When it comes to food, the word “raw” can freak people out. But, when it comes to the decadent Japanese world of dining, sushi-philes stand fearless in the face of the uncooked. Whether it’s tuna, sea urchin, or anything else sporting a fin or a gill, they want it now.
Leaping off the cliff into the delicately vibrant world of sushi takes a courageous appetite, but once over that oceanic wall, few look back with regret. Grab some chopsticks, pour a bit of soy sauce, and savor these morsels of mouth-watering sushi facts!
1. Many Japanese restaurants start a sushi meal with miso soup. While delicious and light, the soup is actually supposed to be consumed after the meal is over to aid with digestion.
2. A man named Hanaya Yohei is credited with bringing the world the early concept of sushi we enjoy today. In the early nineteenth century, he began selling fish pressed onto rice patties out of a simple food cart.
3. Jiro Ono, an 86-year-old sushi master who owns a three Michelin-starred restaurant in Tokyo, is considered the best sushi chef today. Customers make reservations up to a year in advance, and the wait is worth it.
4. Japanese sushi knives are sharpened uniquely: only one side is made razor thin. The knives are meant to slice the fish on the knife stroke towards the body. This helps make precision cuts.
5. Sushi chefs believe the knives they use are imbued with the souls of the craftsmen who fashion the blades. They treat them with an immense amount of care and respect.
6. Ginger makes an appearance on every plate of sushi, so make sure you use it correctly! Don’t eat it with the fish; it’s meant as a palate cleanser in between bites to prepare your mouth for the next bout of flavor.
7. When sushi was first introduced, wasabi’s sole purpose was to kill any bacteria or parasites. Now, with strict sanitary conditions, it’s not required, but people continue to use it for the intense burst of heat it offers.
8. While the wasabi you consume at a restaurant looks and tastes like the real stuff, the actual root is very expensive and few restaurants carry it. Nearly all of that spicy green paste is made from horseradish.
9. Sushi rose to popularity so quickly that people all over the world realized they needed a special day of the year devoted entirely to those delicious morsels of raw fish. June 18, 2009, was the first official “sushi day.”
10. Apprentice sushi chefs used to train for ages before they were trusted to really cook: ten years! However, the aggressively growing demand for the food means many trainees get their start after only two years.
11. Standing your chopsticks up in white rice might be something you do, but it’s actually highly disrespectful: a bowl of rice with two vertical chopsticks is often present at funerals as an offering for the dead.
12. Rice and sushi go together like love and marriage; you often can’t have one without the other. Amazingly, nearly all (99.99%) of sushi rice found in American restaurants is grown in the United States.
13. In Japan, many chefs believe humans don’t just eat with their mouths, but that they also enjoy cuisine with their eyes. This is why sushi is prepared with vibrant colors, textures, and variety.
14. Sushi chefs place high value on the balance of the flavors. The fish and rice have to be in complete harmony without one stealing the spotlight from the other.
15. The most expensive sushi was from a Filipino chef named Angelito Araneta Jr., who placed diamonds on some fish and added edible gold. The final price was just under $2,000!
16. At one point in history, sushi was so prized and valuable people could actually use it as currency! “In lieu of my rent this month I’ll be mailing you a California roll. Hope you don’t mind.”
17. About 80 percent of the tuna caught worldwide is used for sushi. The most expensive bluefin tuna ever purchased was 612 pounds and sold for $3.1 million!
18. Every Japanese restaurant offers guests chopsticks before the meal begins, but when eating certain types of sushi, hand usage is perfectly acceptable.
19. The nori, or roasted seaweed, used to make the binding sheets for sushi rolls, was once collected off the bases of dock pillars and ships. Now it goes through a healthy flattening and drying process.
20. Your impulse to immediately give your sushi a soy bath might be strong, but wait! Unless you’re eating a roll, the rice is supposed is stay out of the soy sauce. Flip the piece over and coat only the fish.