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The History of Sushi

Sushi originally comes from Southeast Asia

In its present form, sushi is a Japanese dish, but it does not originally come from Japan. Sushi has its origins in a method of preserving freshwater fish along the Mekong River in Southeast Asia that people used to preserve their fresh fish. The finished gutted fish was placed in vessels together with boiled rice, resulting in a fermentation process. In the sealed vessels, the fish could be eaten for a longer period of time. The sour rice was thrown away. The fish supposedly lasted for up to a year, and canned fish was invented. Starting from the Mekong River, this method spread through various provinces in China to Japan. While this form of preparation is no longer practiced in China, you can still find fish in Taiwan and Thailand that is preserved using the fermentation method. In Japan, the first documented mention can be found in a government document from the year 718. Here, too, mainly freshwater fish were preserved by fermentation until the end of the 9th century. Funazushi is still a Japanese specialty today, freshwater fish from Lake Biwa is elaborately processed and fermented in rice. Because of the high nutrient content, it is called "Japanese cheese". , Similar to this Funazushi, sushi, which is also produced by lactic acid fermentation, is called Narezushi, a traditional dish in Japan. Over the centuries, the fish has been fermented for shorter and shorter periods of time. From around the 14th century, the fish was eaten at a very early degree of fermentation, when the fish meat was still quite fresh and the rice was still edible. However, the sour taste from the fermentation remains.

The evolution of sushi in Japan

Since the end of the 16th century, cooks have been adding rice vinegar to sushi to create the original sour taste. The soured rice was pressed into wooden boxes, covered with slices of fish and weighed down with a stone to start the fermentation process. The fish became tender, the rice was edible and the classic fermentation process forrice acidification was superfluous. This method was allegedly invented by the doctor Matsumoto Yoshiichi. This rice-fish layering was called Haya-sushi and is still the basis of many modern sushi variations.

The form of sushi today

In the thenEdo, today's Tokyo, the form of sushi as we know it today was created around the 18th century. In the meantime, more and more people could afford the more expensive freshly caught sea fish, which was offered on rice at the port. This form of preparation is known today as nigiri sushi. In the early 20th century, the development of modern sushi was complete, but experiments are still being carried out worldwide on ever more sophisticated variations.

Sushi in the west

In western civilizations, sushi only became popular in the second half of the 20th century, after World War II. The first sushi restaurants were frequented by Japanese exiles living abroad, primarily in the United States.In 1966, Noritoshi Kanai opened the first sushi bar in Little Tokyo, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, in the Japanese restaurant Kawafuku He was an American of Japanese descent, worked in Japan trade in an import and export company and persuaded a Japanese chef to come to the USA. He had the fresh fish that was not available locally flown in from Japan. The high transport costs for the fresh fish were initially the reason for the high sushi price. The famous California roll with the rice on the outside was created in Vancouver in 1971 - for aesthetic reasons! Many customers found seaweed unappetizing. The Japanese chefs knew how to help themselves, simply rolled the roll the other way around and packed the rice on the outside. This "Americanized" roll was soon popular in Los Angeles, known as the California roll, and is now being served around the world. In Germany, the first sushi restaurants emerged in the early 1980s in Düsseldorf and Hamburg in the slipstream of the German headquarters of Japanese companies. The evolution of sushi is a wonderful example of food changing under the influence of new cultures. One of the most recent examples is the Philadelphia Roll, with a high percentage of the popular cream cheese of the same name.