Sushi is the world-famous Japanese dish made from short-grain sushi rice, nori seaweed, fresh ingredients such as cucumber or avocado along with fish or seafood. It is one of the most popular dishes among Japanese. Contrary to popular belief, people in Japan do not consume sushi continuously. On the contrary. In Japen, sushi is mainly eaten on special occasions, such as weddings. But what exactly is in sushi?
Sushi is part of an ancient Japanese tradition
“What’s in sushi?” When I tell people I make sushi, I still frequently get this question. “That’s just some fish and seaweed over some rice, right?” But I always have to smile a little bit then, because sushi is more than just that. There is much more to sushi than meets the eye. It is part of a tradition of preparing food that goes back hundreds of years, even to the year 718 when sushi was first written about.
I always try to honor this tradition as a Western chef by utilizing only the finest and freshest ingredients. Also, I prefer to use the tools that the Japanese also use such as a Hangiri in which I prepare the rice to the various Japanese knives used in cooking.
What ingredients are in sushi?
The beauty of sushi is that you can vary it endlessly. Since sushi has gone global, a new movement has emerged. Local products are added to the rich repertoire of sushi recipes. That alone makes it difficult to pinpoint what is in sushi.
In fact, broadly speaking, you can say that sushi consists of a number of basic ingredients, the most important of which is rice. The rice is not a standard rice, but a special rice grown on terraces in the hilly Japanese soil. The rice grown there have small grains, also called short-grain rice. It is therefore a unique rice. Also because of the additional properties this rice has.
When you cook this rice, it sticks more than other types of rice. So it is ideal for making sushi. Meanwhile, this rice is grown all over the world, such as in California, USA, Spain and in Italy.
Not only is the rice cooked, but ‘Sushi-su’ is added to it. And that’s how you make that delicious tasting sushi rice.
The second major component of sushi is nori seaweed. That’s that black “paper” you find in various types of sushi. It is edible seaweed often used in dried form in Japanese cuisine. To be more precise; it is made from a certain type of red alga, namely the Porphyra, which includes Porphyra yezoensis and Porphyra tenera.
You can quickly forget those names. What you do need to know is that there is a quality difference in nori. In the better Asian specialty store, you can find the very best nori sheets. These are indicated by a gold label or have gold colors on the packaging. You want this one for your sushi!
The taste of nori is a bit salty, which makes sense since it comes from the sea, but also slightly sweet at the same time. Perfectly matched with that delicious sushi rice.
Fresh raw fish or seafood
The final ingredient sushi is known for is fresh raw fish or seafood. And not just any fish. No, only the very best and freshest fish is suitable for sushi. Always ask your fish supplier for sashimi grade fish. That’s the best quality fish you can eat raw.
Well-known fish commonly used are salmon, mackerel, squid and tuna. This last ingredient is every Japanese’s favorite. Served as a thin slice as a nigiri, or as a maki rolled in nori.
The rich fishing grounds around Japan along with the special rice of the terraces have produced a unique dish that has taken the whole world by storm. The combination of the above three ingredients form the basis of sushi. But don’t forget that much more can be added such as Tobiko (fish eggs), fresh vegetables such as avocado and cucumber or fried shrimp.
It is precisely the combination of classic Japanese traditional sushi fused with local ingredients that makes sushi a special dish that everyone loves.
In conclusion, Sushi is simply a unique dish that we have enjoyed for centuries and will enjoy for centuries to come!
Would you like to know more about sushi?
In my free sushi course, I explain it to you step-by-step with extensive videos. Register right away! It will only take 1 minute of your time 🙂