Sushi is one of the most popular exports from Asia. But have you ever wanted to try it, but weren’t sure what it was or whether it would suit you?
For those new to the World of sushi, there are often a lot of common questions about how it is prepared or where it is sourced.
But the most common question by far, is whether sushi is cooked or is it raw?
This article will give you the breakdown of sushi and where the term originates from so that you can know what you are getting into if you’re ready to try your first piece of sushi at your local restaurant.
Is Sushi Cooked Or Is It Raw Fish?
Contrary to popular belief; sushi is not eaten raw.
That honor goes to sashimi, which is kept raw and sliced into small pieces.
You will find this delicacy accompanied by many different sauces, which are used for dipping. It can even be served with sushi.
Sushi is different and is a food that is accompanied by vinegared rice. It is typically served with other toppings, most commonly vegetables.
Sushi can also be served with a variety of seafood which is either kept raw or cooked, but the traditional way to prepare sushi simply comes from the food staples of the place where sushi originated (Check out the Best Sushi Making Kits here).
Serve plenty of toppings or none at all, as both are acceptable when eating sushi.
As sushi comes in many different forms, the misconception is that raw fish simply comes down to the fact that sushi is served with raw seafood, as opposed to actually being raw itself.
When we consider sushi that is consumed in the Western parts of the world, it is more often than not served with fully cooked seafood, such as crab (California roll), smoked salmon, squid or octopus, cooked clam, or fully cooked shrimp (You might be interested to know What Is Imitation Crab Made Of?).
You can also find it paired with a wide variety of fried and battered seafood.
This dish is also not specifically made for meat eaters or pescetarians, and many vegetarian sushi dishes are made with vegetables such as maki (cucumber rolls.)
Another reason for this common misconception is that sushi is often eaten cold, which can imply that the fish has come straight from the ocean without any heating.
It’s also not common for Western audiences to consume raw meat or fish, and generally speaking, many westerners will prefer it to be over-cooked rather than undercooked.
And so the idea that you are being served raw fish is not going to be a concept that many westerners like, which is why this form of sushi was more notorious when it was first introduced.
Where Does The Term Sushi Come From?
The term sushi and its literal translation mean “it’s sour”, which originates from a grammatical form no longer used in context.
When we refer to sour, this comes from the preparation of sushi in ancient times which was the fermentation of meat, as it was packed in rice and sprinkled with salt which was used as a preservative.
Vinegar which is produced from fermenting rice will help to break down the fish meat into its smaller amino acids which result in a strong umami flavor, which if you know your flavor is one of the five basic tastes that the human tongue can detect, and often the one that people forget about the most.
Once the meat was fermented for a good amount of time and preserved, the rice would be discarded and the meat would be consumed.
In other words, this was the best way to preserve the meat before the invention of refrigerators and cooling boxes.
When we consider modern forms of sushi they are not prepared in the same way, and rice is now a staple of the meal.
During the 14th to 16th centuries, vinegar was starting to be added which helps to preserve the foods and enhance their flavor. This ultimately meant that the fermentation process was reduced in overall time.
In other words, it was a method to shorten the fermentation process and stopped, as it was just as easy to eat with rice.
Moving further on in time and after a few centuries, Osaka and sushi were placed together to form oshi-zushi which is a type of sushi with a variety of seafood and rice which is pressed using molds.
The 19th century led the way for the version of sushi that is what the majority of the world now sees sushi as. This was created by Hanaya Yohei.
This modern form of sushi does not take a long time to prepare and can be prepared and consumed in no time at all, which technically makes it one of the earliest versions of fast food, albeit much healthier than the fast food we see in the Western world and other parts.
Contrary to popular belief, sushi comes from Southeast Asia (Check out another Southeast Asian delicacy – The Jellyfish here) and not Japan, although it is popular in both South East Asia and Japan today.
Many sources indicate that it was first introduced to Japan around the 7th century, from China.
What Is Sashimi?
Sashimi is a delicacy that originates from Japan and is made from Fresh seafood sliced into small pieces, which are dipped into various sauces such as wasabi paste or sauce.
The seafood is not cooked and is eaten raw.
The word originates from the term “pierced body” which arises from the way that sashimi would have a tail or fin stuck to the meat so that it could be easily identified.
Another way that it came to this name is the fact that when the fish is caught, the brains are pierced to kill the fish immediately without doing any damage to the meat, which minimizes the lactic build-up.
This means that the fish can be stored for longer without the issue of degradation. Once a fish has been killed they are immediately transferred to a cold environment and put on ice.
Now you know that sushi is quite the opposite of raw fish, perhaps you will be more inclined to give it a try the next time you are given the opportunity.
You won’t be disappointed!