Sushi, a popular and healthy option for all foodies across the world is also making its mark in the Indian culinary scene.
Here is a guide for you to help on your journey towards sampling this amazing and healthy eating option.
Whether you like it raw, flash-fried, sashimi-style, or chopped and assembled in a poke style sushi bowl, consuming raw fish is no longer considered unpleasant around the world – and just about everyone has had sushi at one point or the other. Whether you prefer to pair it up with a glass of wine, some cocktail, or a chilled beer, sushi offers a flavourful and unique eating experience that’s unparalleled to none.
The origins of sushi trace back to millennia; to be specific, to the rice fields of Asia! Yes, this may come as a surprise to you since most of us believed it to be a gift given by Japan. While it’s true that Japan is considered as the sushi capital of the world – but it first took inspiration from the Chinese dish called narezushi, which consisted of salted fish and fermented rice. And interestingly, the rice which was used for wrapping purpose was thrown out after consuming the fish. Eventually, the dish travelled from China to Japan in the 8th century and the first reference of it appeared in the Yoro Code, drafted in the year 718.
However, the sushi we know today isn’t quite like the one that was served in the olden days. Yet, let’s take a look at a few of the main types of traditional sushi!
- Makizushi – Rolled Sushi
Makizushi is made up of fresh ingredients like thinly sliced vegetables and fish rolled up in toasted seaweed (nori) in a cylindrical shape. This roll is then sliced into bite-sized pieces. The fillings vary from crab meat, salmon, cucumber, tuna, eel, or egg. And what beautifies this sushi variant is the sesame seeds and fish roe, typically used to garnish.
- Nigirizushi – Hand Pressed Sushi
Nigiri is the original form of sushi that we know today. The selection of hand-pressed sushi is wide. Nigirizushi types can be closely broken down into five types, these being white flesh (shiromi), red flesh (akami), shiny skin (hikari mono), warship rolls (gunkan maki), and simmered (nimono). Nigiri Zushi is considered an elegant and more expensive variant of sushi. Here, the thin slices of raw fish with egg omelette are layered with wasabi paste and positioned on moulded sushi rice.
Technically, though Sashimi cannot be considered sushi, it still is categorized as one. Sashimi is just thinly sliced raw fish which is served as is, whereas sushi fish is typically served with a roll of rice and extra ingredients. Here, fish is chopped in rectangular slices and the variant is addressed as hira-zukuri. Sashimi is served alongside ginger and soy sauce, which come as its condiments.
- Oshizushi – Pressed Sushi
Oshizushi is also popularly known as boxed sushi and in western Japan, it is called Hakozushi, which happens to be the speciality of Osaka. Here, the sushi rice is filled in a special box with ingredients such as mackerel (saba), egg omelette (yakitamago), snapper (tai), conger eel (anago), or shrimp (ebi), which are then pressed into little blocks of succulence.
- Gunkan Maki
Gunkan Maki, invented in a Ginza sushi restaurant in the 1940s, is another type of maki—“rolled” or “wrapped” sushi, made by wrapping a wide strip of nori around a rice ball while leaving enough space at the top to be filled with various ingredients. The name, translated as “battleship” or “warship” sushi, comes from its shape, resembling a tiny ship. Popular toppings for gunkan maki include uni sea urchin, squid, salmon roe, negitoro (a blend of fatty tuna belly and green onion), potato salad, and Kani miso (blended crab brains).
Temaki is a novel type of sushi with a shape resembling that of an ice cream cone. Rice and ingredients are held within a sheet of nori wrapped into a conical shape. Some of the popular fillings are umeshiso—a paste made of fresh shiso leaf and umeboshi (pickled plum), negitoro, squid with and without natto, and sweetened omelette.
Narezushi—a dish of fish preserved for several months to several years in salt and rice—is a perfect example of fermentation technique that dates to the Nara period (710–794). Narezushi is commonly regarded as the original form of sushi, even though the rice was originally discarded before eating. Over time, the fermentation period became shorter so that the rice could be eaten with the fish, which then gave way to more modern types of sushi. Narezushi is generally less popular because of its extremely pungent flavour and high price.
In Japanese, “sasa” is a bamboo leaf, and Sasazushi is sushi consisting of rice and toppings, such as mugwort and bamboo shoots, walnuts, mushrooms, miso, shredded omelette and salmon, wrapped in a bamboo leaf. Sasazushi is thought to have come from the Nagano prefecture during the Warring States period (1467–1573), and differing accounts say that its origin was either because food was served on bamboo leaves, or because Nagano locals were looking for a dish to impress the visiting samurai warlord of the time, Uesugi Kenshin.
Another type of pressed, leaf-wrapped sushi is Kakinoha-zushi, which comes from the Nara region of western Japan and dates to the Edo period. Wrapped in a persimmon (kaki) leaf, Kakinoha-zushi is most commonly made by placing salmon or mackerel on top of the rice, but it can also feature other ingredients like prawn or eel. As Nara is a landlocked area, fresh seafood was often wrapped in persimmon leaves during transportation before the days of refrigeration; not only did the leaf preserve the fish with its antibacterial properties, it imparted a delicate aroma.
Made with a small round ball of pressed rice topped with a thin layer of fish or other ingredients, Temari is a less known variety of sushi overseas, and comes from the traditional Japanese embroidered ball, temari, meaning “hand ballTemari. Often colourful and decorative, it’s a popular food for parties and picnics and is often made for the traditional girl’s day celebration known as Hinamatsuri.
Inari-zushi, named after the Shinto god, Inari, who is said to have had a fondness for tofu, is quite different from the other varieties mentioned above; it doesn’t contain any fish and is quite sweet in flavour. Inari is a pouch-like piece of aburaage (deep-fried tofu) that has been simmered in a seasoning of mirin, soy sauce, dashi and sugar, and filled with vinegared sushi rice. However, Inari-zushi can also be filled with rice mixed with other ingredients, or rice topped with a range of ingredients like mushrooms, squid, boiled prawns, chives or shredded omelette.
So, there you have it, the different variations of sushi on offer! As the popularity of this dish continues to grow, so will the range of variety and restaurants. Itadakimasu (let’s eat!) then – as they say in Japan!