Japan is an island nation, its
surrounding seas warmed by Kuroshio, the plankton-rich Japan
Current, and abundant with an astonishing variety of fish and
shellfish. The islands themselves are mountainous,
and what little
arable land exists is terraced and carefully cultivated to coax rice
and a few other crops from the earth. Japan has always fed its dense
population from the sea and the rice fields, its cuisine emphasizing
what nature provides. Sushi, the combination of raw fish and
seasoned rice that seems so exotic to foreigners, is a supremely
logical food in Japan.
Sushi began centuries ago in Japan as a
method of preserving fish. It is told that the origins of sushi came
countries of Southeastern Asia. Cleaned, raw fish were pressed
between layers of salt and weighted with a stone. After a few weeks,
the stone was removed and replaced with a light cover, and a few
months after that, the fermented fish and rice were considered ready
to eat. Some restaurants in Tokyo still serve this original style of
sushi, called narezushi made with freshwater carp. Its flavor is so
strong that it obscures the fish's identity altogether, and
narezushi is something of an acquired taste.
wasn't until the eighteenth century
that a clever chef named Yohei decided to forego the fermentation
and serve sushi in something resembling its present form. It became
very popular and two distinct styles emerged Kansai style, from the
city of Osaka in the Kansai region, and Edo style, from Tokyo, which
was then called Edo.
Osaka has always been the commercial
capital of Japan, and the rice merchants there
developed sushi that consisted primarily
of seasoned rice mixed with other ingredients and formed into
decorative, edible packages.
Tokyo, located on a bay then rich
with fish and shellfish, produced nigirizushi, featuring a select
bit of seafood on a small pad of seasoned rice. Although the
ornamental sushi of the Kansai region is still very popular, it is nigirizushi that foreigners are familiar with.
Today, even Japanese consider nigirizushi the origin of sushi, the
truth is different. Kansai sushi (Osaka Sushi) has much more history
and techniques than nigirizushi.
The Sushi Club Web -
Alternate Origin Theory
not so plausible
you know that Sushi was invented in Japan, but it was
invented by a Frenchman? In 1865, Tokyo, a Frenchman
opened his french bakery in downtown Tokyo. But 100 years
ago, Japanese did not understand western food, and
therefore his business was slow. But as the French baker
observed: Japanese people like raw fish. How about trying
topping my French bread with raw fish for a change? After
the French baker topped his french bread with raw fish,
Japanese citizens flooded his store. Then later, the
Japanese replaced the bottom portion of sushi, which was
the bread, with vinegar rice. Sushi's original name is
actually "sumeshi". "Su" means
vinegar. "Meshi" means rice. But when people
start to say it fast "Sumeshi, sumeshi, sushi!"
It became just "Sushi"!
Sushi Club, San Francisco, Website - http://www.sushiclub.com/