Sushi is pretty ubiquitous: from nigiri, with its slice of raw fish on a pillow of rice, to the maki roll wrapped in nori, or seaweed. But the sushi we understand these days tastes and looks very specific from how it did centuries in the past.
First of all, the rice within the unique “sushi” became not meant to be eaten. Mixed with salt, it become used to hold the fish and then thrown out.
Sushi’s origins aren’t even Japanese, says Nobu Hong Kong government sushi chef Kazunari Araki, who has greater than 20 years of sushi-making experience.
The combination of rice and fish, he explains, originated within the 0.33 century alongside the Mekong River in Southeast Asia, in which countries which includes Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia at the moment are situated.
“The folks who lived across the river would catch quite a few fish, and because the climate is so warm they needed to find a way to keep the fish [from rotting]. People in the location have been additionally making rice, so they observed a way to keep the fish [fresh] by means of using a rice and salt [mixture],” Araki explains.
After the fish have been cleaned and gutted, they were covered inside the salt and rice combination in buckets for several months, or even longer, to maintain the meat. Before they ate the fish, the rice changed into discarded.
By the 12th century, this method of fermenting fish had traveled from the Mekong to China, and then directly to Japan, wherein it become called narezushi.
However, within the 16th century, within the Edo period, Araki says, vinegar changed salt in the maintenance method, which was a prime breakthrough within the development of sushi. It also gave beginning to the name sushi – which translates to “vinegared rice.”
“With vinegar, you handiest need to marinate the fish for a few hours or overnight, in order that shortened the time to consume the fish as compared to six months or a yr,” Araki says.
That led to the fish quantities turning into smaller within the 18th and 19th centuries, from an entire fish to slices as large as the circumference of the hand. Araki says the subsequent foremost improvement came within the Meiji era, inside the 1900s, when ice machines were developed.
“Ice method you may hold fish clean. You don’t must marinate it. You simply reduce it and preserve it at the ice. Whenever you are making the rice, you chop the fish, vicinity it on pinnacle of the rice and then consume it. You don’t ought to marinate with soy sauce due to the fact the fish is sparkling. Just dip it into soy sauce. This is the modern-day way to devour nigiri.”
If you want to try narezushi, Shiga prefecture to the east of the ancient capital, Kyoto, is the place where it’s miles still prepared. But Araki warns it’s no longer for every body.
“When some thing is fermented, it is going terrible. So you may imagine the fermented fish smells. The fish tastes salty and smells, but you can nonetheless taste the fish. When you have got it with sake, it’s absolutely good.”
So how did sushi move from being a traditional Japanese food to 1 cherished by way of diners inside the West? To apprehend its globalization, you want to appearance to how the cuisine made its manner to america.
American instructional James Farrer has been reading Japanese food for 12 years and says there have been a couple of “booms” in Japanese food in the West, all characterised by means of showmanship, performance and exoticism.