Sushi is a world-renowned dish that has a rich history stretching back hundreds of years. This staple of Japanese cuisine went through many different variations before it became the dish that we know and love today. Tons of sushi gets eaten every week all over the world, but rarely does anyone know about the historical significance of sushi and how its popularity grew from then until now.
The earliest ideas of sushi originated back sometime between the 3rd century and the 5th century. It came from an idea of preserving fish by wrapping it in salt and rice. This gave birth to the idea of “narezushi”, which was one of the earliest forms of sushi. This brand new idea of how to eat fish spread throughout Japan and became a new exciting part of popular Japanese cuisine.
Edo (known now as Tokyo) was the capital of Japan in the 1700s. This city is where sushi began to explode in popularity. The production of sushi was transformed to be made at a faster rate, thanks to a man by the name of Hanaya Yohei. He’s often considered to be the creator of modern nigiri sushi and even the father or sushi. He opened up the first sushi stall in the Ryogoki district of Edo. Through working his business, he adapted a faster sushi-making process called “speed fermentation”. Speed fermentation cut down making time because the rice-vinegar sprinkled rice was added to fresh fish and he rolled it by hand. Since the fish was so fresh, it didn’t need to be fermented or preserved. Because of Yohei being able to provide faster sushi, his customer base increased magnificently as they found out about this “fast sushi”. This process, in turn, deeply influenced the way that sushi is made today.
As Japanese refugees began to come to the United States in the 1950s, sushi restaurants started to pop up on the west coast. Los Angeles is thought of as the first city in the United States to fully embrace sushi restaurants. In the late 1960s, a Japanese man named Noritoshi Kanai and his Jewish business partner, Harry Wolff, launched a brand new sushi restaurant in Little Tokyo named Kawafuku Restaurant. The success of the sushi restaurant started with Japanese businessmen, who in turn introduced their American friends to the Japanese cuisine. This was the start of a cultural phenomenon. Today, there are nearly four thousand sushi restaurants in the United States. These restaurants gross over two billion dollars in revenue. This fact alone is a clear showcase of America’s love and obsession over sushi.
With a history older than most cuisines, sushi now has life-long fans all over the world. There are many different versions of sushi that use a world of ingredients that weren’t thought possible back when the idea of sushi was just a way to preserve fish. No matter what type of foodie you are, there’s definitely a sushi to fit your taste buds. If the long, rich history of sushi is any indicator of its longevity, we’re going to be enjoying sushi for a very, very long time.
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