When one thinks of Japan, sushi is one of the many things that comes to mind. And while it is indelibly linked to that country, it has now become a delicacy known and enjoyed around the world.
Many would likely be surprised to learn that sushi did not originate in Japan. It can be traced back to either Southeast Asia or China and a dish which consisted of fermented rice and salted fish. This allowed it to be stored effectively long before refrigeration was available.
This approach to preparing fish made its way to Japan sometime during the Nara era (710-794), and it was described in the literature of that time. While the fermented rice initially served as a means of preserving the fish and would be thrown away rather than consumed, people began to eat it with the fish.
Japanese sushi master would refine it further, experimenting with various flavours and ingredients. When vinegared rice was added, sushi became much quicker and more convenient to prepare.
Making sushi is a very meticulous craft that requires extensive training. Sushi masters may be known as itamae (chef) or shokunin (artisan) and they slice, shape, and assemble each piece with precision to provide not only the finest culinary experience, but also an aesthetically pleasing appearance. Sushi, when crafted properly, is more than food; it is a form of art that takes colour, shape, and texture into account to please the eye as much as the palate.
The sushi chef will carefully select only the freshest ingredients, carefully slicing the fish to the ideal thickness, and seasoning the rice with just the right amount of vinegar to achieve a perfect balance of flavours.
Sushi is not simply another type of food. It is symbolic of Japanese culture. As such, it is unsurprising that there should be some debate over its preparation, with some believing it should maintain a traditional approach and others believing it needs to take advantage of modern techniques to evolve.
Traditional sushi emphasizes purity and simplicity. In some cases, only rice and locally sourced fish are used, while modern sushi in the west typically includes more ingredients and toppings. The addition of additional ingredients has helped it appeal to a wider audience, but because of this, modern sushi typically has far more calories.
Another difference lies in the rice. Traditional Japanese sushi uses short, sticky rice, while modern sushi restaurants may use brown rice or quinoa. Perhaps the most obvious difference, however, lies in the preparation. Traditional sushi is wrapped with the nori (seaweed) surrounding the rice, which in turn surrounds the fish. Modern sushi sometimes puts the nori on the inside, with the rice surrounding it.
From its origins in southeast Asia to its present popularity around the world, sushi has continued to thrive, often taking on flavours and characteristics appealing to local preferences. The California roll is a prime example of how sushi adapted to American tastes, while sushi chefs in other regions have incorporated ingredients such as mango, avocado, and even cream cheese.
At Samurai Sushi, we believe you can respect tradition while still seeking innovation. We offer dishes that reflect both the rich cultural history of Japan and the wonderful influences of Canada’s west coast. Whether you are a traditionalist or someone who is new to sushi and Japanese dining, you will find something to love.