With ten Michelin-starred restaurants in Tokyo alone – more than any other city on the planet – Japan well and truly sits at the top table of worldwide cuisine. Sushi is the country’s most recognised dish, with the industry valued at over $2 billion in the United States alone. In this day and age it’s available everywhere from high-end restaurants to small supermarkets.
Think you know everything there is to know about sushi? Test yourself with our six favourite sushi facts…
1. Your favourite Japanese dish isn’t from Japan
There are different theories about the origins of sushi.Most agree that what we now think of as modern-day sushi developed as a method for preserving fish from the Mekong river in Northern Thailand.
Salted fish was packed in fermenting rice which was later discarded. The practice spread up the river into China and then Japan in the 8th Century. But the sushi rolls we eat today consist of rice too – and, not to be outdone, Japan can well and truly take the credit for this.
Rice stopped being fermented and used for preservation, vinegar replaced the distinct flavour and something close to what we recognise as sushi today was born in Edo (now Tokyo).
2. Sushi doesn’t actually mean raw fish
A common misconception. Technically the term “sushi” refers to the flavoured rice rather than the raw fish. The correct term for raw fish is actually sashimi. If you receive a platter of raw fish with no rice it isn’t sushi. On the other hand an avocado and rice roll is in fact sushi.
3. Much of the raw fish you eat isn’t fresh!
…but it is safe to eat. Food regulations in Europe and the US require that most fish must be frozen before it can be served or sold.
In the UK, raw fish must have been frozen at -20 degrees for a minimum of 24 hours.
In Japan sushi chefs are trained to recognise parasitic fish since it’s considered that freezing impacts the taste and texture of the fish, however this has been determined as impossible to do!
4. The most expensive fish in history was bought by a sushi chef
Last year Kiyoshi Kimura – who owns a chain of sushi restaurants in Japan – bought a Bluefin tuna for $1.76 million at auction. The fish was 488 pounds – about $3600 dollars a pound. Kimura also held the previous record for the most expensive fish ever bought when he paid nearly $750,000 for a 593-pound Bluefin – a relative bargain!
The auction isn’t reflective of the true market value though. Buying the prize catch of the New Year is a matter of tradition and pride and there’s no shortage of punters willing to put their hands in their pockets.
Conservationists worry the auctions only serve to increase the demand for a species that is highly overfished. Indeed, 80% of the world’s Bluefin tuna catch is consumed in Japan and primarily as sushi. Should sustainability become more central to the sushi industry’s ethos? We think so. Bluefin isn’t necessarily an essential component of sushi and our platters offer a wide range of different delicacies.
5. A puffer fish is 200 times more poisonous than cyanide
Puffer fish – or fugu – contains lethal amounts of poison more deadly than cyanide in its glands and organs. Even a tiny knick of the chef’s knife on one of these areas could prove fatal to the customer.
In Japan, where 23 people have died from fugu poisoning since 2000, for a chef to become certified to work with fugu sashimi (raw puffer fish) he or she must undergo extensive training culminating in an exam. And yes – the exam involves preparing fugu and then consuming the finished product. Better do your revision before that one guys!
Even without taking the fugu exam, becoming a sushi chef – or itamae – is no mean feat. Traditionally a sushi chef would learn as an apprentice from a master doing only the most basic of tasks. Nowadays the process is quicker but still takes several years.
Take a look at how the sushi chefs go about dissecting a fugu fish…
6. Chances are you have never eaten real wasabi with your sushi
Whether you are a sushi fan or not, it’s likely you’ll have come across wasabi at some point in your culinary life. Or that’s what you think anyway.
In reality, most wasabi served outside of Japan is actually a mix of horseradish, mustard and food colouring. Even in Japan the demand for wasabi is so high that it’s not always easy to find the real deal.
Actual wasabi is produced from grating the root of Wasabia Japonica – a root indigenous to Japan. Interestingly real wasabi loses its flavour 15 minutes or so after grating. Freshness is key.
Don’t forget though, even if you are presented with real wasabi never overdo the condiments. They mask the true flavour of the fish as well as the delicate seasoning applied by the chef.
The most important fact for us at Sushi Rolls is that sushi tastes as good as it looks – and, as you can see, our sushi looks amazing.
Get in touch if you’d be interested in sushi catering for your next event.