#23 Sushi

Ask any non-Japanese person what the first thing that comes into their head is when they think of Japanese food and they’ll probably say….”Oh, it must be kaiseki – the epitiome of Japanese cuisine that encompasses the Japanese sensitivity to the seasons!“.

Either that, or they’ll probably say “er…sushi?“.

Sushi comes in hundreds of different kinds, but essentially it refers to the vingared rice that sushi is based on. Contrarary to popular belief, it doesn’t mean ‘raw fish’ (which is called sashimi) as sushi can be served with many other non-fishy toppings too, such as egg, cucumber and avocado (the latter being a Western invention, is actually quite rare in Japan).

The rice is the Japanese sticky kind that holds well together, but a lot of the time it is wrapped inside nori which is made of green seaweed dried and pressed into thin flat pieces, like paper.

Sushi is usually eaten dipped in soy sauce, sometimes with a tiny bit of wasabi mixed into it. Wasabi is a hot paste made from horseradish and is instantly recognisable for it’s bright green color (don’t get it mixed up with matcha!)

Another thing a lot of foreigners don’t know is that it’s perfectly acceptable to eat sushi with your hands – it’s not seen as a bad thing at all. What is bad is a gaijin stubbornly fiddling around with chopsticks thinking it’s the ‘culturally correct’ thing to do and have the sushi rice break apart and splash soy sauce everywhere. (Yes, this has happened).

The quality of sushi can vary greatly, from the finest restaurant kind to the ready-made convenience store kind. Somewhere in between that is also the famous kaiten-zushi – otherwise known as conveyor belt sushi. But generally, if you’re not a sushi connoisseur, they mostly taste very similar, regardless of price.

Sushi is cheap, fast, low in fat and delicious – a combo you rarely see in any kind of food. There’s a reason why it has become one of the most popular foods in the West, but nowhere else in the world is it as authentically scrumptious as it is in Japan.

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