National Sushi Day – June 18th
If anyone knows me and food, you know that Sushi is one of my all time favorites. So I was ecstatic to find out that this next week there was a National Sushi Day. I know that it seems a bit weird because Sushi originated in Japan. But who was I to argue with a Sushi holiday? It’s the only food to cause me to have a physical reaction. Just the mention of the word sushi causes my mouth to salivate. For me, sushi is the perfect food. It begins with high-quality seafood. Added to that are veggies, throw in some sticky rice and wrap it with seaweed and you have the perfect dish. For the seafood haters, I am not going to convince you. But for you who love seafood but the thought of raw fish makes your stomach curdle let me talk you into giving it another go.
I would like to talk about the first time I went to sushi. I remember having a bunch of friends invite me to go with them to a sushi place in Brea called Ichiban. As I had heard about sushi, and I loved seafood, I figured I would love it. So when I got to the restaurant I sat down at a nice table and they handed out the menus. In my right hand was a glass of water and in my left was the menu. It took me all of three seconds before I spit up my water all over my menu. What was a spider roll? I hated spiders. In fact, I have a spider story that would make anyone’s skin crawl. And a caterpillar roll? What the heck is salmon roe? I do like to try new food but this was strange.
Now for those of you who know about sushi, you know the difference between sashimi and sushi. Second, you know about ginger, wasabi and soy sauce and how they integrate into what you are eating. So it makes “perfect sense” that my first time eating sushi it was sashimi I ordered. Sashimi for the uninitiated is purely raw fish. And that was served on a bed of rice. That might have been ok had I known to use soy sauce and wasabi. I did not. And that was why my first reaction to sushi was, “ooohhh! snot!!”
You can imagine that I wouldn’t be going back quickly to try sushi anywhere. Not even at a really good restaurant. But I did have a couple of friends who prevailed upon me to try to eat it again. Why would I do so? There were plenty of other things that I could enjoy eating without having to resort to sushi. They kept insisting.
So after a few months, a friend of mine suggested that we go to an all you can eat place that served sushi on the side. I know for you sushi lovers that right now your stomach is churning thinking about eating all you can eat sushi. Its the equivalent of going to a buffet to eat gourmet food. You might find steak there but it’s not going to melt in your mouth. And you may have it come up later in ways you don’t want to think about. But for sushi, it did something for me that I wouldn’t have been able to experience otherwise. I got to try all different kinds of sushi and got a feeling for what I liked versus what I didn’t like. And It wasn’t going to cost me hundreds of dollars to figure it all out. (I found I really loved octopus.)
Eventually, I would go back to the high-end sushi places and discovered how much better they were. But by then I had a good feeling for what I liked. And what I liked kept expanding. In addition, I knew how to use soy sauce and wasabi. I knew how to dip my sushi in. I knew the beauty of teriyaki sauce and what sushi it went well with. And I knew how to use ginger to clear my palate between different types of sushi. Within a few months, I was not only a sushi liker, I was a sushi lover. I was a missionary for sushi, telling the world of its wonderful flavors.
I don’t want you to think I forgot about doing the fake history of one my favorite foods. Because I think it’s good to know where food comes from. And as with all of the histories on the Guide, we want to make sure you get a very thorough fake history of the food. Where did it come from? Why did it become so popular? And why is William Shatner really a robot? Or something like that. So without further ado, the Guide presents:
The History Of Sushi
Way back in the olden days of the human history of planet earth, or B.C. as we used to call it, people roamed around and caught fish in this big lake. Maybe it was an ocean but that is an argument for another time. And after pulling the dangerous flopping sea creatures from these muddy waters they would sit and stare at them for a while. Some of them came around with updated versions of caveman clubs and beat them until the stopped flopping. They would then take them to market immediately to be sold. So the great fisherman market races began where only the last man standing without broken legs or bloody eyes would get to sell their fresh fish at the market. (OK, maybe that didn’t happen but I have to admit that fisherman death races did sound funny.)
Why did they take them to the market so quickly? Because once they caught the fish they immediately started to degrade. People had to eat them right away or they were going to get really sick trying to eat them. You could pack them in salt, but this dried out the fish so you ended up with a fish jerky of sorts. So they needed to rush their catch out to the markets right away for sale or they wouldn’t make a profit from it all.
But a discovery around the time we switched the clocks from B.C. to A.D. would change all that. (Or B.C.E. to C.E. for all you science nerds out there.) This major discovery was . . . drumroll please . . . RICE! What? Rice doesn’t seem like much of a discovery to you? What are you talking about? Rice is a staple in every diet today.
And while rice is an important part of the Legend of Sushi – Guide Style, the key ingredient, and the reason for putting the two together was the preservation of the fish. Some silly fisherman was getting himself drunk on vinegar at a seaport when a rice merchant came along by and was trying to sell this product to the seafarers.
The drunk fisherman started waving his bottle around until it fell all over the rice. Because of this damage to his crop, the rice seller made the fisherman pay for the rice and took off. The fisherman now had a ton of rice that he didn’t know what to do with. So what did he choose to do? He stuck the fish in the rice to be able to help him carry it all to market. What he magically ended up finding is this fermented rice preserved the fish that he was trying to sell. And so the first baby sushi was born.
What was crazy about this salted, fermented rice was that it kept for months at a time. This was all before they knew about ice keeping the product longer and fresher. So they could sell this rice over a longer period of time. Soon they started to make dishes of this raw fish and rice. But it’s not the sushi we know of today. That sushi didn’t come about until centuries later.
Around the 8th Century, some Japanese person got the bright idea that rice was something that you could actually eat and not just pack fish in. But to do this you actually had to stop allowing the rice to ferment. So they decided to eat this non-fermented rice with what the fish they had always prepared. Then they added veggies and seaweed. This is the sushi that we know of today when we go out to a nice sushi restaurant. (Not to be confused with the sushi you purchase at the store which was made from the pit of hell.)
Recipe For Sticky Rice
So if it came to making sushi, I probably would be afraid. I did have a friend do it. And I have had the faux “spam sushi” someone taught me to make. (As much as I am not a spam fan, it wasn’t all that bad.) But I don’t think I could honestly sit here and tell you how to seal the sushi together, having not actually done it. And I wouldn’t be one to discuss how sharp the blade for cutting must be, or whether the fish was properly fresh enough. All of these things would be better for someone else to do.
What I can do is give you a recipe for sticky rice to use with the sushi. Because a good sticky rice recipe is as important as choosing the fish and your blade. You have to have something that clumps together well or your sushi will be one big mess. And messy sushi I cannot abide by.
- Rinse the rice in a strainer. You want to make sure that the rice is cleaned of all sediment so be thorough on this step. (Any residue can cause problems later on.)
- Combine with water in a saucepan.
- Bring the water and the rice together to a boil on medium high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Rice should be tender and water should be absorbed.
- Make sure you cool until cool enough to handle.
- In a saucepan, combine the rice vinegar, oil, sugar and salt.
- Gently cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. (Cooking too high will cause problems)
- Cool, then stir into the cooked rice. (The rice will seem like it’s wet, but it’s dry and get more sticky as it cools. The vinegar and sugar will cause it to clump.)
- Rice should be able to be pressed into different shapes with a rice paddle. For the generic sushi roll shape it is pressed flat against the seaweed.
From my perspective, you do not necessarily have to boil the rice on a pot. It works just as well if you make your rice in a rice cooker. The key to the recipe is residue free rice and the vinegar, sugar and oil mixture.
- This Recipe was taken from Lucy Del Rey at allrecipes.com. I would never put a recipe on my site without making it first. I have tried many different sticky rice recipes, but this one has worked the best for me personally. It’s simple, yet elegant. (All commentary in parenthesis is my own.)
Continue The Conversation
So what did you think of the history of Sushi? How will you celebrate National Sushi Day? And how many of you have actually made sushi at home? For those of you who have I am very impressed. It’s funny that it’s my favorite food and I have still yet to try making it in the kitchen. Just one of those things I guess. Just having a sharp enough knife to cut the rolls properly intimidates me. It’s the equivalent of trying to cut up chicken to cook. and not have it turn into a gloppy mess. Maybe if I tried with individual pieces instead of rolls it would turn out better. But then comes knowing how much wasabi to put on the fish to get it to stick properly to the rice. I can envision me with a glass of milk. A HUGE glass of milk.
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Until next time, Wasabi!!!!
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life