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History of sushi
The simple dish has got an interesting tale of evolution. The word sushi is derived from antiquated grammatical form and its literal meaning is “sour-tasting”. The dish has got an overall sour taste and hence the name follows. This dish has originated from South East Asia in the eighth century. The sea food is the staple food of Japan. Today it is called by the name Narezushi which means salted fish.
The salted fish is stored in fermented rice for a span of few months. The fish is prevented from getting spoiled by the process named lacto-fermentation of rice. Lactic acid bacilli would be released during the fermentation process of cooked rice. Salted fish when placed in fermented rice, it would be preserved by pickling process. Prior to the fish consumption, the rice would be discarded. The Japanese used to treat this early recipe of sushi as the primary source of protein. Narezushi, as of now, exists as a regional specialty as funa-zushi in Shiga Prefecture.
During the period of 14th to 16th century, the Muromachi period, the addition of vinegar to the preparation of Narezushi has started. The purpose of adding vinegar is to improve the taste in terms of sourness of rice and for a high degree of preservation by significantly increasing the longevity of the dish. This also resulted in shortened and gradually minimal or zero fermentation process making the dish ready to eat instantly.
The early sushi dish saw more popularity in Osaka. Over centuries, it transformed into hako-zushi or oshi-zushi. The modification in this recipe is that both rice and seafood were pressed together into typical bamboo molds during the preparation.
The Origins of Sushi
During the period of 17th to 19th century i.e. Edo period, another drastic change has occurred in the recipe. It initiated the serving of fresh fish over nori and vinegared rice (the sea weed which is collected with bamboo nets that are submerged), which is the current style of serving this dish. Today’s Nigirizushi style was prevalent in Edo (present Tokyo) during 1820s. Usage of vinegar made the dish to be eaten immediately without any need to wait for months.
The origin of Nigirizushi is a story related to the chef of Ryogoku, Tokyo. The chef named Hanaya Yohei (1799 – 1858) has devised the perfect technique of preparation of this dish at his shop in 1824. This dish was named as Edomae zushi. This preparation used the freshly caught fish from the Tokyo Bay. Even today, Edomae nigirizushi is the term used to represent quality sushi irrespective of the ingredients origin.
Types of sushi
There are a number of styles in which it is prepared and sushi rice remains the key common ingredient in all the types. It is usually prepared with medium-sized grain white rice. However, other types of rice like brown rice could also be used. Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian types of sushi could be prepared.
A wide range of sea food is used for non-vegetarian varieties. Sushi is often confused with sashimi which is a related Japanese dish. Sushi is served with pickled ginger or soy sauce and is usually garnished with Daikon radish. The vinegared rice remains the common ingredient and the variation is in the fillings, toppings, flavoring, condiments and preparation methods.
When mentioned with the prefix, sushi is mentioned as zu rather than su. This is eaten with fingers and is served with side dish for dipping on a small platter or in a box with compartments in order to house other dishes of the meal. Soy sauce is the common condiment and wasabi though used in the preparation method by the chef, is served to the customers to use at their discretion as a matter of personal taste.
Narezushi is a traditional form of fermented sushi, which means matured fish. Fish stuffed with salt is placed in a wooden barrel that is weighed with a pickling stone. Water that is seeped out of the fish is removed. Nigirizushi is hand pressed sushi consisting of mould of rice pressed with hands into oval shape.
With the promotion of sea food all across the globe, this style of serving fish was quickly adopted by other cultures too. With time it emerged as sophisticated and unique dish. The unique Japanese artful recipe has extended to a level beyond traditional Japanese method. The influence of food in other cultures is leading to more elaborate fusion creations with its increasing demand and appears to be continuing its evolution.