Discover cool facts about this work of culinary art that will delight even the most avid fans.
While we think of sushi as being traditionally Japanese, it actually originated in southeast Asia. But we can credit Japan with elevating sushi to the culinary art form we enjoy today. Here’s a few other surprising tidbits to consider about sushi:
1. It’s really all about the rice.
Most of us say ‘sushi’ to describe a variety of bites centered around raw fish. In fact, sushi refers to cooked, seasoned rice.
So, yes, it’s the rice that is meant to shine in all things sushi, not the fish! The term Sashimi means thin pieces of raw fish or sometimes meat, and the word comes from the Japanese words for cut or pierced and body, and refers to the deft manner in which the sushi chef uses special knives to prepare the dish. But we won’t get too hung up on the terminology – a piece of sushi by any name is delicious!
2. Sushi is finger food!
All thumbs with chopsticks? Sushi’s your answer. Sushi is intended to be picked up and eaten with the fingers in one or two bites, a likely throwback to the Edo period in Japan when it became popular as a quick lunch-time food for shopkeepers. (Note: Sashimi should always be eaten with chopsticks.)
Here’s a video that explains the correct way to eat Sushi:
3. The order you eat it in matters.
It’s hard, but resist the urge to save your favorite pieces of sushi for last.
Sushi should be eaten lightest to darkest, which makes sense because darker pieces of fish have a stronger flavor and will linger on your palate.
However, if you opt to try “omakase” or “chef’s choice,” you should enjoy each piece in the order it is presented to you.
4. Americans let the good times roll.
The California Roll (an inside-out roll with cucumber, imitation crab and avocado) holds a special honor for being one of the first uniquely American sushi creations. It’s hugely popular and an excellent entry point for newbie sushi-eaters.
Here are some other fun American-rolled creations to try:
• Philadelphia Roll: smoked salmon, cucumber, avocado and–wait for it–cream cheese
• Alaskan Roll: like a California roll, an inside roll with imitation crab and avocado, with raw salmon added
• Boston Roll: another variation on the California roll, but with less rice, poached shrimp instead of crab, and fish roe on the outside
• Hawaiian Roll: wrapped up in thinly sliced cucumber is spicy crab salad with avocado, pineapple and salmon
• Las Vegas Roll: cream cheese, smoked salmon, avocado, spicy sauce, dipped in tempura batter and deep fried
5. Eat your ginger separately.
The ginger, whether it’s fresh or pickled, served alongside your sushi should not be eaten with your sushi.
It’s a palate cleanser to be eaten between bites of different fish, allowing you to taste and enjoy each individual flavor
Eating the ginger with the sushi will overpower the subtle taste and overwhelm your tastebuds.
6. Most sushi fish is frozen first.
You’ve probably been eating sushi from frozen fish without even realizing it. Using previously-frozen fish is common practice, not just for health/safety reasons, but also for the logistics of transporting freshly-caught fish to hungry sushi-lovers everywhere. Using frozen fish for raw consumption is even required in some places, including New York City. Notable exceptions are certain species of tuna, shellfish and farm-raised fish: they are considered safe to eat raw without freezing.
7. Freshly-made sushi is the best sushi.
using previously-frozen fish doesn’t affect the quality of sushi, but think twice about buying pre-made sushi.
Sure, it’s convenient to pick up some pre-made sushi rolls at the grocery store, but the fish used in sushi begins to oxidize as soon as it’s cut and exposed to air, which makes it sour and causes it to lose flavor.
There’s a dizzying array of sushi to tempt your eyes and palate, so enjoy some fresh sushi with some good company on your next trip to the beach!
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M.J. GRENZOW is a freelance writer who loves the beach and super fast recipes that remind her of the water. When she’s not actually at the beach, she’s plotting her next escape to sand and surf.