It’s easy to say Sushi! It is fashionable now, everyone talks about it, everyone eats it… ..But how much do you know about Sushi and its origins? Before leaving for your trip to Japan, I’ll show you how the most famous Japanese dish in the world was born!
What does Sushi mean
Sushi literally means “sour taste” and mainly refers to rice seasoned with vinegar, called “su-meshi”, combined with another ingredient (usually raw fish or seafood) called “neta”. From this combination an incredible amount of variants are born, which differ in shape, quantity and type of ingredients.
The origins of Sushi
The first form of Sushi arrived in Japan from China (for some even from Korea) about 2000 years ago, and is closely linked to the beginning of rice cultivation in the Japanese territory. The “Narezushi” (as this preparation is called today, which we can still taste in the prefecture of Nara) more than a dish was a fish preservation system, where the latter was gutted, salted and rolled in fermented rice for several months. The rice was then discarded and only the fish was eaten.
The turning point came around 1300, when fermented rice was no longer thrown away and eaten with raw and fresh fish, giving life to the dish called “Namanare”, thus passing from a preservation method to a real dish.
During the Edo era (1603-1867), Japan was almost completely isolated from the rest of the world and began to “personalize” its cuisine (as well as many socio-cultural aspects) without any external influence. In this period, “Haya-zushi” (fast sushi) spread, in which rice was no longer expected to naturally sour and was mixed with vinegar, fish and other ingredients.
The creation of “modern” Sushi comes around 1800 thanks to the intelligence of Hanaya Yohei, cook who owns a Yatai (traveling kiosk), who, to avoid rotting the fish, lightly seared it or marinated it in vinegar or soy sauce , then later cut it into thin slices and arrange it on balls of acidulated rice. A small addition of Wasabi (Japanese horseradish) disguised, in case, strong flavors due to the difficult conservation.
Easy to eat, it quickly became a very popular dish that thanks to the various walking Yatai spread (especially after the great Kanto earthquake) throughout Japan.