us when Japanese cuisine is mentioned. Sushi is perhaps the best known Japanese food dish to the outside world. It is a recipe that consists of rice and fish with a flavor of vinegar. However, there are many variations of Sushi that are lesser known by people outside Japan.
Sushi is an ancient food dish from the Tang dynasty. It has always consisted of fermented fish and rice, and the word sushi means something that tastes sour. Contrary to popular opinion, Sushi does not mean ‘raw fish.’ It means ‘vinegar rice.’
Sushi has evolved into an artful, unique dining experience. In its earliest form, dried fish was placed between two pieces of vinegared rice as a way of preserving it. The nori (seaweed) was added later as a way to keep one’s fingers from getting sticky.
The Japanese word su means vinegar, and shi is from meshi, the Japanese word for rice, hence sushi is vinegared rice, Now, the term is used to describe a finger-size piece of raw fish or shellfish on a bed of rice or simply the consumption of raw fish in the Japanese style. This can be eaten as is, or is often dipped into shoyu (Japanese soy sauce) and then eaten. Great care should be taken in making the dish and the many methods of preparing the food indicate the importance of appearance to the educated consumer. Sushi is a work of art as much as a food, and while it is now available in a western ‘quick and easy’ serving style, the traditional ways are far from that.
Sushi that we see today is easily and quickly prepared as it does not need fermentation, and its popularity increased many a thousand-fold with roadside vendors and small restaurants serving different variations of Sushi today.
There is vegetarian Sushi and also Sushi made with fish and meat, either raw or cooked. There are three main types of Sushi. They are Maki Sushi, Nigiri Sushi, and Oshi-Sushi.
For Nigiri Sushi, a slice of raw or cooked fish or shellfish is pressed onto a mound of vinegared rice, with a little wasabi in between. In some cases, nigiri sushi uses a small strip of toasted seaweed called nori to bind the whole mixture together. Nigiri sushi is commonly called two-kinds-sushi because it involves two ingredients: sushi rice and a single topping. The topping is also known as neta, and usually takes the form of a type of seafood such as tuna, eel, haddock, shad, snapper, octopus, or shrimp. Depending on the type of fish, it may be served raw in thin slices, grilled, or batter fried.
For Maki Sushi, layers of raw or cooked fish or shellfish, vegetables and vinegared rice on a sheet of dried sea kelp rolled into a cylinder then cut into pieces. The word maki means “roll.” There are a variety of types, including uramaki which is complex and requires the attention of a skilled chef. Others such as temaki are very easy to make, and frequently eaten at home and at social gatherings. Uramaki is an inside out roll, meaning that the sushi rice is on the outside. Nori is covered with sushi rice and then flipped over. The fillings are added and the maki is rolled up. The roll may then be dipped in, or topped with garnishes like sesame seeds or fish roe. This type of maki is more common outside of Japan, and includes the well-known California and Philadelphia rolls. Emaki is a sushi roll formed in the shape of a cone. Nori sheets are cut in half so that a small pile of sushi rice and fillings can be made on one corner. Then the nori is tightly rolled in a conical shape which can easily be held by hand while it is dipped into an assortment of sauces, including soy sauce and wasabi, and eaten. These hand rolls are a more casual type of sushi, and also has a fun visual appearance, with ingredients overflowing from the cone like a cornucopia.
Oshi Sushi or Oshizushi is a type of sushi from Osaka. It means “pressed sushi” or is also called “box sushi”. This is one of the oldest forms of sushi and stems from the ancient method of preserving fish by packing it tightly in boxes with fermented rice. Today, pressed sushi made with sushi rice and mackerel is one of the most popular forms of takeout food bought at airports by Japanese travelers. A wooden mold, called an oshibako, as used to make this form of sushi. Traditional molds are made out of wood, mainly cypress or cedar, similar to that used for the Japanese sushi rice mixing tub (or Hangiri). Cheaper variations are usually made out of pine. The box typically comes in three parts: The rectangular box part which consist of the walls, the bottom, and the top.
Sushi is an authentic Japanese cuisine that is really known worldwide and it is indeed very complex no matter how small it may look physically. It is not just a simple dish but very tasty and fits all taste buds no matter where you are in the world.