Sushi has a reputation. It is loved by many, hated by almost as many and is often portrayed in the media as being a dangerous food.
It is considered to be a Japanese food, but did it really originate there?
So what is it, where did it come from and is it actually safe or not?
Sushi is one of the foods that are called Ready to Eat (RTE). This means that there is no cooking / heating involved before it is served to the consumer and after it has been prepared. Sandwiches, subs and wraps are also members of this food group and are just as much of a food safety risk as sushi.
All of the parts of sushi are in the group of foods called the Potentially Hazardous Foods. These foods are potentially hazardous because they will allow food poisoning bacteria to grow readily if they are poorly handled and stored.
These foods must be kept below 5C (41F) or above 60C (140F) to slow or kill these bacteria and the surfaces they come in contact with must be kept clean and sanitised.
Sushi contains cooked rice, seafood and vegetables, all of which are potentially hazardous foods. The seafood may in fact be raw or partly. So the product is definitely a potentially hazardous food and must be handled correctly to ensure it is safe for consumption
So sushi must be kept cold and all it's contact surfaces, including hands, must be kept clean and sanitised.
The rice in sushi is cooked and then rice wine vinegar is added to give a sour taste to the product. This vinegar is acid and will therefore also have an effect in reducing bacterial growth.
So sushi is safe as long as; all ingredients are fresh, all contact surfaces (including hands) are clean and sanitised, the product and all it's ingredients are kept below 5C (41F) during storage and display, and the rice is made correctly.
Although sushi looks deceptively simple, it takes a chef 10 years to become a Itamae-san - The Sushi Chef.
There are two basic styles; a piece of seafood sitting atop a formed ball of rice, and the well known seaweed wrapped rice and filling roll.
The one thing that both styles have in common is that the rice is soaked in rice wine vinegar to give the distinctive sour note.
There is a derivative of sushi that does not have the rice and this is called Sashimi. It is raw fish which is artfully and beautifully sliced and arranged on a serving plate.
Sushi is usually eaten with two types of dipping sauces to further develop the flavours. The dips are dark soy sauce (thicker and more flavoursome than light soy sauce) and Wasabi (based on horseradish and a very intense flavour).
To cleanse the palate whilst eating sushi, people may sip green tea and / or eat pickled ginger (Gar).
How to eat sushi properly
It can be done with chopsticks or fingers.
The non seaweed wrapped sushi is turned so the seafood is facing downwards and is gently dipped into either wasabi or dark soy sauce and then turned back so the rice is on the bottom and eaten.
The seaweed wrapped version is simply dipped into the wasabi or soy sauce so that the rice and filling are bottom down and then it is eaten.
It is recommended that sushi be eaten in a certain order with the lighter items first to savour the flavours, and work up to the seaweed wrapped rolls (maki-zushi).
- The original form of sushi can be traced back to various places within South East Asia in the 4th Century BC.
- It was originally a process done to preserve raw fish by placing it into rice. The rice fermented and this preserved the fish. The fish was eaten and the rice thrown away. It was called nare-zushi.
- Introduced to Japan in the 8th Century AD and became known as seisei-zushi and the fish was partly raw.
- Later the rice was also eaten and the product became known as haya-zushi.
- In the Edo period in Japan (1603-1867) the rice was no longer fermented but mixed with vinegar and other foods beside the fish.
- It became very popular in Tokyo and was known as nigin-zushi at the beginning of the 19th Century. It was also called edoma-zushi and this remains the most popular type even today.
- The product spread rapidly across Japan when the mobile food stalls in Tokyo were destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, and the sushi chefs found work and businesses elsewhere in the country.
- There are many varieties across the whole of Japan.
- Sushi became popular internationally in the 1980s.
- Sushi can be found now in; vending machines, sushi bars, restaurants, supermarkets, service stations, hotels and sushi train style outlets.
Bits and pieces
- Much of the sushi now available is made using specially developed sushi machines that prepare and cut the rolls, and then package them for sale.
- The longest sushi roll made to date was 67000ft (20.4km).
Depending upon which style and the actual ingredients. However, sushi is recognised as being a very healthy food with little fat and usually high protein.
Want to know more?
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