Recently I launched a new class, Sushi @ Home. I chose sushi because I love it, it’s exciting and it’s easy to prepare.
I knew that some people would be on the fence about sushi because there are some common misperceptions about it. In fact I knew I would have to make the case to fill these classes. That’s ok with me.
Most often people think sushi is the following:
1. Sushi is all about raw fish.
2. Sushi is difficult to make.
3. We can’t find the ingredients to make sushi here.
To each of these points I strongly disagree. I’ll make my case below.
Sushi (rice preparation) is not sashimi (slices of fresh raw fish). See the definitions below.
a Japanese dish consisting of small balls or rolls of vinegar-flavored cold cooked rice served with a garnish of raw fish, vegetables, meats or egg.
a Japanese dish of bite-sized pieces of raw fish eaten with soy sauce and wasabi paste.
Let us now remove sashimi from the discussion, allowing us to focus on sushi and what I will teach in the upcoming classes.
While there is raw fish in sushi it is not as common as we perceive. Just like Chardonnay is a white wine, not all white wine is Chardonnay. Same for sushi. Some sushi has raw fish but not all sushi is raw fish. In fact some of the most common maki rolls are simply cucumber, rice and nori.
So this leads me to share a little of sushi’s backstory.
History of Sushi
The first recording of sushi dates back to the 2nd century A.D. in China, where fish was fermented in rice and then eaten, eventually discarding the rice. Some where around the 7th century the afore mentioned fermentation practice later migrated to Japan, the name for this is Narezushi.
In the 16th century Japanese tastes changed, as did the method of cooking rice. With the discovery of rice vinegar rice began being prepared and seasoned separate from the fish. Additionally serving fresh raw fish along side and on top of the rice was suited for adapting dietary practices. These adaptations allowed sushi to be prepared and eaten without waiting months for the lacto-fermentation to complete, it also allowed for the use of fresh fish, this is the birth of modern Nigiri style sushi.
The 19th and 20th centuries were the era sushi took on its most dynamic changes. In the late 19th century Nigiri sushi came to be. Nigiri sushi, as you will see below, is a ball or oblong shaped piece of rice topped with fresh fish. It is eaten in one bite, designed for a quick snack. Nigiri sushi was often served from street-side food stalls and food carts. The popularity of this style of sushi became wildly popular in Japan.
While sushi has been in America since the early immigrants of Japan’s Mejii Restoration, I twas the period after World War Two was a turning point for sushi, globally. Post Word War Two made for the presence of Americans in Japan, these Americans brought a love of beef and steak to Japan, creating the hibachi craze. Americans, and other nationalities gained an appreciation for and took home a love of sushi. These aspects of cultural fusion are found today in the hibachi style restaurants we see in many cities in the US.
As sushi spread across the United States, and the world, it became a “creolized” version of the original. In fact, sushi has been evolving at a rapid pace ever since, often considered fusion sushi. The California roll, a type of makisushi, substitute sliced avocado for the toro (fatty tuna) in a traditional maki roll. To me, it is in this phase that sushi removed itself from being about fish and more about rice. Sushi is often topped with fresh and pickled vegetables, tempura fried seafood and meat, broiled or grilled beef, the list is endless.
So know that we know how sushi came to be let’s look at the types of contemporary sushi we have available to us today.
Contemporary Sushi Styles
Nigiri | a hand formed rice cake topped with a garnish (raw or cooked fish or steak but also avocado, shaved vegetables, etc).
Temaki | a handmade cone of nori (seaweed paper) stuffed with sushi rice and filled with a garnish (raw fish, cucumber, tempura fried foods, etc).
Maki | rice wrapped in nori and filled with garnishes (cooked crab, cucumbers, vegetables, wasabi, raw fish, seared steak, mushrooms, etc).
Uramaki | an inside out Maki roll where the rice is on the outside and the nori is a decorative garnish.
Chirashi | the simplest of all sushi, simply put this a sushi salad with a base of rice garnished with any assortment of foods, even sashimi.
It is my hope that the above information has made the case for those on the fence that sushi is more about rice, technique and tradition than it is about raw fish.
Which leads us to the Sushi @ Home classes.
My class goal is to demystify many aspects of sushi, explain the difference between sushi and sashimi and to make sushi techniques accessible to those in the class. Beginning with how to properly wash, cook and prepare the sushi rice.
After this I will also share with you the knowledge and skills to make many types of sushi at home, these include the above mentioned Nigiri, Temaki, Maki, Uramaki and Chirashi sushi. Class participants will actively make and eat a variety of sushi.
As with all of our classes this one will be light hearted and fun, with traditional Japanese music in the background.
I hope to see you join me for a section of this class!
Click below for more information.