Sushi (鮨 or 鮓 or 寿司) is a
Japanese dish consisting of vinegared rice combined with
other ingredients such as raw fish, raw or cooked shellfish,
or vegetables. Sushi is sometimes confused with sashimi, which is the seafood sometimes served with sushi.
There are a number of different styles of sushi, of
which some of the most common are:
- makizushi (巻き寿司) which is made by taking a sheet of dried seaweed, putting on a layer of rice (leaving a couple of centimeters free in one end), and then adding some vegetables like cucumber. This is rolled up and "glued" together by wetting the seaweed so that it sticks together. The roll is then cut up into slices about two centimeters thick.
- nigirizushi (握り寿司) is made by pressing rice together into a lump slightly smaller than a hen's egg. On top of this, a piece of fish, prawn, or something similar is placed, often with some wasabi underneath it. Sometimes a thin band of seaweed is used to hold the fish in place.
- temakizushi (手巻き寿司 or handroll) is a large cone formed by a sheet of dried sea weed filled with rice and other ingredients. A handroll is eaten with the fingers since it is too big to be held by chopsticks.
- inarizushi (稲荷寿司) is vinegar rice wrapped into a thin slice of fried tofu (油揚げ or abura age). The tofu is briefly boiled in a sauce of sugar, mirin and soy sauce before usage. Inarizushi is either rectangular or triangular, not unlike an onigiri.
- chirashizushi (散らし寿司), also referred to as barazushi (ばら寿司), is vinegar rice mixed with fish, seafood, slightly boiled and sweetened vegetables and thin slices of fried egg. It is said to be the simplest to prepare within the sushi family.
- oshizushi (押し寿司 or pressed sushi) originated in Osaka and is vinegar rice, marinated fish and other ingredients, such as shiso, layered and pressed into a mold. The resulting loaf is cut into mouth size pieces before serving.
Certainly the majority of sushi is made with raw fish and other seafoods. For both aesthetic and health reasons, fish that are to be eaten raw
must be fresher and of a higher quality than fish that will be cooked.
A professional sushi chef is trained in recognizing good fish, which
is clean-smelling, vivid in color, and free from harmful parasites.
Only ocean fish are used raw in sushi; freshwater fish, which are more likely to harbor parasites, are cooked. In addition to fish, common seafoods used in sushi are squid, shrimp, eel, fish roe, sea urchin and various kinds of shellfish.
Sushi rice: The rice used in making sushi is a short-grained,
sweeter variety rather different in consistency from the long-grain
and Indian rice strains Westerners may be more used to. It is cooked
with rice vinegar, or vinegar may be added after cooking, and is cooled
before being used to make sushi.
Nori: The seaweed wrappers used in maki and temaki are made of a
cultivated sea vegetable known as nori. Originally, this plant was
scraped from dock pilings, rolled out into sheets, and dried in the
sun. Today, it is farmed and industrially produced, and can be bought
pre-cut into neat, ready-to-use squares.
Other ingredients: Not all sushi contains seafood. Many things can find their way into sushi:
pickled daikon radish, fermented soy paste (natto), avocado,
raw quail eggs, tofu, pickled plum, omelet, and more.
Condiments: Sushi is served with soy sauce, wasabi (green
horseradish paste), and sweet pickled ginger (gari). Wasabi is said
to be an effective antidote against fish poisoning.
A basic recipe for sushi rice is as follows:
Take one cup of short-grained rice and rinse in cold water until water runs clear. Combine rice, 1 1/4 cup cold water, and a small piece of dashi kombu (a type of seaweed, optional if not available) in a saucepan and turn heat to high. Remove kombu just before water boils. After water begins to boil, turn heat to low, cover pan tightly, and leave to simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and leave in covered pan for 10 more minutes. Use a wooden paddle to scrape rice into a large bowl, then gently stir it with the paddle while adding about 2 tbsp. of seasoned rice vinegar. Stir until rice has cooled somewhat and looks shiny.
Cover rice with a damp towel and use in any sushi recipe within one day.
See also sashimi, Japanese cuisine.