Sushi, a rice-filled seaweed wrap, is a popular dish of many Japanese restaurants. Sushi’s popularity has grown since the 1970s; there are now over 5,000 sushi restaurants in the U.S.
This interesting type of food serves up a rich history.
Sushi dates back to the Heian period in Japan (AD 794-1185), and the concept was much different than it is today. It began as a means of preserving fish. Fish was pressed between rice and salt by a heavy stone for a few weeks. The stone was then removed and replaced with a light cover. A few months after that, the fermented fish and rice were considered ready to eat, according to The Sushi Chronicles (www.international-gourmet.net/sushi).
In the 18th century, a chef named Yohei decided to leave out the fermentation process and serve sushi in its original form with vinegar rice. The hand-rolled sushi most common with westerners comes from Edo and is called nigiri sushi.
The fermentation process was time-consuming and expensive. Instant vinegared rice eventually replaced the fermented rice as a cheaper and quicker substitute.
The heart of all sushi lies with the vinegared rice, which is similar to what the fermented rice tasted like in the past.
Despite what Americans think, sushi does not mean ‘fish’ in Japanese, but rather signifies any vinegared rice dish. The fish is actually called “sashimi,” and when the fish is wrapped together with rice and seaweed, the name still refers to the rice, not the fish. n