Rice is the staple food of more than half of the world’s population, and for the majority of Oriental nations it represents a significant source of calories.
There are three basic varieties of rice – long grain, short and round-grained and glutinous that becomes sticky when cooked. The last is the preferred variety by Japanese and Chinese for ease in manipulating lumps when eating with chopsticks.
Of all the nations in the Far East, only the Japanese make and consume sushi which has become popular in North America due to its lack of fat. Many a young woman subsists on sushi these days.
consists of cooked vinegared rice topped with fish or other ingredients. Sashimi on the other hand is sliced raw fish generally served with soy sauce and little else
may be wrapped in nori (pressed dried seaweed) and called makisushi.
Traditionally sushi was fermented fish and vinegared rice. The vinegar in the rice breaks down the amino acids resulting in umami (aka savoury), considered to be the fifth dimension (after sweet, salty, bitter, and acid) tastes.
Only the fermented fish was eaten. The rice was discarded.
The “modern” sushi as practiced today was created by Hanaya Yohei (1799 – 1858) at the end of the Edo Period in Edo (now Kyoto).
There are many types of sushi and variations thereof. Japanese cooks, at least those with certain flamboyance, make a great spectacle of their skill and attract attention in open kitchens.
Here is a short compendium of sushi and related presentations:
Sushi in Japanese means rice and sushi for eating may contain colourful vegetables and bits of raw fish.
Maki sushi is cooked, mirin (rice vinegar) -flavoured rice rolled in dried seaweed. It holds everything in place and provides an attractive frame for the roll.
Fuki-maki contains a variety of ingredients including fish.
Teke-maki is sushi with fresh raw tuna.
Sashimi is raw fish served with soy sauce.
The fat belly of salmon, tuna and other fish species are considered delicacies, demanding a higher price than other part of different fish species.
Nigiri sushi stands for an oblong mound of rice topped with salmon, squid, eel, tuna, often served with wasabi (Japanese horse radish).
Tamboro sushi is an assortment, presented in a box convenient for lunch and take out.
Pressed sushi aka oshi sushi is square and flat. It originated in Osaka. It generally consists of salted herring or mackerel on a bed of vinegared rice.
Inari sushi is fried tofu served on rice.
Nare sushi is salted and fermented in barrels of at least six months.
Chira sushi (scattered) is served on sushi rice topped with a variety of sashimi.
In most cases, Japanese like to enjoy sushi with pickled ginger slices that are said to possess antiseptic qualities. Some like their sushi with wasabi (Japanese horseradish) that super potent and only recommended for those who can stand “hot and sharp” condiments.
Sushi and sashimi grade fish must be very fresh for appeal with an acceptable taste.
Frozen fish loses its texture and turns to “mush”. Japanese trawlers now freeze freshly caught fish after gutting at – 70 C and claim that the flesh tastes as good as fresh when thawed.
Fish from polluted water cause breeding of tapeworms in the gastrointestinal tract and not recommended.
Sushi and sashimi should be consumed only in reputable establishments that employ only the freshest fish.