FUN FACTS ABOUT SUSHI

Let’s take a look at some fun facts about our favourite Japanese dish!

  1. The wasabi you are served in sushi restaurants is most likely not real wasabi. It’s a combination of horseradish and mustard powder dyed green to look like the real deal.
  2. Sushi is supposed to be eaten with your fingers. Chopsticks are for sashimi. Get it right.
  3. Wasting soy sauce is bad form. Put the teensiest amount in your dish and top it up as necessary. Your wastage will be frowned upon.
  4. Do NOT dip the sushi rice in soy sauce. It will fall apart in your cup. Turn it upside down and dip the fish instead. Celebrate good form.
  5. 80% of Blue Fin Tuna caught in the world is made into sushi and sashimi
  6. Sushi chef’s knives are sharpened every single day to ensure paper-thin slices of fish
  7. The term “sushi” refers to the vinegar rice, NOT the fish
  8. Mixing wasabi with soy sauce can be offensive to the chef
  9. Western styles of sushi incorporating bizarre foodstuff like beef, okra and avocado are frowned upon and rarely actually found in Japan.
  10. Good sushi rice is sticky and chewy, but not too much so

– Nomster Tori

Sources: [x] [x] [x]

THE ORIGIN OF SUSHI

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.

California Roll

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

Sources: [x] [x] [x]

THE ORIGIN OF PIZZA

First of all, what IS pizza? Is it just flat bread with a bunch of stuff on it? If it is, then it can be argued pizza originated from Iran around 500 B.C.. Persian soldiers would bake flatbread on their shields and cover it with cheese and dates: a scrumptious feast for the battlefield. But was it pizza? Is it pizza if its cooked in an open field on metal plates instead of in an oven? Many argue no, and that those Persian soldiers were gorging themselves on plain and simple flatbread. These early references are just too obscure, so let’s just talk about the modern pizza as we know it.

The first specific pizza recipe can be traced back to the famous Roman gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius during the 1st century AD. He wrote of popular Roman cuisine and food preparation in his cookbook “Das Kochbuch der Römer. Eine Auswahl, gespickt mit literarischen Köstlichkeiten”, which included recipes calling for the placement of various ingredients on a flat bread base. Some of these ingredients include chicken, cheese, garlic, pepper and oil, which forms a dish not far from the modern pizza that we know today, with the exception of tomato sauce. The Romans cannot be blamed for this though, since tomatoes could only be found in the Americas at that point in time.

It was only in the early 1500s that tomatoes made their way from the Americas to Europe, but with them brought an atmosphere of suspicion and fear. Europeans thought the tomato’s texture and colour was indicative of a lurking poison, and that a ripe tomato looked rotten and indigestible, poised to kill. Only the peasants of Naples, with nothing more to eat than olive oil, flour, cheese, herbs and lard, were open to the idea of using these controversial fruit. They chose to mash the tomatoes up into a concoction they spread across their flatbread, giving rise to the “modern” pizza, then known as the “Napoletana” pizza. It only took a while for the people of Naples, and even people from far beyond their borders, to discover the perplexity of flavours to be offered by this seemingly simple dish.

The pizza gained rapid popularity and, by the end of the 19th century, was recognised as worthy of the royals when the King and Queen of Italy requested a sample on their vacation to Naples. The Queen enjoyed it so much she ate three, and even expressed her gratitude through letter afterwards. The pizzaioli whom had whipped up her meal was so honoured he dedicated his creation to her and named his pizza the “Margherita”.

Queen Margherita in all her magnificence
Queen Margherita in all her magnificence

However, pizza as we have come to know it would not have been possible without the American spin placed on the dish at the beginning of the 20th century, when Italian immigrants brought it over to America. The first known official pizzeria was opened by a grocer, Gennaro Lombari, and began business in the early 1930s selling pizza, as well as a range of other Italian food like spaghetti. Before long, people got innovative with the pizza, and the deep dish pizza was introduced in the 1940s by Pizzeria Uno in Chicago. It’s basically a pizza that holds so many toppings it has to be contained in a pan.

Pizza only truly gained its popularity and iconic status that it still holds today in the 1950s, when pizza became widely recognized outside of the Italian-American community. The pizza was made public by celebrities like Jimmy Durante and Frank Sinatra, and was written about it songs like Dean Martin’s That’s Amore. I’m sure we can all recognise the famous line, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie – that’s amore”. The big pizza pie truly took the world by storm from that point onwards and began rivalling the hamburger as America’s favourite fast food. With globalisation and greater connectivity between nations, even countries like Japan, Korea and Leban have embraced the pizza with open arms and put their own spin on it. We have referenced the many forms of pizza that exist in countries around the world today in our article “Pizza All Around The World”.

So there. That’s how our Saturday night treat came to be. We hope this gives you a clearer picture on the pizza’s cultural context. The next time you bite into a Hawaiian, give a little thought to Queen Margherita and the Italians for birthing this delectable in the first place.

– Nomster Tori

Sources: [x] [x] [x]

PIZZA ALL AROUND THE WORLD

What was described earlier may be the typical way people make pizza nowadays, but as we look closer, we realise that many nations have altered the way pizza is made to suit their own culture or traditions. Here is my list of the 7 most interesting types of pizza from all around the world. Let’s get started!

Margherita, ITALY

Named after HM Queen Margherita, the first Queen of Italy, and is topped with tomato, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil to symbolise the red, white, and green, we see on the Italian Flag.

Calzone, ITALY

The Calzone originated from Italy, and is a turnover shaped like a semicircle made from folded dough and pizza toppings. [Fun Fact: Calzone actually means stocking in Italy]

Neapolitan, AMERICA

The Neapolitan hails from Naples and is the foundation for our modern-day American pizza. In 1889, the Royal Palace commissioned the Neapolitan pizzaiolo Raffaele Esposito to create a pizza in honor of Queen Margherita’s visit. This resulted in the plain pizza becoming the Neapolitan Pizza.

naples

Deep Dish Pizza, CHICAGO

The Deep Dish pizza from Chicago is one that reaches up to three inches in height, making it extremely heavy. The deep dish pizza may seem like a pie, but it is a legitimate form of pizza. It is baked in a pan, its thick crust holding in its many layers of cheese, sauce, and toppings.

chicago

Lahma Bi Ajeen, LEBAN

The literal translation of this delightful pizza is “meat with dough”. It is made from minced onions, (usually) ground lamb, cumin and yogurt. A truly unique treat 🙂

Okonomiyaki Pizza, JAPAN

Okonomiyaki is like a savoury pancake, but it still counts as pizza in my books. The standard recipe involves using cabbage, pork, noodles, and squid (layered or mixed in) with egg and konomiyaki sauce on top, but with this pizza, creativity is welcomed.

japan

The Extremely Unique Korean Pizza, SOUTH KOREA

A Korean Pizza can be anything, absolutely anything. They can have the weirdest names and combinations of toppings, like the Cheese Cake Sand pizza, a pizza made from cheesecake mousse and shrimp. I can’t decide whether I’m interested or perturbed…

– Nomster Tricia

Sources: [x] [x]

HOW EXACTLY IS PIZZA MADE?

So you may be wondering how pizza, this earth’s most beautiful culinary creation, is made. Here’s a quick summary of how it is done.

To make the pizza dough, flour, water, baker’s yeast and olive oil are mixed together, then kneaded to form a smooth stretchy dough. The dough is then left to rise in a warm area till it rises to double its size, about 1-2 hours.

The pizza is then topped with anything and everything, including but not limited to the typical tomato sauce and cheese, but also chocolate spread and banana for sweet tooths out there. It is then placed on a flat, circular, metal pan with a metal frame called a pizza pan, and placed into the oven with a long-handled flat shovel. Once the pizza is baked, the outer frame is removed. Traditional pizza stones are made of clay, which is porous to absorb the moisture. The stone has a thickness of about 2 cm and radiates heat evenly. The pizza is baked at about 230 °C for 15 minutes before being removed and allowed to sit. A pizza wheel is then used to cut this Italian delight into triangular or square slices, for ease of entry into our pieholes.

Voilà!

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– Nomster Tricia

Sources: [x]

FUN FACTS ABOUT PIZZA

Let’s start our Pizza Week with some fun facts about the cheesy delight itself!

  1. Americans consume about 251,770,000 pounds of pepperoni every year
  2. There are about 61,269 pizzerias in the United States
  3. Pizza comes from the latin root word ‘Picea’ which means the blackening of crust by fire
  4. An average slice of a medium-sized cheese pizza slice ranges from 220 to 370 calories
  5. 5 billion pizzas are annually sold worldwide
  6. National Pizza Month is October
  7. The most expensive pizza ever created cost $2,745 and contained edible gold toppings
  8. Pizza used to be considered a poor man’s food
  9. Saturday night is traditionally the most popular night of the week for eating pizza
  10. Anchovies are the least favourite toppings of Americans

– Nomster Chara

Sources: [x] [x] [x] [x] [x]

Chocolate: 20 Fun Facts

  1. White chocolate isn’t actually chocolate because it doesn’t contain any cocoa solids or liquids.
  2. Eating dark chocolate everyday can reduce your risk of heart disease by ⅓.
  3. Chocolate has an antibacterial effect on the mouth and protects against tooth decay.
  4. A lethal dose of chocolate for humans would be about 40 Hershey bars.
  5. At one point in WW2, the Nazis planned to assassinate Winston Churchill with a bar of exploding chocolate.
  6. When the Aztecs ruled Mesoamerica, cacao beans were used as a form of currency.
  7. The largest chocolate bar ever weighed 12,770 pounds.
  8. Tests have shown that people who consume cocoa more regularly have a lower blood pressure, and are less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.
  9. Chocolate cravings cannot be satisfied by any other sweet/candy other than chocolate itself.
  10. The word chocolate comes from the Aztec word “Xocolatl” which means “bitter water”.
  11. Hershey’s produces over 80 million Kisses every day.
  12. Red wine goes the best with dark chocolate; champagne and sparkling wine are too acidic.
  13. Chocolate is the only edible substance that melts at a temperature of around 33.8 ºC due to the presence of cocoa butter.
  14. One chocolate chip can give a person enough energy to walk 45.7m.
  15. Hershey’s kisses used to be shaped like squares.
  16. The first chocolate bar was made by Cadbury.
  17. To make one pound of chocolate requires 400 cacao beans.
  18. Chocolate is America’s favourite flavour.
  19. The Swiss eat the most chocolate on average: 22 pounds per person, as of 2010.
  20. Research has shown a high correlation between a nation’s average chocolate intake and the number of Nobel prize winners from that nation.

– Nomster Chara

Sources: [x] [x] [x] [x] [x] [x] [x] [x] [x] [x]