Sushi is the combination of the words “su” and “meshi”. In English, this means vinegar and rice. Sushi refers to the slightly sweet, vinegared rice, paired with a garnish of seafood, egg, or vegetables either raw or cooked.
History of sushi
The history of sushi starts in the rice paddies of the Mekong Delta. Farmers would ferment fish with salt and rice and then discard the rice. This practice of making what is now called narezushi made its way over to Japan around B.C. 300. After about 1,000 years of discarding the rice, a clever chef in Osaka had an excellent idea of eating the rice as opposed to discarding it. The introduction of rice vinegar greatly sped up the process of fermenting the fish and the rice remained edible afterward. Thus, oshizushi was born.
Three hundred years later, Edo, now Tokyo, had become a booming city with over a million inhabitants. Entrepreneurial chefs of this time developed hayazushi, literally, fast sushi. They would place various garnishes such as egg or raw fish onto vinegared rice balls that could be eaten together. This style of sushi took Japan by storm and spread across the entire country. As it spread across the country, chefs would integrate the best of local produce and seafood to create entirely new varieties of sushi. The rapid expansion of the dish combined with the regional dining styles of Japan gave rise to the ever-expanding variety of dishes the world now knows as sushi.
The etiquette of sushi eating
Sushi eating etiquette is simple, but it is important to be aware of basic etiquette. There is a correct form for dipping in soy sauce. Dip with neta (topping) first. Don’t dunk the shari (rice) into the soy sauce. Dipping shari directly absorbs too much soy sauce, so it can overwhelm the sushi and jeopardize the structure of the rice mound.
Chopsticks are the preferred utensil for eating sushi most of the time, but hands are perfectly acceptable as well, especially at higher-end restaurants. If ginger is provided, eat it between orders as a palate cleanser; it is not a topping.
The traditional pairing is simply hot green tea or genmaicha, a type of green tea combined with roasted brown rice.
Sake is an excellent pairing with your sushi. In the hot summer months a chilled, less dry sake is best. In the colder winter months, a heated, dry sake will go down a treat.
White wines, sparkling wines and champagnes are also an excellent choice.