Sushi: All You Need To Know About Japan’s Favourite Dish
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Just like India, Japanese cuisine is deeply intertwined with the country's culture, traditions, and geography. One of the things that the two cultures have in common is the fact that seasonal festivals and events often feature specific foods that celebrate the time of year. The preparation for most Japanese dishes is meticulous and the presentation of dishes reflects an appreciation for aesthetics. Apart from dishes such as Ramen, Tempura, and Miso Soup, one of the Japanese dishes that has enjoyed growing popularity across the world, is Sushi. In India too, Sushi has found patrons who easily brand this their favourite food.

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Simply put, sushi is a combination of vinegared rice accompanied by raw or cooked seafood, vegetables, and sometimes tropical fruits. It gained popularity in Japan as street food was sold from stalls and became a popular quick meal, and then made its way to fine dining establishments. A staple of Japanese cuisine, making Sushi is an art form that needs precision and high-quality ingredients.

It comes in various forms, including nigiri, maki, and scattered chirashi. Some of the common ingredients in sushi are fish and seafood such as tuna (maguro), salmon (sake), yellowtail (hamachi), eel (unagi), shrimp (ebi), and octopus (tako); vegetables such as cucumber, avocado, pickled radish (takuan), and seaweed and condiments such as soy sauce, wasabi, pickled ginger (gari), and sesame seeds.

The Journey Of Sushi

The origins of sushi can be traced back to Southeast Asia, where a method of preserving fish in fermented rice was developed. This technique, known as narezushi, involved packing fish with rice and salt, allowing it to ferment for several months. The rice was discarded, and only the fish was eaten.

The technique of Narezushi was introduced to Japan in the Nara period. The Japanese adapted this method, initially maintaining the fermentation process. The modern form of sushi, nigiri-zushi, emerged in the early 19th century in Edo (now Tokyo). Hanaya Yohei is often credited with inventing this style around 1824. He developed the technique of placing slices of raw or marinated fish atop small mounds of vinegared rice, creating a fast food that could be made and consumed quickly.

Today, sushi comes in many forms, from traditional nigiri and sashimi to creative rolls and fusion dishes. You will find it served in high-end restaurants and even special conveyor belt sushi bars. In Japan sushi started off as a street food and even today is also available at convenience stores, supermarkets, and casual dining establishments. 

The Popularity Of Sushi In India 

The love for sushi in India is a recent phenomenon. With more Indians travelling abroad and experiencing international cuisines, sushi has become a familiar and sought-after dish. The influence of Japanese pop culture, including anime and manga, has also introduced Japanese food, including sushi, to a broader audience in India.

Sushi is often perceived as a healthy dining option due to its use of fresh ingredients, lean proteins, and minimal use of unhealthy fats. The growing awareness and preference for healthy eating habits among urban Indians have contributed to the popularity of sushi. Major cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, and Pune have seen a surge in the number of Japanese restaurants and sushi bars.

Food television shows and social media platforms have played a significant role in popularising sushi. Influencers and food bloggers too have helped promote sushi as a trendy and upscale dining option.

Raw fish, a staple in traditional sushi, is not universally accepted in India due to dietary preferences and concerns about raw food. Vegetarian sushi options and cooked variants like tempura rolls have become popular in India. Vegetarian sushi is a great option for those who prefer to avoid fish and seafood. It incorporates a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, and other plant-based ingredients, offering a range of flavours and textures. 

Types Of Sushi: Here’s How You Can Identify Your Sushi

Nigiri (hand-pressed): Slices of raw fish or other seafood are served atop a small mound of vinegared rice. Common toppings include tuna, salmon, shrimp, and eel

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Maki (roll): This rolled sushi, where fish, vegetables, and rice are rolled in seaweed (nori) and sliced into bite-sized pieces come in different sub types

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Hosomaki: Thin rolls with one ingredient, like cucumber or tuna.

Futomaki: Thick rolls with multiple ingredients.

Uramaki: Inside-out rolls, with rice on the outside and nori inside, often topped with sesame seeds or fish roe.

Temaki: Hand-rolled sushi shaped like a cone, filled with various ingredients.

Chirashi (scattered): The Chirashi is quite different from other kinds ouf sushi. It is a bowl of sushi rice topped with a variety of sashimi and garnishes.

Sashimi: Thinly sliced raw fish or seafood, served without rice. It’s often accompanied by soy sauce and wasabi. The USP of the Sashimi is that it highlights the freshness and quality of the seafood.

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How to eat sushi

While the immaculate presentation of the sushi and the condiments it comes with might seem intimidating at first, eating sushi is much easier than it looks and the end result is so rewarding that you won’t mind the fuss at all. Here’s the best news, eating sushi with chopsticks or hands are both acceptable. So if you aren’t familiar with chopsticks there’s no need to fret. Nigiri and maki can be eaten with hands, while sashimi is usually eaten with chopsticks.

The Sushi is usually served with Soy Sauce. The soy adds additional flavour to the sushi. When eating a nigiri, lightly dip the fish side of the nigiri into the soy sauce to avoid soaking the rice. The green paste served alongside the sushi is wasabi. Use this sparingly as the zing may be too much especially if you’re trying it for the first time. Sometimes a small amount of wasabi is already placed between the fish and the rice. The pink-hued pickled ginger is eaten between eating pieces of different kinds of sushi to cleanse the palate.

Usually, it is considered apt to start with lighter fish and progress to richer, more fatty options. Even when in the middle of a deep conversation, sushi is best enjoyed immediately before it loses its freshness and texture.