Sushi in Japan. There are many myths and misconceptions about Japanese people and culture. One of these concerns the type of daily eating. If you have traveled around the country you will have noticed that often expectations do not really reflect the reality of the facts. Fish every day? Rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Well, while in the past there was some truth about it, today times have changed (as in the rest of the world).
My first experience with sushi was with my mom and my sister. After an afternoon of shopping, we decided to try a new Japanese restaurant, right next to my high school.
My sister and I ordered Temaki, Sashimi, Edamame, and miso soup. My mother, who instead still can not understand what is so special about the combo small piece of rice and fish, tried to finish a bowl of Japanese curry, definitely too tasty for her taste.
If I’m not mistaken it was 2011, Sushi was already a trend in the big city like Milan and Rome and little by little it was making his headway even in the villages on the outskirts.
Well, that was the beginning of my adventure ( I think of many people) with Japanese gastronomy. From a night out with friends, to lunch breaks to work, to last-minute dinners at 11 pm after a few too many beers, it was difficult to say no to a good portion of sushi (and still is).
Having a Japanese boyfriend surely opened up a world to me about the consumption of this dish, and moving to his home country destroyed any stereotype I had built about Japanese. I still see questions on the web or people who ask me directly about some curiosity regarding Japanese and Sushi, and I decided to collect the most interesting and common ones here.
These questions have been asked to me several times, and my answer has always been NY (no and yes).
Eating raw fish here in Japan is much easier. Almost all the supermarkets sell Sashimi, and some even Nigirizushi pieces (a bit like us to tell the truth), but even so, even here, it is very expensive. Hardly a typical family eats raw fish for breakfast, as there are other large categories of dishes (cheaper and simpler) that people tend to prefer. The time has passed since breakfast was made of fish, rice and miso soup.
I will be honest in telling you that most of the people I know, prefer to start the day with sweet bread (similar to our brioche) and coffee, natto or milk and cereals, not to mention those who just can’t eat raw fish .
False. Generally, sushi is mistaken with Nigirizushi (a slice of raw fish on a bite of rice). The term Sushi indeed identifies any dish prepared with rice seasoned with rice vinegar! Of course, it can be enriched with other ingredients such as fish, vegetables, spices … but it may not necessarily be unsuitable for vegetarians and vegans!
So, be aware that when we talk about Sushi, we don’t necessarily include raw fish!
Therefore we move on to point # 3, perhaps the most important:
False. You know, rice can be the most important element.
With the name of shari, rice is equally important as the neta, the condiment. The art behind its preparation is the secret behind every great chef: the right amount of rice vinegar, salt and sugar, the right temperature and the right proportions create combo able to make the difference.
Not surprisingly, for some great Sushi connoisseurs, the shari plays the main role.
Of course, a piece of Maguro (tuna) together with a mediocre bite of rice, will always be good, but just as you know, excellent rice is able to bring out the flavor of a simple cut of fish.
Well, that’s not always the case.
There are varieties of fish that need to be fresh in order to be eaten raw and taste good. I’m talking about the one with a high content of oils such as horse mackerel, sardines or mackerel.
But others, if “aged”, can improve their flavor and texture. Maguro (the Tuna) is an example! From the moment it is caught until it is served, it can take up to a week or more days of aging (some chefs even keep it for 10-15 days).
The technique is very similar to that of meat. Once arrived in the kitchens, the fish is cleaned, wrapped in paper in order to absorb the excess liquids and placed in refrigerator with controlled humidity and temperature.
Here too, the answer is NY (yes and no).
History told us that the Chinese first developed this culture of consumption of fish along with rice (2nd century) and, only with the beginning of the Edo period (1600) time in which Japan opened its border to foreign trade, was brought to the country where was adapted to the taste of the people and spread throughout the world.
The appearance of Chinese sushi, however, was very different from what we know. The fish, once cleaned, was wrapped in a layer of cooked rice in order to be preserved thanks to the starch contained in the cereal. At the time of consumption, rice was often eliminated and the fish fermented was ready for consumption.
In Japan the technique was resumed with the addition of rice vinegar to facilitate fermentation. Only around the mid-1800 the sushi like we know now was started to be sold in street markets among the fish stalls.
What I learned living here, is that Sushi is the “food of occasion”. The people I know eat it once a month, maybe two, because they consider it an important moment, a luxury. Fish play an important rule in the Japanese diet, but sushi is not the first way they consume it.
How many times per week or month you eat sushi in your country?
Have a Good day!
Ele & Yo
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