Sushi is the most famous Japanese food in the world. Before coming to Japan, I was under the wrong impression that, the Japanese only ate raw fish or sushi. For those of us coming from Southeast Asia, cooking food with a variety of spices may be the norm, but the Japanese definitely do not eat sushi everyday! Rather, it is eaten on special occasions such as celebrations.
To begin with, the whole idea of sushi being raw fish is wrong. Raw fish is sashimi and therefore, the words sushi and sashimi are not interchangeable.
The Su of sushi means vinegar and Sushi literally means vinegared rice combined with other ingredients. Each type of sushi derives its name from the way in which the ingredients are served with the vinegared rice.
Sushi Ingredients include
1. Vinegared rice or “sushi meshi”
2. Nori or dried sea weed
4. Raw fish (tuna, yellow tail, snapper, mackerel, salmon)
5. Seafood (shrimp, squid, eel, octopus, pike conger, clam, sea urchin, crab)
6. Roe or fish eggs
8. Vegetables (cucumber, pickled radish and other vegetables, burdock, gourd)
9. Meat (beef, beef tongue, chicken, pork, horsemeat, duck, whale meat, deer meat)
Types of Sushi
Nigiru means to press something between the fingers. Nigiri zushi is made by pressing small amounts of sushi rice into oval-shaped rice balls, accenting with a touch of wasabi or horse radish paste and topping with one of the ingredients listed above.
Maku means to wrap around into a cylindrical roll. In this type of sushi, rice and other ingredients are placed on a dry piece of seaweed Nori and made into a roll.
Futoi means thick, so a large or thick roll of Maki zushi containing many ingredients is called futomaki.
Hosoi means thin, and a thin roll of Maki zushi containing very few or just one ingredient is called hosomaki.
3. Temaki Zushi
Te means hand and temaki zushi is made by placing rice and ingredients into a cone shaped dry-seaweed paper or nori. Usually, all ingredients and stacked pieces of Nori are placed on the table and one is free to make their own nori cone and place whatever ingredients one chooses into the cone and eat.
Osu means to press something against something. This type of sushi is made by pressing fish onto sushi rice in a wooden box.
Chirasu means to scatter, and in this kind of sushi, ingredients are scattered or spread over sushi rice, presenting a colorful treat to the eyes!
A unique form of Chirashi-zushi is Bara-zushi, a special kind of sushi in Okayama Prefecture, where I live. The unique taste of this sushi is achieved by flavoring each ingredient individually before mixing it with the sushi rice to accentuate a deep flavored “one dish”.
The simplest form of sushi is the inari-zushi, placing sushi rice into deep-fried tofu (bean curd) parcels. In some places inari-zushi is also referred to as Oinari-san.
The art of eating sushi
Nowadays almost everyone prefers to use chopsticks when eating sushi but traditionally nigiri zushi was eaten with the fingers. Usually, a piece of sushi is dipped into soy sauce with the topping side down, before eating. The soy sauce dipping provides flavor to the raw ingredients, which sit on the sushi rice containing a small amount of wasabi. Those who prefer a stronger pungent taste, can add extra wasabi to the soy sauce dip.
Price of sushi in Japan
The price of sushi depends on the quality and freshness of the ingredients. In Japan, the toro (fatty belly) of a blue fin tuna is a prized treat. Toro is graded based on the marbling of the meat, like the grading of beef. Toro taken from the underside of the fish close to the head called “otoro” is the highest grade and most costly and “chutoro” is, a lower grade extracted from the belly in the middle and back of the fish, but is less marbled than otoro. While a pack of roll sushi at the convenience store or supermarket may cost between US$ 5.00-7.00, a reputable restaurant in Tokyo may charge US$ 100 per person! For a reasonable price and fairly satisfactory taste, one can visit the revolving-sushi-bars called kaiten-zushi, where single plates containing sushi are placed on a conveyer belt-like moving table, revolving around the customers tables. Customers can pick up what they like or wait for their favorite sushi plate to arrive. Each plate of sushi can cost from 100 yen to 300 yen and customers are billed based on the number and type of plates they picked.
Taste of sushi
For starters, fresh sushi does not taste fishy. In fact, it really doesn’t taste like anything! Rather we can say it is an acquired taste. The taste comes from the spicy wasabi, soy sauce and other flavors. The sushi rice has a somewhat pungent taste due to the vinegared seasoning.
To wrap up, I would like to say, Sushi tastes like sushi, and is simply delicious!
Please try it..