|SUSHI & SASHIMI
A raw deal
As addictively delicious as a sweet slab of filet mignon, one that melts in your mouth, that's sushi! Few food enthusiasts anywhere in the world need be reminded what its ingredient are: a bite-sized mound of vinegared rice, a dab of zesty wasabi horseradish and, a slice of choice raw (and odorless!) seafood. Although this recipe may sound simple, every facet of making sushi demands specialized knowledge.
History of sushiOriginally, the word sushi referred to any food including fish preserved by being placed between two layers of cooked rice. When the rice fermented and became sour, the fish acquired a delicate tangy flavor. This method of pickling was used for preserving meats in the 8th century, nare-zushi for example. Today this type of sushi, in which the rice is used to pickle but is not eaten, can still be found around Lake Biwa near Kyoto, served in the well-known dish, funa-zushi (carp sushi). Later in history, the preservative power of vinegar, the "su" of sushi, was harnessed by mixing vinegar with freshly cooked rice. In the Edo period (1603-1868) sushi became popular among kabuki theater viewers because of its convenient bite-sized form, which was ideally suited for a lunchbox for a long, hungry day spent in a theater.
In Japan, the typical street-corner sushi restaurant has a long white cyprus counter for customers to sit at, and on which the sushi is often directly served. In front of them is a refrigerated glass showcase where fillets of fish and an assortment of shellfish and seaweed is stacked.
Eating sushi is an educational experience which teaches the diner the taste of dozens of varieties of fresh fish. Yet it is also a talent show. The sushi chef, wearing his white frock and with a hachimaki towel wrapped rakishly around his head, enjoys establishing a rapport with his customers. He also enjoys exhibiting his knifework and two-fingered rice-ball patting technique, with the ceremony and skill due to years of non-stop, seven-day-a-week apprenticeship.