The word sushi evokes many preconceived ideas. We often hear: ” We only eat sushi in Japan. I don’t like raw fish.” Sushi has become known in France thanks to the large number of brands such as Sushi shop, Planète sushi, Matsuri etc… But these sushi have nothing to do with those of Japan, both in terms of name and preparation. So what is a real sushi ? Explanation:
- Sushi, definition
- Sushi, a product of excellence
- The different types of sushi
- Lesser known sushi
- The ingredients of a sushi
- Tasting sushi is an art
- To summarize, here is a table of preconceived ideas about sushi
- Our opinion
The word sushi 寿司 refers to a Japanese dish made of vinegared rice called shari assembled with other ingredients called neta which are usually raw fish and seafood. It can also be vegetables and mushrooms. In fact, sushi refers to a set of Japanese dishes, a family of dishes. We tend to confuse it with nigiri sushi because historically the latter was one of the first forms of sushi to be invented.
Sushi, a product of excellence
Many people agree that sushi is the emblem of Japanese cuisine even though its consumption remains quite occasional in Japan. It is an exceptional dish that can be found everywhere. You will have no trouble getting it locally. And whether you go to a specialized restaurant called sushi-ya or you buy your sushi in a konbini or even in a department store, you won’t be disappointed. Japanese people always make sure to offer the best quality possible. They want to offer the best product cooked in the most tasty way.
To give you an idea, a sushi master in Japan is trained for 10 years! Everything is studied, the cutting, the different types of fish, the cooking of the rice, the seaweed etc.. It is not surprising that in Japan, there are currently 5 sushi restaurants that have 3 stars in the Michelin guide.
The big brands in France do not have this vision of respect for the product and this is felt in the plate. They mass produce to sell more and more at the expense of quality. They are not rigorous on the techniques and especially on the products used. You can’t become a sushi master. In France, the visual alone is important and it’s a shame…
The different types of sushi
The nigiri sushi is a rice ball with a slice of fish or seafood and/or vegetables and mushrooms on it. There are variants such as gunkan maki (on the right in the picture above) or temari sushi (rounded shape)
The maki-sushi The maki sushi is a roll of rice, raw fish and/or vegetables surrounded by a sheet of seaweed called nori. There are variants of this, much bigger and with more ingredients called futo maki often representing an original design.
Chirashi-sushi The chirashi sushi is a more hearty dish as this one comes in a large bowl of rice on which slices of fish and vegetables are placed
The lesser known sushi
The oshi-sushi The oshi-sushi which literally means“sushi pressed in a mold” is generally made of 2 layers of rice between which are placed fish, vegetables, nori… The whole is pressed in a wooden mold. It is one of the oldest form of sushi that you can still eat in Japan. It is a dish that is eaten by hand.
Masu-sushi Masu sushi is an on-the-go dish of the oshi sushi (pressed sushi) family. You can only find it in Toyama in Japan. Vinegar rice and slices of sashimi slices of trout are pressed in a round mold and then rolled in bamboo leaves. The whole thing is pressed and sold by the piece.
There are still many varieties of sushi that are typical of each region that we will not list here but that you can discover as you go along on our site in the category of Japanese must-try dishes.
The ingredients of a sushi
In the big French shops you will find maki of all kinds of shapes, ingredients and tastes. In Japan, you don’t have all these variations. The main ingredients of sushi are :
- Vinegared rice, soy saucemirinand wasabiand nori, , , and konbu(pickled ginger) gari (pickled ginger), some sake…
- Raw fish such as sea bream, red tuna, bonito, shrimp, sea urchin, octopus, eel etc
- Vegetables such as cucumbers, avocado, salted plums called umeboshi(white radish), etc.. daikon (white radish), etc..
- Japanese mushrooms such as shiitake buna shimeji, enoki, nameko, eryngii…
- Eggs, tofu…
Tasting sushi is an art
In Japan, sushi can be eaten with the hands or with Japanese chopsticks. The rice is not dipped in the soy sauce, only the neta (slice of fish or vegetables). You should not pierce the sushi with your chopstick either, it is a question of respect for the product. In the gourmet sushi restaurants in Japan, the sushi is prepared in front of you at the minute to be tasted immediately and to appreciate all the freshness of the product which is eaten in one bite! In France, we are used to stick the food in our mouths but in Japan this is not done! That’s why everything is sliced thinly beforehand to be eaten only with chopsticks. You will also find in France sushi menus accompanied by yakitori , chicken skewers. In Japan, you won’t find this mix. A sushi restaurant will only prepare sushi and a yakitori restaurant only chicken skewers. Few restaurants mix several dishes.
Sushi is often accompanied by gari, soy sauce, and wasabi. For drinks, you will have green tea, fresh or warm sake or Japanese beer.
To summarize, here is a table of sushi ideas
In Japan Sushi is an occasional meal, but there are also noodle dishes gyoza and okonomiyaki and tempura etc…
Even if the brands in France have declined a lot of sushi with tastes and shapes that have nothing to do with the origin, these brands allow to approach and discover sushi. All this marketing on sushi and this healthy food side have only reinforced the false ideas that the French have on Japanese cuisine. However, with these recipes transformed with sauces, cheese, etc., we are as far from real sushi as we are from a healthy diet. Once again, the big brands are only responding to the demands of Westerners. You will have understood, sushi is really to be discovered in its country of origin which is Japan, just like wine and cheese are to be discovered in France. We hope that with this article you will have less clichés about Japanese cuisine and that you will want to go and enjoy it in Japan!