Secrets of Sushi



‘nigirizushi’

Not everyone will know this yet, but sushi actually comes in several styles. Outside of Japan, the most popular type is the so-called ‘nigirizushi’ (also known as ‘Edomae’); this is the variety we generally think of when talking about sushi.


History of sushi

Chirashi sushi

The origin of this dish is quite practical in nature: it was simply a way to store and preserve fish. The first iteration was called ‘narezushi’, and was made by curing a descaled and gutted fish in salt, before stuffing it with rice. It would typically be stored layered in a barrel, leaving it to ferment. In the mid-Edo period (1603– 1867), a new type was invented: ‘hayazushi’ (‘fast sushi’). Instead of leaving it in a barrel for months, the distinctively sour note to the rice could be created immediately by using vinegar. Today there are several varieties, most notably: ‘chirashi sushi’ (meaning ‘scattered sushi’, where the fish and other ingredients are placed on top of a bowl of rice), ‘hakozushi’ (a style originating in Kansai, where the rice and fish are pressed together in a block-shaped form), and ‘Edomae’/’nigirizushi’(Kanto area style type with fish on bite-sized, more rounded oblong-shaped pieces of rice).

Hakozushi


The making of sushi

Making sushi is not as easy as it looks, as those of us who have tried it before might have found out for themselves. In fact, a sushi chef will have to train for several years before truly being counted as a proper professional sushi chef. The toppings, ‘neta’, are painstakingly prepared in various ways most suited to the ingredient, and may differ per chef. The slicing of a piece of fish for use as ‘neta’ is an artform in itself, where the chef’s experience is necessary to know exactly how to get the best out of a specific cut. The sushi rice, ‘shari’, is equally important and must be just the right shape and consistency.

Professional sushi chef at work

So, if you get the chance to try sushi in Japan, make sure to pay attention to the artful way the chef prepares those delicious treats, just for you!

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