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What is Sushi?

What is Sushi? Facts You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

A Japanese delicacy, sushi is nothing other than vinegar-flavored rice, topped with different ingredients.
Sonia Nair
Last Updated: Mar 10, 2018
The term sushi denotes a dish of rice seasoned with sweet rice-wine vinegar. Though the basic ingredient is rice, this dish comes in different types, that are made with different toppings, fillings, and condiments. They include raw fish, cooked fish, shellfish, tofu, boiled corn, mayonnaise, eggs, etc. Though it is believed that sushi is Japanese in origin, it is also claimed that it was introduced in Japan from China, during the seventh century.
Sushi - Origin and History
The origin of sushi is linked to the efforts of ancient Chinese people to preserve fish. They developed a technique to ferment fish with rice and salt. During that period, it took around three months to one year for the fish to get fermented. They used to consume the fish and discard the sour rice. Such fermented fish was termed narezushi. Later, people started using vinegar for fermentation, along with rice and fish. This enhanced the taste of the end product, and shortened the time taken for fermentation.
People in Osaka started using wooden molds to press seafood and rice, and this type of sushi was termed oshizushi. By the nineteenth century, the forerunner of contemporary sushi was developed in Tokyo, by Hanaya Yohei. Earlier, this sushi was termed edomae zushi, as the fish used for this purpose was from Tokyo bay, and Tokyo was known as 'Edo' at that time. This type of sushi was made without any sort of fermentation, and this made the process much faster.
Different Types
As mentioned above, there are various types of sushi, and the common factor among them is vinegared rice. Sushi variants differ in toppings, condiments, and fillings. The method of serving may also make a sushi different from other types. The following are some of the common types of sushi.
  • One of the earliest forms of sushi, narezushi is made of fermented fish. The rice used for fermentation is discarded, and only the fish is eaten.
  • Oshizushi is another form, which is made by pressing the ingredients inside a wooden mold called oshibako. The bottom of the mold is lined with toppings, which are covered with sushi rice. The lid has to be pressed tight, so that the contents are transformed to a rectangular block, which is then sliced and served.
  • Nigirizushi is another type, which is made by placing fish slices over rice balls, along with wasabi (a thick green root of the wasabi plant that tastes like strong horseradish). In some types of nigirizushi, thin strips of seaweed are used to bind the rice and toppings.
  • Makizushi is a sushi variety, which has various subtypes. This type is mostly cylindrical in shape and wrapped in seaweed (nori). The various types of makizushi include futomaki (mostly vegetarian), hosomaki (with one filling, either vegetable or fish), kappamaki with cucumber filling, tekkamaki with raw tuna filling, etc.
  • Another type is the stuffed one, which is known as Inarizushi. This type is made by filling plain sushi rice in a pouch of fried tofu.
  • Chirashizushi/barazushi is another form of sushi, which is served in a bowl. It is different from others, because it is served as a bowl of sushi rice, mixed with other ingredients.

Apart from the above mentioned ones, there are various other types and subtypes of sushi. The term sushi is often used interchangeably with 'sashimi'. Though raw fish slices are used as toppings in some sushi types, the term sashimi denotes sliced raw fish alone. You may also come across a dish called sashimi, which is sliced fish served attractively with some garnishing. Usually, such a dish consists of raw, cooked, or pickled fish, (sliced or cut in different shapes), served on shiso leaves with garnishing.
Off late, different types of western sushi have also been developed. Though not a sushi in the true sense, these variants are more suited for a western palate. So try the various sushi types and enjoy the delicacy.
Chirashizushi over rice
Inarizushi food
Serving of seven hosomaki salmon sushi
Sushi ??? Futomaki
Sushi on a plate