Origins of sushi

Sushi began centuries ago in Japan as a method of preserving fish.

It is told that the origins of sushi came from 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.

It 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, few japanese knows about this fact.