What is Sushi? The Art and Tradition of Making Sushi

Though it’s been eaten in Asia since the 2nd century, sushi is a fairly new food to westerners. In fact, the first American sushi restaurant didn’t show up until the early 20th century. For this reason, many westerners are still not well-acquainted with the food.

Maybe you’re one of those with only a passing knowledge of sushi? Perhaps you’re looking to learn a little more about it? If so, you’re reading the right article.

“What is sushi?”, you ask. Below, we’re going to tell you just that, focusing on the art and tradition of the exotic food. 

What is Sushi?

Maybe you’re completely unaware of what sushi is? Well, in the simplest of terms, it is any food containing vinegared rice. However, that isn’t really a full explanation.

In the west, many individuals tend to think of sushi as just raw fish. However, raw fish is actually just one of the many toppings that can be added to sushi.

Bite-sized and easy to make, sushi can be altered with a variety of different toppings. These toppings include everything from wasabi to sriracha to soy sauce and more. It’s often wrapped in seaweed.

The History of Sushi

The history of sushi is a long one. Its history is not just a culinary one, but a cultural one. Let’s get into the specifics below.

Where Was Sushi Invented?

Sushi is believed to have been invented in the 2nd century in the paddy fields along the Mekong River in Southeast Asia. Made as a way to preserve raw meat without refrigeration, it would spread throughout Asia over the coming centuries, and soon be available to countries such as China and Japan.

Sushi in Asia

As far as historians can tell, sushi first made its way into China sometime in the second century. While it was a fairly standard dish in China, it never had a huge cultural impact.

It wasn’t until around the 8th century after sushi had made its ways to Japan that it really began to take off as a cultural phenomenon. The Japanese took the original idea of sushi and enhanced it substantially throughout the years, adding a variety of toppings and utilizing a variety of preparation methods.

For instance, the Japanese were the first people to cook sushi fish. They were also the first people to soak their sushi in vinegar or soy sauce. Without the Japanese, modern sushi as we know it would not exist.

Sushi in West

For centuries, sushi existed solely in Asia. The term didn’t show up in western history books until the 19th century, and there is little record indicating its consumption any time before the 20th century.

The first American sushi restaurant was opened in 1906 by Japanese immigrants in the Little Tokyo neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. At first, its popularity grew among Americans, and it was consumed at progressing levels in different cities throughout the country. Unfortunately, after World War II began, most Americans opted to boycott all things Japanese, and sushi was thrown to the wayside.

Luckily, that wasn’t the end of sushi in the United States. After the war ended, Americans became more and more comfortable with consuming sushi once again.

In fact, they eventually added their own spin to the dish, creating the California roll in the 1970s. This roll Americanizes sushi by utilizing avocado, crab meat, and cucumber instead of fish, rice, and soy sauce.

How to Make Sushi

Sushi for beginners is not as difficult as you may think. In fact, it’s very easy. You need just a few ingredients and just a small bit of knowledge.

Ingredients Needed

The most common forms of sushi are the ones wrapped in seaweed or nori. You can buy this seaweed at most grocery stores.

When shopping for raw fish for your sushi, it’s important to remember that not all fish is safe to eat raw. Raw fish can be susceptible to parasites and must be bought with care. The most reliably safe options are farmed salmon and tuna, however, other forms of fish can suffice as well.

It’s also necessary that you use fermented rice. You might also want to buy some soy sauce and wasabi so that you can flavor your sushi.

The Process

Once you have your ingredients, you lay your nori out flat on a table. Then, you place your fish and rice on top of and at the end of the nori. Once in place, roll the nori around the fish, ensuring that it’s snug.

After that’s done, you can top it with any ingredients that you wish. Try to apply these ingredients sparingly, as you don’t want to overpower your sushi.

Kinds of Sushi

Sushi is not a singular dish. It is a word used to categorize specific types of dishes. While there are all kinds of sushi available, we’re going to cover some of the most popular.

Nigiri

Nigiri consists of a ball of vinegared rice usually topped with raw fish and/or a vegetable topping. Eaten with the bare hands, nigiri is generally dipped in soy sauce before consumption.

Maki

Extremely popular in the United States, maki consists of raw fish and cucumber wrapped in seaweed (nori). Handheld and easy to eat, maki is eaten both plain and dipped in soy sauce.

Narezushi

The traditional sushi, narezushi isn’t commonly consumed in the United States but is still served fairly regularly in Japan. Narezushi is made by fermenting raw fish in salt and rice for two to three months. The rice used to ferment it is typically thrown away before consumption.

Learn More About Sushi

And there you are, the answer to “what is sushi?”.

Are you hoping to learn more about sushi and Asian cuisine? If so, Fatty ‘Cue can help. Our site is loaded with information about sushi, offering everything from recipes, to meal planning tips, and even pellet grill buying guides.

Would you rather just indulge in sushi that someone else has made for you? If so, you should stop by our restaurant in Brooklyn, New York. We’re located at 91 S. 6th Street.

Contact us now for more information!

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