Sushi is a traditional Japanese delicacy consisting primarily of cooked rice. It can also include ingredients such as raw fish and various other types of seafood like octopus. The rice, which is prepared with special vinegar, is usually pressed into shapes including rolls, cups and cones – it is perhaps the most famous Japanese dish in the world. There are four base ingredients: Sushi Meshi (Vinegared, short-grain rice), Nori (Seaweed), Neta (the topping) and condiments.
Sushi originated in South East Asia before being introduced to Japan in the 8th Century. Originally intended as a method of fish preservation, the dish evolved during Japan’s Edo period and became known as Haya-Zushi. The rice, which had previously been used to encase fish, was made more edible with the inclusion of vinegar, dried foodstuffs and vegetables.
Modern sushi as we now know it was invented by Hanaya Yohei in the 19th century. His technique of lightly cooking the fish before marinating it in soy sauce became the template for all contemporary sushi dishes. The six main types of sushi are: Chirashizushi, Inarizushi, Makizushi, Narezushi, Nigirizushi and Oshizushi.
Also known as scattered sushi, Chirashizushi is served in a bowl and consists of various types of raw fish and as well as a selection of vegetables. The dish often features colourful toppings and is usually eaten on special occasions such as birthdays or national festivals like Hinamatsuri.
Inarizushi is named after the Shinto God, Inari and is also known as ‘brown bag sushi’. It is prepared by packing rice into fried tofu pouches that have been cooked in sweet soy sauce. Dishes vary according to region with some opting to use omelette or cabbage instead of tofu.
This type of sushi is cylindrical in shape and created with a bamboo mat called a Makisu. Rice is moistened with vinegar, wrapped in seaweed, cucumber or soy paper and then sliced for serving. Variations include Futomaki, Hosomaki, Temaki and Uramaki.
Nerzushi is a more traditional form of sushi and is considered to be the oldest. It is prepared by stuffing gutted fish, which is then placed in a wooden barrel and left for six months before it is considered edible. Both river and saltwater fish are used including mackerel, salmon and sea-bream.
One of the most well-known sushi dishes, Nigirizushi is prepared by hand-pressing rice, often with a touch of wasabi and then topping it with tuna, salmon or octopus. Dishes include Gunkanmaki and Temarizushi.
Oshizushi is made by pressing blocks of rice with a wooden mold called a Oshibako. Toppings of smoked or cooked fish are then added and covered in sushi rice. After the mould has been removed, the dish is then served in small rectangular pieces.
There are also numerous types of Western-styled sushi. The Californian Roll is one of the most popular and often consists of crabmeat, cucumber, avocado and rice. Western versions are also prepared with tempura, mayonnaise, cream cheese and avocado. These fatty ingredients are not usually included in traditional Japanese sushi.