Sushi, though often synonymous with Japan, did not actually originate from Japan. In fact it was first developed in South East Asia as a way to preserve fish in fermented rice. It then spread to South China before making its arrival in Japan around the 8th century.
As refrigeration had not been invented yet, the people needed a way to keep fish fresh. They would first salt the fish, and then wrap it in fermented rice to prevent the fish from spoiling. Afterwards, the fermented rice would be discarded and only the fish inside would be consumed. When it reached Japan, the Japanese would ferment the sushi with Sake, their form of rice wine.
The Japanese loved to eat Namanare during the Muromachi Period. It consisted of partly raw fish wrapped in rice and consumed fresh before its flavour changed. Then, in the Edo period, Haya-zushi was introduced, allowing both the rice and dish to be eaten at the same time. This made a special mark in the Japanese culture, as rice was no longer used just for fermentation.
Thus, this dish was no longer just a preservation method, but a new addition to Japanese cuisine. People began adding fish, vegetables and other dried food wto rice mixed with vinegar. This would evolve to become the type of sushi that you and I are familiar with today.
It is said that sushi has changed the Japanese way of life and cuisine. For example, the Japanese began to consume three meals a day. They also began boiling rice instead of steaming it, and soon after, rice vinegar was invented. Sushi was initially created as an inexpensive fast food to cater to the people of Edo. It proved to be a commercial success from the beginning. When Japanese businesses started to expand into the US in the late twentieth century, more and more sushi restaurants were set up to serve the Japanese living there. Other than catering to the Japanese, sushi chefs in the US tried to introduce sushi to the locals. This proved to be a challenge as people were not comfortable eating raw fish. However, fusion sushi, also known as the California Roll, was soon created to cater to the tastebuds of Americans. It did not contain raw fish and was the best introductory sushi to them. With the revolutionary California roll, more and more people began to eat sushi, slowly progressing to the original raw fish form as well.
Upon reflecting on sushi’s rich history and how it has developed over the years and evolved to suit people’s tastebuds, I think we can say that, as sushi lovers, we can’t wait to see how sushi will evolve in the future! 🙂
– Nomster Tricia