Friday, April 26

Sushi – bona fide Asian cuisine

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sushi

Have you ever wondered when and where the sushi trend started? Although sushi is seen as the food of the 21st century, it dates back hundreds of years. Here’s a look at when and how it all began…

The first version of sushi dates back to 10th century Japan, when people started eating rice in conjunction with fish. Sushi was initially prepared through a fermentation process to preserve fish, for consumption at later stage. But unlike contemporary sushi, upon consumption, only the fish was consumed and the rice was discarded. This was seen as an early form of ‘fast food’ in Japanese culture, which is ironic because it actually took months to prepare.

With time, the sushi making process evolved to incorporate the five basic tastes of umami – savoury, sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Sushi chefs started adding vinegar to the mixture, to preserve the rice and to improve flavour. This feat was so successful that the fermenting process was abandoned, and preparation relied solely on the use of vinegar, to speed up the process and to lengthen the preservation period.

Preparing sushi with moulds (i.e. bamboo mats, and the like) was introduced in Osaka, during the 18th Century, and this form soon reached contemporary Tokyo, where it was mastered by Hanaya Yohei (1799–1858), who’s been credited as the catalyst for modern-day, Tokyo-style sushi. He was also the first chef to use variations of meat, such as salmon or red meat, which he either slightly cooked or marinated in soy sauce or vinegar.

But it was only during the 1970s that sushi entered the Western market, as Japanese businesses expanded to foreign lands. In an effort to cater for the Western palate, some old sushi-making traditions were abandoned, and the California roll was introduced.

Types of Sushi

Traditional Zushi

 

Contemporary Sushi

Chirashizushi (scattered sushi): A bowl of rice, topped with a variety of sashimi Alaska roll: a variant of the California roll with raw salmon on the inside, or layered on the outside
Inarizushi: A pouch of fried tofu, filled with only sushi rice or a combination of sushi rice, green beans, carrots and gobo British Columbia roll: Contains grilled or barbecued salmon skin, cucumber, sweet sauce, sometimes with roe. Also sometimes referred to as salmon skin rolls outside of British Columbia, Canada
Makizushi (rolled fish; also known as Norimaki and Makimoro): Usually wrapped in a thin omelette, soy paper, perilla leaves or cucumber, and depending on the fillings and width of the cylinder is known as futomaki, hosomaki, temaki and uramaki. California roll: consists of avocado, kani kama (imitation crab/crab stick) (also can contain real crab in ‘premium’ varieties), cucumber and tobiko, often made uramaki (with rice on the outside, nori on the inside)
Marezushi (traditional form of fermented sushi): Skinned and gutted fish stuffed with salt in a wooden barrel, then doused with salt again, and weighed down with a heavy tsukemoishi (pickling stone). The sushi is ready for consumption after six months, and can be stored for an additional six, too. Dynamite roll: Includes yellowtail (hamachi) and/or prawn tempura, and fillings such as bean sprouts, carrots, avocado, cucumber, chilli, spicy mayonnaise, and roe
Nigirzushi (hard pressed sushi): An oblong mound of sushi rice, usually mixed with wasabi, is pressed into a small, rectangular box between the palms of the hands. Hawaiian roll: Contains shoyu tuna (canned), tamago, kanpy?, kamaboko, and the distinctive red and green hana ebi (shrimp powder)
Philadelphia roll: consists of raw or smoked salmon, cream cheese (often Philadelphia cream cheese brand), cucumber or avocado, and/or onion
Rainbow roll: is a California roll with typically 6–7 types of sashimi (yellowtail, tuna, salmon, snapper, white fish, eel, etc.) and avocado wrapped around it
Seattle roll: consists of cucumber, avocado, cream cheese and raw or smoked salmon
Mango roll: includes fillings such as avocado, crab meat, tempura shrimp, mango slices, and topped off with a creamy mango paste
Spider roll: includes fried soft-shell crab and other fillings such as cucumber, avocado, daikon sprouts or lettuce, roe, and sometimes spicy mayonnaise
Michigan roll: includes fillings such as spicy tuna, smelt roe, spicy sauce, avocado, and sushi rice. Is a variation on Spicy Tuna roll.

 

Typical Sushi Ingredients

Sushi Rice There are regional variations of sushi rice, and this ultimately determines the quality (consistency and stickiness) of your sumeshi. Traditional preparation involves mixing the rice with rice vinegar, sugar, salt, konbu and sake.
Nori Edible seaweed, traditionally cultivated in the harbours of Japan. Scrapped from dock pilings, the plant is then sundried. The process is similar to ancient papermaking.
Fish/Seafood Fish and seafood can be cooked or served raw. Popular ingredients include tuna, yellowtail, salmon, roe, red snapper, mackerel, squid, octopus, shrimp, crab, eel and sea urchin
Vegetables Pickled daikon, radish, fermented, soybeans, tofu, pickled plum, cucumber and avocado.
Condiments Shoyu (soy sauce), gari (sweet, pickled ginger) and wasabi (spicy – similar to horse-radish)

 

Sushi is infamous for its health benefits, too – when consumed in moderation. Its main ingredients, rice, fish and vegetables, provides the perfect balanced meal that’s naturally low in fat, high in protein, vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates. But despite its many health benefits, sushi ingredients can present a series of health risks. Apex-predators, namely bluefin and tuna, can horde high levels of methylmercury, which can lead to mercury poisoning when consumed in large quantities. Sashimi and raw meat, generally, presents a risk of infection though parasites that thrive in raw meat. It is, therefore, strongly recommended that women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, nursing babies and also young children, should avoid eating any form of raw meat.

Today, sushi is an internationally recognised form of Asian cuisine. Both traditional and contemporary variations are available in Asian and Western-oriented restaurants, but contemporary sushi is, generally, limited to the Western regions.

And despite its widespread availability, many have endeavoured to master the art of sushi making by attending sushi classes, or through the self-help approach of investing in sushi making recipe books and kitchen tools.

 

So, whether sushi is your favourite takeout or if you prefer to make it at home, it will always stand in a class of its own – you either love it or hate it.

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