7 Fun Sushi Facts That Might Surprise You!
Sushi is firm favourite worldwide in the modern day, but there are some facts about its origin that might surprise you. We’ve rounded up seven of our favourite sushi facts, helping you understand more about the food that we all love so much.
Sushi Didn’t Originate in Japan
Mind. Blown. But it’s true. Although sushi has become a cuisine synonymous with Japan, its roots actually didn’t originate in Japan itself. In fact, sushi isn’t even really the most commonly eaten food in Japan – it’s still seen widely as a food for special occasions.
Sushi actually most likely originated from around the Mekong River, which flows through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Back then, the dish was called nare-zushi, and it consisted of fermented rice with fish wrapped around it.
Nare-zushi grew in popularity in China, and was only introducted to Japan around the time of the Yayoi period. It was later, around the Muromachi period, when people started to eat sushi with rice.
Sushi Rice Was Once Considered Trash
Let’s take it back to that nare-zushi. The long fermentation time of the dish gave it a very distinct flavour, as well as preventing the growth of bacteria and microorganisms.
After this fermentation period, the fish would be enjoyed, but the rice would be thrown away. What a sacrilege! We love our rice, and you’ll never see us throwing it in the trash.
Japan’s Oldest Type of Sushi Is Pretty Stinky
There’s a type of nare-zushi still served in Japan, near Lake Biwa. This fermented local delicacy is known as funazushi, and people say it tastes similar to stinky cheese. It’s made with funa, which is a freshwater Japanese carp.
The filleted carp is packed with salt, laid in a wooden tub, weighted down with stones and left to cure for TWO YEARS. Then they rinse the fish, dry it in the sun, then ferment it for another year before it’s finally eaten.
Would you try it?
Sushi Has Plenty of Health Benefits
Not only does sushi taste delicious, it’s also packed with tonnes of health benefits. Sushi is – for the most part – low in fat and high in protein. Also, the fish is full of omega-3 fatty acids, which help protect the heart and blood vessels from disease.
Aside from the nutrients from fish itself, the nori in sushi is rich in vitamins A, B-6, and C, as well as iodine. If you’re looking to build the ultimate healthy sushi meal, you could order a side of edamame beans and wash it down with detoxifying green tea.
The Term ‘Sushi’ Refers to the Rice
So the next time someone tells you they don’t like sushi because they don’t like fish, you can tell them not to worry! The word ‘sushi’ actually refers to the vinegared rice. Sushi therefore refers to the rice itself, which can be served with many other ingredients, from raw and cooked fish right through to chicken, beef and veggies.
therefore refers to vinegared rice served with other ingredients which may or may not include fish (which in turn may be raw or cooked).
Bonus fact: Once formed into a small piece to create nigiri, the rice is then called shari. Raw fish served without rice is called sashimi.
It Takes 10 Years to Become a Sushi Master
The reason why sushi chefs are so esteemed is that it takes ten whole years of training to earn their status as master. An aspiring sushi chef will begin training by working with a master, or itamae. The first few years are spent learning how to hold the sushi knife correctly.
After five years of working with the itamae, the novice chef will be given the chance to prepare sushi rice, mastering their restaurant’s recipe. When the itamae is happy with the quality of the sushi rice, the apprentice can move onto the next step – wakiita – which literally means “near the cutting board”. Basically they get to chop things.
After more years of training, the wakiita can graduate into an itamae, and can finally stand in front of the chopping board and serve customers themselves.
That’s some impressive training! Also, sushi master is such a cool title.
Women Were Once Forbidden to Become Sushi Chefs
Until recently, women were forbidden from working as a sushi chef. This comes down to a number of reasons. Firstly, it was believed that women’s perfume and makeup would affect the smell and taste of the sushi. Also, menstruation is said to cause a higher body temperature and an imbalance in a woman’s tastebuds.
These outdated beliefs are luckily now being challenged both by wannabe sushi chefs and senior chefs, who are willing to offer women sushi chefs a chance. Many high-end sushi restaurants in Tokyo now train women up to be sushi masters.