What is the History of Sushi?

If you have ever been to a Japanese restaurant, you have probably tasted sushi. Sushi is a traditional Japanese dish in which rice, seaweed, and raw fish are combined to make a delicious meal. There are many different types of sushi, all ranging by the ingredients used with each dish or “roll.”
In this blog, we will be discussing the history of sushi and how America has adapted this unique food to be a common type of entree.

The Early History

The first mention of sushi has been cited at the second century AD in China. Back then, Chinese fishermen used to catch fish and wrap the fish in rice. The rice was used to preserve the fish, rather than eaten as a side dish. Once the fish was ready to be eaten, the rice was used for something else or thrown away. However, by the seventh century, the Japanese began to wrap their fish in rice as well. However, instead of using the rice for something else, they chose to eat the rice with the fish. Wine vinegar was later introduced to the fish-rice combination to add flavor. This then made it so the fish and the rice could be eaten immediately, rather than left to preserve the fish. In the 17th century, in Matsumoto Yoshiichi of Edo (present-day Tokyo) people began to sell wine vinegar rice and fish as a quick meal to eat.

19th Century

Throughout the centuries, sushi been traditionally eaten with rice and fish. Of course, as Japan evolved as a country, so did the way sushi was prepared and presented. Instead of eating sushi with just rice and fish, new ingredients were introduced to change up the recipes. In fact, in the 19th century, a man named Hanaya Yohei created a different way to present sushi to customers. Instead of wrapping the fish in rice, he placed a piece of fish on top of an oblong-shaped piece of seasoned rice. This was the beginning of the sushi style “Nigiri sushi.” This style of sushi was designed to be easy to eat, as it could be eaten with your fingers — hence why nigiri sushi can be loosely translated to mean “finger sushi.” This style of sushi was extremely popular in the city of Edo (now Tokyo), as many people enjoyed the aspect of sushi to-go. But business for Yohei would not always be so profitable, especially with the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923. After the earthquake, many people were forced to evacuate Edo, after their homes and businesses had been destroyed. The silver lining of the disaster was that due to the mass evacuation from the city of Edo, Yohei’s idea of nigiri sushi was spread throughout Japan and is still used today.

World War II

The second World War brought great destruction to the island of Japan. After the war, sushi vendors were shut down and were moved indoors to provide customers with better sanitary conditions. While inside the buildings, business owners gave customers comfy seats to sit and enjoy their meal. It was during this shift from outdoor to indoor eating that sushi went from a fast food to a dining experience. More people wanted to eat sushi and relax in the comfort of a restaurant, rather than a bustling side street. The war also made sushi an international treat, as many soldiers were able to bring back the food to their countries.

Modern Sushi Styles

Since sushi was introduced, western cultures have embraced it fully. Sushi has adapted to be an artful dining experience, full of surprises and unexpected flavors. Today, sushi restaurants have been able to change the cuisine to become an elegant dining experience that features artful presentation. Not only that, but western cultures have been able to influence the way certain recipes of sushi are made. For instance, the “California Roll” was adapted to appeal to western palettes by using crab, avocado, and cucumber.

Kioku Asian Bistro

Sushi has come a long way from when it was just fish wrapped in rice. Today, sushi has become an extravagant dining experience that never ceases to dazzle and awe customers. At Kioku Asian Bistro, Huntsville’s premier sushi restaurant, we are able to craft exquisite dishes that can satiate even the hungriest of customers. If you are craving sushi for lunch or dinner, be sure to stop by your local Huntsville Asian bistro.