Sushi (すし, 寿司, 鮨, 鮓, 寿斗, 寿し, 壽司?) is a Japanese food consisting of cooked vinegared rice (shari) combined with other ingredients (neta). Neta and forms of sushi presentation vary, but the ingredient which all sushi have in common is shari. The most common neta is seafood.
Raw meat sliced and served by itself is sashimi. Sashimi (Japanese: 刺身, pronounced [saɕimiꜜ]; /səˈʃiːmiː/) is a Japanese delicacy. It consists of very fresh raw meat, most commonly fish, sliced into thin pieces.
Types of Sushi
Chirashizushi (ちらし寿司, "scattered sushi") is a bowl of sushi rice topped with a variety of sashimi and garnishes (also refers to barazushi). Edomae chirashizushi (Edo-style scattered sushi) is an uncooked ingredient that is arranged artfully on top of the sushi rice in a bowl. Gomokuzushi (Kansai-style sushi) consists of cooked or uncooked ingredients mixed in the body of rice in a bowl. There is no set formula for the ingredients; they are either chef's choice or specified by the customer. It is commonly eaten because it is filling, fast and easy to make. Chirashizushi often varies regionally. It is eaten annually on Hinamatsuri in March.
Inarizushi (稲荷寿司) is a pouch of fried tofu typically filled with sushi rice alone. It is named after the Shinto god Inari, who is believed to have a fondness for fried tofu. The pouch is normally fashioned as deep-fried tofu (油揚げ, abura age). Regional variations include pouches made of a thin omelette (帛紗寿司, fukusa-zushi, or 茶巾寿司, chakin-zushi). It should not be confused with inari maki, which is a roll filled with flavored fried tofu.
A version of inarizushi that includes green beans, carrots, and gobo along with rice, wrapped in a triangular aburage (fried tofu) piece, is a Hawaiian specialty, where it is called cone sushi and is often sold in okazu-ya (Japanese delis) and as a component of bento boxes.
- Futomaki (太巻, "thick, large or fat rolls") is a large cylindrical piece, with nori on the outside. A typical futomaki is five to six centimeters (2–2.5 in) in diameter. They are often made with two, three, or more fillings that are chosen for their complementary tastes and colors. During the evening of the Setsubun festival, it is traditional in the Kansai region to eat uncut futomaki in its cylindrical form, where it is called ehō-maki (恵方巻, lit. happy direction rolls). By 2000 the custom had spread to all of Japan. Futomaki are often vegetarian, and may utilize strips of cucumber, kampyō gourd, takenoko bamboo shoots, or lotus root. Strips of tamagoyaki omelette, tiny fish roe, chopped tuna, and oboro whitefish flakes are typical non-vegetarian fillings.
- Hosomaki (細巻, "thin rolls") is a small cylindrical piece, with the nori on the outside. A typical hosomaki has a diameter of about two and a half centimeters (1 in). They generally contain only one filling, often tuna, cucumber, kanpyō, thinly sliced carrots, or, more recently, avocado. Kappamaki, (河童巻) a kind of Hosomaki filled with cucumber, is named after the Japanese legendary water imp fond of cucumbers called the kappa. Traditionally, Kappamaki is consumed to clear the palate between eating raw fish and other kinds of food, so that the flavors of the fish are distinct from the tastes of other foods. Tekkamaki (鉄火巻) is a kind of Hosomaki filled with raw tuna. Although it is believed that the name "Tekka", meaning 'red hot iron', alludes to the color of the tuna flesh or salmon flesh, it actually originated as a quick snack to eat in gambling dens called "Tekkaba" (鉄火場), much like the sandwich. Negitoromaki (ねぎとろ巻) is a kind of Hosomaki filled with scallion (negi) and chopped tuna (toro). Fatty tuna is often used in this style. Tsunamayomaki (ツナマヨ巻) is a kind of Hosomaki filled with canned tuna tossed with mayonnaise.
- Temaki (手巻, "hand roll") is a large cone-shaped piece of nori on the outside and the ingredients spilling out the wide end. A typical temaki is about ten centimeters (4 in) long, and is eaten with fingers because it is too awkward to pick it up with chopsticks. For optimal taste and texture, Temaki must be eaten quickly after being made because the nori cone soon absorbs moisture from the filling and loses its crispness and becomes somewhat difficult to bite. For this reason, the nori in pre-made or take-out temaki is sealed in plastic film which is removed immediately before eating.
- Uramaki (裏巻, "inside-out roll") is a medium-sized cylindrical piece with two or more fillings. Uramaki differs from other makimono because the rice is on the outside and the nori inside. The filling is in the center surrounded by nori, then a layer of rice, and an outer coating of some other ingredients such as roe or toasted sesame seeds. It can be made with different fillings, such as tuna, crab meat, avocado, mayonnaise, cucumber or carrots. In Japan, urimaki is an uncommon type of makimono because of the outer layer of rice can be quite difficult to handle with fingers.
Nigirizushi (握り寿司, "hand-formed sushi") consists of an oblong mound of sushi rice that the chef presses into a small rectangular box between the palms of the hands, usually with a bit of wasabi, and a topping (the neta) draped over it. Neta are typically fish such as salmon, tuna or other seafood. Certain toppings are typically bound to the rice with a thin strip of nori, most commonly octopus (tako), freshwater eel (unagi), sea eel (anago), squid (ika), and sweet egg (tamago). When ordered separately, nigiri is generally served in pairs. A sushi set (a sampler dish) may contain only one piece of each topping.
- Gunkanmaki (軍艦巻, "warship roll") is a special type of nigirizushi: an oval, hand-formed clump of sushi rice that has a strip of "nori" wrapped around its perimeter to form a vessel that is filled with some soft, loose or fine-chopped ingredient that requires the confinement of nori such as roe, nattō, oysters, sea urchin, corn with mayonnaise, and quail eggs. Gunkan-maki was invented at the Ginza Kyubey restaurant in 1941; its invention significantly expanded the repertoire of soft toppings used in sushi.
- Temarizushi (手まり寿司, "ball sushi") is a ball-shaped sushi made by pressing rice and fish into a ball-shaped form by hand using a plastic wrap. It is quite easy to make and thus a good starting point for beginners. Any toppings can be used for these little Sushi balls, from ham for kids, to vegetarian toppings and even fruits.
Oshizushi (押し寿司?, "pressed sushi"), also known as 箱寿司, hako-zushi, "box sushi"), is a pressed sushi from the Kansai Region, a favorite and specialty of Osaka. A block-shaped piece formed using a wooden mold, called an oshibako. The chef lines the bottom of the oshibako with the toppings, covers them with sushi rice, and then presses the lid of the mold down to create a compact, rectilinear block. The block is removed from the mold and then cut into bite-sized pieces. Particularly famous is バッテラ (battera, pressed mackerel sushi) or 鯖寿司 (saba zushi).
Traditionally, sushi is served on minimalist Japanese-style, geometric, mono- or duo-tone wood or lacquer plates, in keeping with the aesthetic qualities of this cuisine.
Many sushi restaurants offer fixed-price sets, selected by the chef from the catch of the day. These are often graded as shō-chiku-bai (松竹梅), shō/matsu (松, pine), chiku/take (竹, bamboo) and bai/ume), with matsu the most expensive and ume the cheapest.
Sushi may be served kaiten zushi (sushi train) style. Color coded plates of sushi are placed on a conveyor belt; as the belt passes customers choose as they please. After finishing, the bill is tallied by counting how many plates of each color have been taken. Newer kaiten zushi restaurants use barcodes or RFID tags embedded in the dishes to bill automatically and manage elapsed time after the item was prepared.
Unlike sashimi, which is almost always eaten with chopsticks, nigirizushi is traditionally eaten with the fingers, even in formal settings. While it is commonly served on a small platter with a side dish for dipping, sushi can also be served in a bento, a box with small compartments that hold the various dishes of the meal.
Soy sauce is the usual condiment, and sushi is normally served with a small sauce dish, or a compartment in the bento. Traditional etiquette suggests that the sushi is turned over so that only the topping is dipped; this is because the soy sauce is for flavoring the topping, not the rice, and because the rice would absorb too much soy sauce and would fall apart. If it is difficult to turn the sushi upside-down, one can baste the sushi in soy sauce using gari (sliced ginger) as a brush. Toppings which have their own sauce (such as eel) should not be eaten with soy sauce.
Traditionally, the sushi chef will add an appropriate amount of wasabi to the sushi while preparing it, and etiquette suggests eating the sushi as is, since the chef is supposed to know the proper amount of wasabi to use. However, today wasabi is more a matter of personal taste, and even restaurants in Japan may serve wasabi on the side for customers to use at their discretion, even when there is wasabi already in the roll.
The original type of sushi, known today as nare-zushi (馴れ寿司, 熟寿司), was first developed in Southeast Asia, possibly along what is now the Mekong River, and then spread to southern China before introduction to Japan. The term sushi comes from an archaic grammatical form no longer used in other contexts; literally, sushi means "sour-tasting", a reflection of its historic fermented roots. The oldest form of sushi in Japan, narezushi, still very closely resembles this process, wherein fish is fermented via being wrapped in soured fermenting rice. The fish proteins break down via fermentation into its constituent amino acids. The fermenting rice and fish results in a sour taste and also one of the five basic tastes, called umami in Japanese. In Japan, narezushi evolved into oshizushi and ultimately Edomae nigirizushi, which is what the world today knows as "sushi".
Contemporary Japanese sushi has little resemblance to the traditional lacto-fermented rice dish. Originally, when the fermented fish was taken out of the rice, only the fish was consumed and the fermented rice was discarded. The strong-tasting and smelling funazushi, a kind of narezushi made near Lake Biwa in Japan, resembles the traditional fermented dish. Beginning in the Muromachi period (AD 1336–1573) of Japan, vinegar was added to the mixture for better taste and preservation. The vinegar accentuated the rice's sourness and was known to increase its shelf life, allowing the fermentation process to be shortened and eventually abandoned. In the following centuries, sushi in Osaka evolved into oshi-zushi. The seafood and rice were pressed using wooden (usually bamboo) molds. By the mid 18th century, this form of sushi had reached Edo (contemporary Tokyo).
The contemporary version, internationally known as "sushi", was created by Hanaya Yohei (1799–1858) at the end of the Edo period in Edo. The sushi invented by Hanaya was an early form of fast food that was not fermented (therefore prepared quickly) and could be eaten with one's hands at a roadside or in a theatre. Originally, this sushi was known as Edomae zushi because it used freshly caught fish in the Edo-mae (Edo Bay or Tokyo Bay). Though the fish used in modern sushi no longer usually comes from Tokyo Bay, it is still formally known as Edomae nigirizushi.
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