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Lake Biwa: The place for original sushi

12 Comments
By Jamie Rockers

It’s popular all over the world. It’s the quintessential Japanese food and could be considered the earliest “fast food” in Japan. It’s a dish that consists of raw fish, vinegar-rice, and a smear of wasabi. If you haven’t guessed it already, it’s SUSHI! But what is this thing that many people so readily gulp down at the drop of a hat and how did it come to be?

Surprise, surprise, the original form of sushi actually came from Southeast Asia, eventually making its way to the shores of Japan and accidentally becoming the sushi we know today. During ancient times, sushi was not a kind of food, but a way of preserving fish for fermentation, a verb instead of the noun we know today. This was called "nare-zushi." Fish was preserved in fermented rice and when it was ready for consumption, the rice was discarded and only the fermented fish was eaten.

Consuming the fermented rice along with partially raw fish/partially fermented fish became popular during the Muromachi period, called "sesei-zushi." This is where sushi began to be known not as a way of preserving food, but an actual dish. It wasn’t until the Edo period, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, that sushi became what it is today. Because of the popularity of food stalls in Tokyo or Edo, as it was called back then, sushi was made to be eaten easily and informally and this is the sushi we know today, called "nigiri-zushi." As a result of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, many "nigiri-zushi" chefs lost their jobs, packed up their things, and set out for somewhere else to settle and practice their trade, eventually spreading the popularity of "nigiri-zushi" from Edo to the rest of Japan.

Interestingly enough, we can still try "nare-zushi" today, near Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture. Carp from the lake are caught, scaled and gutted, and then packed with salt and stored for a year before being repacked annually in rice for up to four years. That’s a long time people! So forget about last year’s goal to try fugu and try "nare-zushi" in 2010.

© Japan Today

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12 Comments
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So forget about last year’s goal to try fugu

Thanks for reminding me...

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Jamie why didnt you tell people how it absolutely stinks !!!

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Been there, smelled that......no thanks.

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Funa-zushi.... definitely not for the weak hearted (or stomached)...

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"a way of preserving fish for fermentation"

Suddenly I don't feel so good...

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try eating it when you have a hangover.

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It's not that bad, I kind of like the taste. I've smelled cheese that is much worse than funa-zushi. You should try it first, you might enjoy it. I think the worst smelling fermented fish is surströmming. That's scary! The cans are bloated from the fermentation, and when opened the fish almost explodes out of the can. Haven't tasted it. I think the safest bet would be to go to a Swedish restaurant and give it a try...

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Huh ???

-"It’s popular all over the world. It’s the quintessential Japanese food and could be considered the earliest “fast food”

-"It’s a dish that consists of raw fish, vinegar-rice, and a smear of wasabi."

-"If you haven’t guessed it already, it’s SUSHI!"

No- it's "Japanese style Sushi"

Sushi originated in other parts of Asia- However, much like Tempura, the Japanese have layed claim to it. Lets set the record straight shall we.

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Sushi originated in other parts of Asia- However, much like Tempura, the Japanese have layed claim to it. Lets set the record straight shall we.

Let's, as I've heard this nonsense repeated often here. Fermenting rice in fish originated in Southeast Asia, however the rice was not eaten. That's a far cry from sushi. The Japanese started eating the rice too, and over centuries this evolved into sushi.

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"Fermenting rice in fish originated in Southeast Asia, however the rice was not eaten."

Speaking of "nonsense". Sorry, but records indicate that the rice "was" eaten together with the fish in some villages. You might have a better argument with the addition of "wasabi"- but otherwise, as this article clearly states-

"Surprise, surprise, the original form of sushi actually came from Southeast Asia, eventually making its way to the shores of Japan and accidentally becoming the sushi we know today"

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So what if it originated from SEA oooops I meant Southeast Asia. Japan may have few originals but they sure know how to turn a simple thing to be the world's best. Admit it and life is easier :)

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Parallel history to fish and chips in England. The batter was originally a covering, meant to protect and keep the fish clean. It was discarded, not eaten. However, people started eating the batter, and history was made.

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