Nowadays, Japanese foods are loved by many, and of course, one of the most well-known Japanese foods is sushi. When talking about sushi, most think of Asian food that consists of vinegar rice, dry seaweed patch, and raw fish. But not all sushi are the same. In this article, we will focus on the types of sushi and their history.
History of sushi: where does sushi come from?
The word ‘sushi’ means the combination of vinegar rice and all kinds of topping or filling, which often includes raw fish. Sushi was first created in Japan many centuries ago in an attempt to preserve fish.
Why was sushi invented?
In the past, when there was no electricity and the Japanese were mainly getting their food by fishing in rivers, there were not many ways to keep the fish fresh for a long time. This had become a problem, especially when they caught too many fish. Another issue was the change in seasons, sometimes causing a drought or flood. With sushi, it was now possible to preserve the fish for long periods of time.
How was sushi first invented?
Sushi was created by fermenting rice and fish together to let the lactic acid bacteria in rice grow, which will convert the rice into lactic acid and pickle the fish to help prevent decay. This process can take as long as a year before the pickled fish is ready to be eaten.
How long does it take to ferment rice to make sushi?
At first, people only ate the fermented fish and threw away the fermented vinegar rice. But later on, the Japanese learned other methods to hasten the fermentation to a few months instead of a year, and in doing so, they could eat the fermented rice with the fish. And by the Edo period, people discovered how to make vinegar from sake lee, and used this kind of vinegar to make a new type of sushi that could be eaten within the same day it was made. Thus began the era of sushi being known as the ‘fast and easy’ food.
When American people first encountered sushi, it was hard for them to accept raw food. Therefore, a new type of sushi roll, named California roll, was invented using various vegetables, fruits, and eggs as filling instead of raw fish. This type of sushi was popular with Westerners because they think it’s a healthy food with not too many calories and fats.
What are the different types of sushi?
There are many variations of sushi. Here, we will list some of the more well-known types of sushi:
Narezushi is the original type of sushi that was made by fermenting steamed rice and salt together with raw fish until the fish became pickled and had a sour taste. With this type of sushi, you normally throw away the fermented rice and only eat the fermented fish. One of the most famous Narezushi is the Funazushi, which consists of marinated Funa (a type of Carp) with rice. The latter is left to ferment for 1-4 years. Although funazushi has a very strong smell, it is high-priced luxury sushi that can mostly be found in the Shiga Prefecture in Japan.
Oshizushi is Kansai-style sushi that puts thinly sliced fish on top of vinegar rice, packed in a rectangular box and compressed by hand, or cut into square pieces for eating. Oshizushi takes about half a day to marinate before it’s ready to be eaten.
Inarizushi is a type of sushi that is covered with fried sweet tofu. Usually, the filling would be plain vinegar rice but in some recipes, there might have other ingredients such as carrots, mushrooms, or sesame. Inarizushi got its name from the Shinto god who loves fried tofu and has a fox as a divine messenger. Also, the shape of fried tofu wrapping the sushi at the tip looks a bit like fox’s ears.
Nigirizushi is a type of sushi most people are familiar with. By combining cooked rice with vinegar and forming it into an oval shape, then putting a piece of sliced raw fish on top of the rice, this type of sushi is quite fast to make. Although nigirizushi is regarded as ‘fast food’ for Japanese people, it is not easy to make. The art of balancing the ratio of rice, vinegar, wasabi, and the amount of fish to create delicious nigirizushi is not simple, and many sushi chefs need to hone their skill for many years until they can master it.
Makizushi or sushi roll is a more modern style of sushi. It is made by putting vinegar rice on a toasted seaweed patch (nori), filling it with fish and/or vegetables, then rolling it into a cylinder shape using a bamboo mat (makisu). Makizushi is popular both in Japan and America because the filling can be anything you like and you can put a lot of ingredients together. California roll is a type of makizushi too.
Finally, a Temakizushi or hand-roll sushi is a bit similar to makizushi, because the ingredients being used to make them are the same. But instead of rolling the sushi into the tube, temakizushi is made by putting vinegar rice and other fillings on the nori then wrapping it into a cone shape with your hands.
Sushi is a cuisine that has been developed for so long and will continue to evolve with time. And even though the appearance of sushi has changed, it is still a favorite food for many people all over the world.