ABOUT SUSHI

Sushi (寿司, 鮨, or 鮓?) is vinegar rice, topped with other ingredients, such as fish. Sliced raw fish alone is called sashimi, as distinct from sushi. Combined with hand-formed clumps of rice, it is called nigirizushi . Sushi served rolled inside or around nori, dried and pressed layer sheets of seaweed or nori is makizushi . Toppings stuffed into a small pouch of fried tofu is inarizushi. Toppings served scattered over a bowl of sushi rice is called chirashi-zushi.

Sashimi (Japanese: pronounced, English: /səimi/) is a Japanese delicacy primarily consisting of very fresh raw seafood, sliced into thin pieces and served with only a dipping sauce (soy sauce with wasabi paste or other condiments such as grated fresh ginger, or ponzu), depending on the fish, and simple garnishes such as shiso and shredded daikon radish. Dimensions vary depending on the type of item and chef, but are typically about 2.5 cm (1") wide by 4 cm (1.5") long by 0.5 cm (0.2") thick. The word sashimi means "pierced body", i.e. "刺身 = sashimi = 刺し = sashi (pierced, stuck) and 身 = mi (body, meat), may derive from the culinary practice of sticking the fish's tail and fin to the slices in identifying the fish being eaten.

One possibility of the name "pierced body" could come from the traditional method of harvesting. 'Sashimi Grade' fish is caught by individual handline, and as soon as the fish is landed, its brain is pierced with a sharp spike, killing it instantly, then placed in slurried ice. This spiking is called the Ike jime process. Because the flesh thus contains minimal lactic acid from the fish dying slowly, it will keep fresh on ice for about 10 days without turning white, or otherwise degrading.

The word sashimi has been integrated into the English language and is often used to refer to other uncooked fish preparations besides the traditional Japanese dish subject of this article. Many non- Japanese conflate sashimi and sushi; the two dishes are actually distinct and separate. Sushi refers to any dish made with vinegared rice, and while raw fish is one traditional sushi ingredient, many sushi dishes contain seafood that has been cooked, while others have no seafood at all.

Types of Sushi

The common ingredient across all the different kinds of sushi is sushi rice. The variety in sushi arises from the different fillings and toppings, condiments, and the way these ingredients are put together. The same ingredients may be assembled in a traditional or a contemporary way, creating a very different final result. In spelling sushi its first letter s is replaced with z when a prefix is attached, as in nigirizushi, due to consonant mutation called rendaku in Japanese.

Nigirisushi

Nigirizushi ( lit. hand-formed sushi) consists of an oblong mound of sushi rice that is pressed between the palms of the hands, usually with a bit of wasabi, and a topping draped over it. Toppings are typically fish such as salmon, tuna or seafood. Certain toppings are typically bound to the rice with a thin strip of nori, most commonly tako (octopus), unagi (freshwater eel), anago (sea eel), ika (squid), and tamago (sweet egg). When ordered separately, nigiri is generally served in pairs. A sushi set may contain only one piece of each topping.

Gunkanmaki ( lit. 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, natto, oysters, sea urchin, corn with mayonnaise, and quail eggs.Gunkan-maki was invented at the Ginza Kyubey restaurant in 1931; its invention significantly expanded the repertoire of soft toppings used in sushi. Temarizushi ( lit. ball sushi) is a ball-shaped sushi made by pressing rice and fish into a ball-shaped form by hand using a plastic wrap. They are quite easy to make and thus a good starting point for beginners. Makizushi or Makimono Rolling maki

Makizushi rolls

Makizushi ( lit. rolled sushi) or makimono ( lit. variety of rolls) is cylindrical piece, formed with the help of a bamboo mat, called a makisu. Makizushi is generally wrapped in nori, but can occasionally be found wrapped in a thin omelette, soy paper, cucumber, or parsley. Makizushi is usually cut into six or eight pieces, which constitutes a single roll order. Below are some common types of makizushi, but many other kinds exist. Futomaki ( lit. thick, large or fat rolls) is a large cylindrical piece, with nori on the outside. A typical futomaki is three or four centimeters (1.5 in) in diameter. They are often made with two or three fillings that are chosen for their complementary tastes and colors. During the Setsubun festival, it is traditional in Kansai to eat uncut futomaki in its cylindrical form, where it is particularly called ehou-maki ( lit. happy direction rolls). Futomaki is often vegetarian, but may include non-vegetarian toppings such as tiny fish roe and chopped tuna.

Hosomaki ( lit. thin rolls) is a small cylindrical piece, with the nori on the outside. A typical hosomaki has a diameter of about two centimeters (0.75 in). They generally contain only one filling, often tuna, cucumber, kanpyō, thinly sliced carrots, or, more recently, avocado. Kappamaki, 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 is a kind of Hosomaki filled with raw tuna. Although some believe that the name "Tekka", meaning 'red hot iron', alludes to the color of the tuna flesh, it actually originated as a quick snack to eat in gambling dens called "Tekkaba ", much like the sandwich. Negitoromaki is a kind of Hosomaki filled with scallion and chopped tuna. Fatty tuna is often used in this style. Tsunamayomaki is a kind of Hosomaki filled with canned tuna tossed with mayonnaise.

Temaki ( lit. hand rolls) 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.

Uramaki ( lit. inside-out rolls) 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, carrots. Uramaki has not been so popular in Japan and most of makimono is not uramaki because it is easy to hold makimono with nori skin by fingers. However, since some Western people dislike the black impression of makimono with nori skin, uramaki has become more popular in Western countries than nori-skined makimono.

Oshizushi

Sasazushi, a type of oshizushi Oshizushi ( lit. pressed sushi), is a pressed sushi from the Kansai Region, a favourite 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.

Inari-zushi

Inari-zushi (stuffed sushi) is a pouch of fried tofu filled with usually just sushi rice. 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 (abura age). Regional variations include pouches made of a thin omelette ( fukusa-zushi or chakin-zushi). It should not be confused with inari maki, which is a roll filled with flavored fried tofu. A very large version, sweeter than normal and often containing bits of carrot, is popular in Hawaii, where it is called "cone sushi."

Sukeroku

Sukeroku ( name of a man in Edo period) is the combination set of inarizushi and makizushi, which is served as a single-portion takeout style sushi-pack. In a famous Kabuki play Sukeroku, a good looks man Sukeroku is the lover of an Oiran courtesan named Agemaki (lit. fry for age and roll for maki). Age and maki which form her name correspond to fried tofu namely inari and makimono, respectively. One rumour of sukeroku-zushi is that takeout style packs of inarizushi and makizushi had served at performances of Sukeroku kabuki in Edo period. Sukeroku is a cheap sushi-pack and often vegetarian.

Chirashizushi

Nama-chirashi, or chirashizushi with raw ingredients Chirashizushi ( lit. scattered sushi) is a bowl of sushi rice with other ingredients mixed in (also refers to barazushi). It is commonly eaten in Japan because it is filling, fast and easy to make. Chirashizushi most often varies regionally because it is eaten annually as a part of the Doll Festival, celebrated only during March in Japan. Chirashizushi is sometimes interesting because the ingredients are often chef's choice. 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) are cooked or uncooked ingredients mixed in the body of rice in a bowl.

Narezushi

Narezushi ( lit. matured sushi) is a traditional form of fermented sushi. Skinned and gutted fish are stuffed with salt, placed in a wooden barrel, doused with salt again, then weighed down with a heavy tsukemonoishi (pickling stone). As days pass, water seeps out and is removed. After six months this funazushi can be eaten, remaining edible for another six months or more.

Western sushi

The increasing popularity of sushi in North America as well as around the world has resulted in variations of sushi typically found in the West but rarely if at all in Japan. Such creations to suit the Western palate were initially fueled by the invention of the California roll. A wide variety of popular rolls has evolved since. Some examples include:
  • California roll consists of avocado, kani kama (imitation crab stick), and cucumber, often made uramaki (with rice on the outside, nori on the inside)
  • Caterpillar roll generally includes avocado, unagi, kani kama, and cucumber.
  • Dynamite roll includes yellowtail (hamachi), and fillings such as bean sprouts, carrots, chili and spicy mayonnaise (In some parts of Canada, especially western Canada, a dynamite roll consists of a tempura-fried shrimp, masago (capelin roe), avocado and cucumber.)
  • Rainbow roll is typically a California roll topped with several various sashimi.
  • Spider roll includes fried soft shell crab and other fillings such as cucumber, avocado, daikon sprouts or lettuce, roe, and spicy mayonnaise.
  • Philadelphia roll almost always consists of smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber, and/or onion.
  • Salmon roll has grilled salmon skin with sweet sauce and cucumber.
  • Crunchy roll a California roll deep fried tempura-style, often topped with sweet eel sauce or chili sauce.
  • Seattle roll consists of cucumber, avocado, and raw or smoked salmon.
  • B.C. Roll contains salmon skin, roe, cucumber, sweet sauce.
  • Other rolls may include scallops, spicy tuna, beef or chicken or teriyaki roll, okra, and vegetables.Sushi rolls can also be made with brown rice and black rice. These have also appeared in Japanese cuisine. In Hawaii, there is a predominant style of maki sushi that includes shoyu tuna (canned not fresh), tamago, kanpyo, kamaboko, and the distinctive red and green hana ebi (shrimp powder).

Ingredients

All sushi has a base of specially prepared rice, complemented with other ingredients.

Sushi rice

Sushi is made with white, short-grained, Japanese rice mixed with a dressing made of rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and occasionally kombu and sake. It has to be cooled to room temperature before being used for a filling in a sushi. In some fusion cuisine restaurants, short grain brown rice and wild rice are also used. Sushi rice (sushi-meshi or su-meshi) is prepared with short-grain Japanese rice, which has a consistency that differs from long-grain strains such as those from India, Thailand, Vietnam. The essential quality is its stickiness or glutinousness. Rice that is too sticky has a mushy texture; if not sticky enough, it feels dry. Freshly harvested rice (shinmai) typically contains too much water, and requires extra time to drain the rice cooker after washing.

There are regional variations in sushi rice and, of course, individual chefs have their individual methods. Most of the variations are in the rice vinegar dressing: the Kanto region (or East Japan) version of the dressing commonly uses more salt; in Kansai region (or West Japan), the dressing has more sugar.

Nori

A sheet of nori.

The black seaweed wrappers used in makimono are called nori. Nori is a type of algae, traditionally cultivated in the harbors of Japan. Originally, algae was scraped from dock pilings, rolled out into thin, edible sheets, and dried in the sun, in a process similar to making rice paper. Whereas in Japan, nori may never be toasted before being used in food, many brands found in the U.S. reach drying temperatures above 108 degrees Fahrenheit.

Today, the commercial product is farmed, processed, toasted, packaged, and sold in standard-size sheets about 18 cm by 21 cm (7 in by 8 in). Higher quality nori is thick, smooth, shiny, green, and has no holes. When stored for several months, nori sheets can change color to dark green-brownish. The standard size of a whole nori sheet mentioned above influences the size of maki-mono. A full size sheet produces futomaki, and a half produces hosomaki and temaki. To produce gunkan and some other makimono, an appropriately sized piece of nori is cut from a whole sheet. Nori by itself is an edible snack and is available with salt or flavored with teriyaki sauce. The flavored variety, however, tends to be of lesser quality and is not suitable for sushi. When making fukusazushi, a paper-thin omelette may replace a sheet of nori as the wrapping. The omelette is traditionally made on a rectangular omelette pan (makiyakinabe), and used to form the pouch for the rice and fillings.

Toppings and fillings

Unagi-Nigiri

For culinary, sanitary, and aesthetic reasons, fish eaten raw must be fresher and of higher quality than fish which is cooked. Professional sushi chefs are trained to recognize important attributes, including smell, color, firmness, and freedom from parasites that may go undetected in commercial inspection. Commonly-used fish are tuna (maguro, chūtoro, shiro-maguro, toro), Japanese amberjack, yellowtail (hamachi), snapper (kurodai), mackerel (saba), and salmon (sake). The most valued sushi ingredient is toro, the fatty cut of tuna. This comes in a variety of ōtoro (often from the bluefin species of tuna) and chūtoro, meaning middle toro, implying that it is halfway into the fattiness between toro and regular red tuna (maguro). Aburi style refers to nigiri sushi where the fish is partially grilled (topside) and partially raw. Most nigiri sushi will be completely raw.

Other seafoods such as squid (ika), eel (anago and unagi), conger (hamo), octopus (tako), shrimp (ebi and amaebi), clam (mirugai, aoyagi and akagi), fish roe (ikura, masago, kazunoko and tobiko), sea urchin (uni), crab (kani), and various kinds of shellfish (abalone, prawn, scallop) are the most popular seafoods in sushi. Oysters, however, are less common, as the taste is not thought to go well with the rice. Kani kama, or imitation crab stick, is commonly subsituted for real crab, most notably in California rolls. Ebifurai-Maki. Fried-Shrimp Roll.

Pickled daikon radish (takuan) in shinko maki, pickled vegetables (tsukemono), fermented soybeans (nattō) in nattō maki, avocado, cucumber in kappa maki, asparagus, yam, pickled ume (umeboshi), gourd (kanpyō), burdock (gobo), and sweet corn may be mixed with mayonnaise. Tofu and eggs (in the form of slightly sweet, layered omelette called tamagoyaki and raw quail eggs ride as a gunkan-maki topping) are common.

Condiments

Sushi is commonly eaten with condiments. Sushi may be dipped in Shōyu, soy sauce, and may be flavored with Wasabi, a piquant paste made from the grated root of the Wasabi japonica plant. True wasabi has anti-microbial properties and may reduce the risk of food poisoning. The traditional grating tool for wasabi is a sharkskin grater or samegawa oroshi. An imitation wasabi (seiyo-wasabi), made from horseradish and mustard powder and dyed green is common. It is found at lower-end kaiten zushi restaurants, in bento box sushi and at most restaurants outside of Japan. If manufactured in Japan, it may be labelled "Japanese Horseradish".

Gari, sweet, pickled ginger is eaten with sushi to both cleanse the palate and aid in digestion. In Japan, green tea (ocha) is invariably served together with sushi. Better sushi restaurants often use a distinctive premium tea known as mecha. In sushi vocabulary, green tea is known as agari.

Nutrition

The main ingredients of traditional Japanese sushi, raw fish and rice, are naturally low in fat, high in protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. The same may not be said categorically of Western-style sushi, which increasingly features non-traditional ingredients such as mayonnaise, avocado, and cream cheese.

Most seafood are naturally low in fat; and what fat is found in them is generally rich in unsaturated fat Omega-3. Since sushi is often served raw, no cooking fat is introduced during its preparation. Some nontraditional ingredients such as cream cheese and mayonnaise that are sometimes found in Western-style sushi dishes can add significant amounts of unhealthy fat to a traditionally lean dish.

Fish, tofu, seafood, egg, and many other sushi fillings contain high levels of protein. Imitation meat such as krab stick may be lower in protein and other nutrition than their natural, unprocessed counterparts. Vitamins and minerals are found in much of the seafood and vegetables used for sushi. The nutritional content is dependent on the ingredients used. For example, Shrimp are high in calcium and iodine, while salmon are rich in Vitamin D. The gari and nori used to make sushi are both rich in nutrients. Other vegetables wrapped within the sushi also offer various vitamins and minerals.

Carbohydrates are found in the rice and the vegetables. Certain non-traditional ingredients can raise the carbohydrate level quite high, as with the fat level.

Health risks

Differential symptoms of parasite infections by raw fish. All have gastrointestinal, but otherwise distinct, symptoms.

As with most foods, sushi is not free from health risks, but these risks are minimized with proper preparation and service. Some large fish, such as tuna (especially bluefin), can harbor high levels of mercury. This is due to the tuna's position at the top of the food chain (among sea creatures). Thus, tuna can lead to mercury poisoning when consumed in quantity.

Parasite infection by raw fish is rare in the modern world (fewer than 40 cases per year in the U.S.), and involves mainly three kinds of parasites: Clonorchis sinensis (a trematode/fluke), Anisakis (a nematode/roundworm) and Diphyllobothrium (a cestode/tapeworm).[21] Infection risk of anisakis is particularly higher in fishes which may live in a river such as salmon (shake) in Salmonidae, mackerel (saba). Such parasite infections can generally be avoided by boiling, burning, preserving in salt or vinegar, or freezing overnight. Even Japanese people never eat raw salmon and ikura, and even if they seem raw, these foods are not raw but are frozen overnight to prevent infections from parasites, particularly anisakis.

Some forms of sushi, notably glogfish or puffer fugu and some kinds of shellfish, can cause severe poisoning if not prepared properly. Particularly, fugu has a lethal dose of tetrodotoxin in its internal organs and must be prepared by a licensed fugu chef who has passed the national examination in Japan.

Presentation

Sushi chef preparing Nigirizushi, Kyoto, Japan.

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, shō/matsu ( pine), chiku/take ( bamboo) and bai/ume ( ume), with matsu the most expensive and ume the cheapest.

In Japan, and increasingly abroad, sushi is 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 RFID tags embedded in the dishes to bill automatically and manage elapsed time after cooked.

Etiquette

Nigirizushi is traditionally eaten with the fingers, since sushi rice is packed loosely so as to fall apart in one's mouth. This is allowed even in formal settings. However, this has become over-etiquette today. Instead, most Japanese now eat sushi with chopsticks.

Soy sauce may be poured into a small sauce dish. While many dip the rice side into the soy sauce, traditional etiquette insists instead that the sushi is turned over so that the topping is dipped, as proper loosely packed rice might fall apart. If it is difficult to turn the sushi, one can smear soy sauce, using gari as a brush. Mixing wasabi and soy sauce together is the practice when eating sashimi, however it is not proper etiquette when eating sushi.

Gallery
Edomae Nigiri
Spicy Tuna Hand Roll
Spicy Shrimp Roll
Ebi Nigiri Sushi
Salmon Skin Rolls
Salmon Nigiri
California Roll and Tuna
Roll in Uramaki
Nigiri Toro (fatty tuna belly)
Salmon roll
Kakinoha (Persimmon leaf) Sushi
Chakin-Sushi, wrapped by thin omelette.
Sushi plate
Experimental Sushi shapes.
Carrot and Apple (From Denmark)
Ikura gunkan makizushi Sasazushi
Unagi (teriyaki-roasted freshwater eel) Sushi
Assorted Sushi
Nigirizushi for sale at a supermarket in Tokyo
Assorted sushi from Shimbashi Izakaya, San Diego, California.