When thinking of Japanese food, many people instantly think of sushi. Not that strange, given that sushi is one of the most popular Japanese dishes, both in Japan and beyond. With more than 40 varieties of sushi on its menu, Yamazato Restaurant goes a very long way to satisfy the discerning palates of its many international guests. But there is always more to learn about this major part of Japanese cuisine. Take a peek into the different kinds of sushi and learn more about how to eat this delicate dish.
What once started as a practical way of preserving fish is a far cry from sushi we know today. In the 4th Century BC, cleaned and gutted fish was salted and wrapped in fermented rice, as the natural fermentation of the rice helped preserve the fish. The fish was taken out of storage after a couple of months, after which only the fish was consumed while the rice was discarded. It was not until the 8th Century AD that the fish was consumed while it was still partly raw and the rice had not lost its flavour. This is how sushi became more of a cuisine than simply a way to preserve food.
Rolls, slices and heaps…
Nowadays, there are many local varieties of sushi and new ones are being invented constantly. However, all sushi dishes have one thing in common; they include rice that has been flavoured with sugar, salt and vinegar. The Yamazato menu includes maki sushi, consisting of rice and other ingredients rolled in nori seaweed, then cut into slices (cut roll). You will also find Nigiri sushi, which are small heaps of rice, pressed by hand with a filling of raw fish, shellfish, grilled eel, tofu or omelette. The chefs add some wasabi to each bite between the topping and the rice. There is also the temaki sushi (hand roll), with rice and other ingredients rolled in a cone of seaweed. Uramaki sushi (inside out roll) is not originally from Japan, but it is now also very popular there. The best known inside out roll is the California roll filled with crab, cucumber, mayonnaise and avocado.
How to eat sushi?
Now you know the various types of sushi, you’re probably wondering how you’re supposed to eat them. Sushi was originally sold from street stalls, and was meant to be eaten by hand. They are merely dipped in a sauce combining soy sauce with wasabi. In restaurants, however, chopsticks are used. The eating of nigiri sushi requires some skill. Care is taken to dip the topping in the sauce and not the rice, which might fall apart in the liquid. The hand is turned with the palm upward and thus the sushi is taken between thumb and index finger. The sushi is turned upside down, while the fingers keep the topping from falling off, so the fish can be dipped in the sauce. This turning of the sushi can be a much bigger challenge using chopsticks, unless the topping is tied to the rice with a ribbon of nori, which is often done for convenience.
An expert’s thoughts
Chef Tomikawa of Yamazato Restaurant was interviewed for the Dutch television show ‘Keuringsdienst van Waarde’, which took a close look at the ingredients used in sushi and how it is served. Tomikawa-san shared his years of expertise, including the ideal temperature to serve sushi rice. Curious? Book a sushi workshop at the Taste of Okura to try making sushi yourself.