The Art of Sushi

Prominent in Japanese cuisine, Sushi is a food consisting of cooked vinegared rice combined with various toppings or fillings, most commonly seafood, that include meat, vegetables, mushrooms, or eggs.  Sushi can be topped with raw, cooked, or marinated ingredients.

Sushi is Art

Sushi has become increasingly popular as chefs have invented many variations that incorporate newer ingredients and sauces together with traditional Japanese ingredients.  The Art of Sushi has three main points: Color & Texture, Flavors, and Presentation.

Color and texture are crucial to a good piece of sushi.  A balance between soft, chewy, and crunchy gives the roll character and depth.  Contrasting colors makes the sushi appear vibrant and interesting.

Sushi is traditionally simple, utilizing a few complimentary flavors that stand on there own without overpowering each other.  It’s simplicity is quite enjoyable.  Sweet, sour, tangy, spicy, salty are just a few of the characteristics found in a majority of rolls made today.

Presentation is key in enjoying sushi.  Traditionally, sushi is served a minimalist Japanese plate as not to take away from the qualities of this cuisine.  Each piece is intricately presented along with garnishments to create a piece of art.


Sushi Etiquette

While not a requirement, sushi etiquette can help expand your knowledge of a different culture and add to your next sushi endeavor.  Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind while eating sushi.

Use chopsticks or your fingers to pick up sushi.

Pour a small amount of soy sauce into the sauce dish and dip the side with fish into it.

Place the entire portion of sushi into your mouth so the side with fish touches your tongue.

Use the blunt back end of the chopsticks to pick up sushi if sharing a plate.  These ends are not used for eating.

Rub your chopsticks together.

Bite the sushi and put the rest on your plate.  Sushi should normally be eaten whole.

Eat ginger with the sushi itself.  Ginger is used between different types of sushi to cleanse your palate.

Fully dunk the sushi into the soy sauce.  The rice should not be dipped as it will fall apart.

Put wasabi into the soy sauce.  Wasabi should be placed directly onto the sushi if being used.

The History

The origin of sushi is believed to have been during the second century A.D. in southeast Asia because of the need to keep meat fresh without refrigeration.  The cured meat would be wrapped in rice to preserve its freshness.  The idea spread through China and then into Japan where fish was a main staple.
At the end of the Edo period, there was a need for a food that could be consumed on the go.  A fast food version was invented.  The non fermented version could be eaten with the hands or chopsticks.  it was a convenient food that could be eaten at a roadside or in a theater.  The internationally know cuisine known today as “sushi” was born.
Japanese sushi is part food, part art form.  In Japanese culture, becoming a sushi chef requires up to ten years of training.  Training may begin at the age of fifteen, where they spend the first few years learning to wash, boil, and prepare sushi rice.  Overtime they learn how to select the freshest fish and how to prepare it.  Techniques for making and presenting sushi are learned as they work along side the master chef.  For the Japanese, it is an honor to become a sushi chef.
Sushi has become increasingly popular in North America and around the world.  As a result variations of sushi such as the California Roll and Mexican Roll have become common in the West but are rarely found in Japan.

Common Terms

Ebi – Cooked Shrimp
Hamachi – Young Yellow Tail
Hotate – M&M Scallop
Izumi Dai – White Fish
Kani – Imitation Crab
Maguro – Tuna
Masago – Smelt Roe Eggs
Nigiri – Most popular form of sushi with meat and ingredients place on top of the rice.
Ponzu – Citris and soy based sauce commonly used in Japanese cuisine.
Sake – Salmon
Sashimi – Fresh, raw, sliced fish presented on a platter with no rice.
Tako – Octopus
Tempura – A light batter made of water and flour and then deep fried.
Tobiko – Fish Roe Eggs
Unagi – Eel