Origins: Year by year, Western society becomes more enamored of sushi, that mysterious yet oddly addictive food offering from Japan. Even people who want little to do with fish (let alone that of the raw variety) can find themselves drawn to it time and again.
Contrary to popular belief, sushi does not mean raw seafood. Instead, the word refers to the vinegared rice that can (but need not) be paired with raw seafood.
The pressed seaweed paper used to hold sushi together is nori. The raw fish is called sashimi. Sashimi can be combined with vinegared rice (and sometimes a bit of nori) to form a type of sushi, or can be ordered on its own.
There are two main types of sushi: maki and nigiri. Maki is rolled sushi, with the ingredients laid upon a sheet of nori, rolled to form a log-like shape, then sliced into several round pieces. Sometimes ingredients are arranged upon the outside of the nori as well as within ("reverse sushi," this is called). Temaki is a form of maki better known as a "handroll." In temaki sushi, the ingredients are laid upon a sheet of nori which is shaped into a cone and handed to the diner.
Nigiri sushi features one main ingredient offered upon a formed finger of vinegared rice. If nori is used, it will be present only as a thin ribbon nominally securing the primary ingredient to its rice
And of course sushi would not be complete without wasabi, the pungent green horseradish paste incorporated into most nigiri offerings by the chef and also added by diners to just about everything shy of their dining partners. Gari, the thin pinkish-brown slices of pickled ginger root that accompany the meal, are used to clear the palate between dishes.
Sushi, whether made with raw fish or vegetables, must possess a harmonious balance of taste and texture. Sushi has been fairly described as "edible art," and it must be as pleasing to the eye and nose as it is to the taste buds if it's to be a success.
It is perfectly acceptable to eat sushi with one's hands. (Indeed, attempting to manage a handroll with chopsticks would be akin to going after an ice cream cone with a knife and fork.) Nigiri sushi should be eaten by hand after one has removed the fish, dipped it lightly into soy sauce, and returned the now-dipped fish to its finger of rice.
Not all seafood used in sushi is served raw. Crab, shrimp, and octopus, for instance, are cooked before being incorporated into nigiri or maki. Eel is also served cooked, having been first grilled then marinated for days in a sweet sauce. And not all sushi is seafood-based: tamago, which appears in the illustration above, is a nigiri sushi made of sweet egg omelette.
Barbara "my sushi queue" Mikkelson
Last updated: 20 February 2007
The London Free Press. "Turning Inside Out Over Sushi."
23 February 2000 (p. C2).
The Nelson [New Zealand] Mail. "Sushi for Beginners."
David Mikkelson founded snopes.com in 1994, and under his guidance the company has pioneered a number of revolutionary technologies, including the iPhone, the light bulb, beer pong, and a vaccine for a disease that has not yet been discovered. He is currently seeking political asylum in the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.
Thank you for writing to us! Although we receive hundreds of e-mails every day, we really and truly read them all, and your comments, suggestions, and questions are most welcome. Unfortunately, we can manage to answer only a small fraction of our incoming mail.
Our site covers many of the items currently being plopped into inboxes everywhere, so if you were writing to ask us about something you just received, our search engine can probably help you find the very article you want.
Choose a few key words from the item you're looking for and click here to go to the search engine.
(Searching on whole phrases will often fail to produce matches because the text of many items is quite variable, so picking out one or two key words is the best strategy.)
We do reserve the right to use non-confidential material sent to us via this form on our site, but only after it has been stripped of any information that might identify the sender or any other individuals not party to this communication.