Top 10 Fun And Fishy Facts About Sushi

12 min read
Jan 27, 2024
Top 10 Fun And Fishy Facts About Sushi

Few dishes taste as good as sushi. Okay, so perhaps not everyone can relate to that phrase. Sushi is, after all, sometimes an acquired taste! Furthermore, a lot of people just find it difficult to eat raw fish, eels, sea urchins, and everything else that goes along with it.

However, today's list is sure to make your mouth wet if you're one of us who loves to dine on the newest seafood that's been brought in from the ocean while using chopsticks!

A casual viewer may think that sushi is just a simple dish consisting of some rice, fish, cucumber, maybe some hot tuna, and either spicy mayo or eel sauce on top.

But this delicious delicacy is so much more than just that! We'll look at ten bizarre, interesting, and stomach-turning facts about sushi that you probably never knew before in this list.

You won't be able to look at fish the same way after reading this one; instead, you'll be craving its delicious fishiness!

1. Anyhow, How Did It Begin?

Anyhow, How Did It Begin?
Anyhow, How Did It Begin?

When you give it some serious thought, sushi seems like an odd notion. Ultimately, before consuming meat, humans have been cooking it for eons.

We quickly discovered that consuming raw meat was not the best method to keep our stomachs and preserve our health, so we long ago burned it. Sushi, though, has always been unique.

The rationale behind it was clever at the time, and it still is! Given how popular and favored sushi is in Japan, one may assume that's where it all started.

However, you would be mistaken! In actuality, Southeast Asia is where sushi first appeared. It is believed by historians to have originated between the third and fifth centuries BC.

Southeast Asian fishermen and farmers were looking for a technique to keep fish fresh for a long time after they caught it at the time. Thus, they grabbed rice, firmly encased the fish in the tiny kernels, and sealed it for the journey ahead.

Of course, they did it before gutting and salting the fish, but the rice caused the seafood to ferment. Conversely, the fish would not even slightly deteriorate after being stored for months at a time.

Over the following many centuries, the method made its way from Southeast Asia into China because it was so successful. Fishermen in Japan also picked up the practice from there.

Once they returned home, fishmongers in Japanese markets started experimenting with it more, and presto! The origins of sushi as we know it date back to the eighth century AD.

2. Fast Fish Food

Fast Fish Food
Fast Fish Food

Sushi really took off in the early 19th century, thanks to the lengthy process of fermenting fish and keeping it safe and healthful to eat for months at a time.

Tokyo was hopping in the 1820s, with people rushing about and street vendors doing great business. The operators of food stands in that decade had the bright idea to serve fermented fish to people walking by as a quick snack.

It was the most closely related ancestor of what we now know as contemporary sushi, and they dubbed it "Edo-Mae sushi," named after an archaic word once used to refer to Tokyo.

At that time, emperors were permitting common people to enter the business world and create their own food stands and other stores. The business world was opening up to the common Japanese people. As a result, the sushi stand business flourished and people had money for trade and commerce.

People in Edo, or modern-day Tokyo, were well-known for their fast-paced lifestyles back then, as they are now. They had to go about their days developing their enterprises with little time to spare.

That's why people desired fast food that they could grab-and-go. Sushi that was perfectly packaged and portable was ideal. In a manner, it was the drive-thru of that era.

People would swarm the food stands along Edo's streets, buy a sushi roll to go, and enjoy it while strolling wherever they were headed. This Edo-Mae sushi quickly made its way into inland areas in Japan as well as coastal cities.

And the process kept changing as Edo turned into Tokyo. Many of us can trace the origin of the sushi we eat today back to those food stall owners from 200 years ago!

3. Bow Down to Wasabi

Bow Down to Wasabi
Bow Down to Wasabi

Wasabi, the green paste that accompanies almost every sushi roll when ordered in a restaurant, is, as we all know, quite spicy. However, it turns out that this delicacy is much more than just a surface-level way to spice up your food.

The strong paste of wasabi was once intended to act as an antimicrobial, eliminating possibly harmful microorganisms from raw fish.

Wasabi was used by both sushi chefs and fishmongers to make sure that the raw fish they were selling and then chopping up didn't go bad before a client paid for it and enjoyed the tasty tidbit.

Wasabi is more of a garnish than a delicacy in modern times. If that's even the case. The "wasabi" that comes with your order at a lot of sushi restaurants across the world is usually a paste that looks like horseradish and has been colored green to mimic the appearance of real wasabi. I am sorry to disappoint you.

However, if you can find genuine wasabi, it turns out that the plant has several really advantageous qualities. To start, one of the main components of actual wasabi, "6-methylsulfinylhexyl isothiocyanate," has been found to be essential in eliminating germs such as Staphylococcus aureus and E. coli.

Furthermore, wasabi boosts memory capacity and gives its eaters a significant brain boost, according to scientific research!

4. Beware of the Fatal Fugu

Beware of the Fatal Fugu
Beware of the Fatal Fugu

Did you know that, if not prepared properly, several types of sushi can kill you within hours of consumption? Sushi is referred to as "fugu," and the poisonous pufferfish is a well-known and perilous delicacy in Japan. When prepared improperly, this pufferfish has a deadly toxin that can kill a human if consumed in that manner.

The pufferfish's internal toxin, called tetrodotoxin, causes sudden, intense pain. The diner initially experiences an abrupt and severe numbness throughout their mouth.

The poison then paralyzes them as it travels throughout the rest of their body. The consumer then quickly meets their demise. That's exactly it.

The fact that there is no known remedy for this poison anywhere in the globe is horrifying. It is also said that the toxin has 1,000 times the potency of cyanide.

If it were to escape and be eaten by unsuspecting patrons of a sushi restaurant, it would swiftly cause an unbelievable disaster. Nonetheless, fugu is still a popular dish in Japan. Despite its deadly toxin—or maybe even because of it—it is regarded as a delicacy.

It should come as no surprise that chefs need a specific license in order to prepare pufferfish and extract the toxin. It is usually present in every part of the pufferfish except the meat that is eaten, thus a knowledgeable and experienced cook can properly prepare the meal without risk of disaster. Even so, would you endanger your life for a few sushi bites?

5. Know Your Etiquette

Sushi platter with separate portions of soy sauce and wasabi
Sushi platter with separate portions of soy sauce and wasabi

It's not intended for sushi to be consumed in any way you please. Folks, this isn't pizza! Sushi has rules! And half the fun is in being mindful and cautious about how you eat the raw fish!

For starters, you should never combine wasabi and soy sauce according to good sushi etiquette. Rather, it is intended to be applied directly on the sushi, acting as a spicy complement to the fish you have ordered.

Additionally, the pickled ginger, or gari, that is served with sushi is a briny mixture that is supposed to be nibbled on in between different rolls and sushi pieces. By doing so, you clear your palette of one kind of fish and prepare it for another.

But the most important aspect of sushi etiquette concerns soy sauce. It is not recommended to dip the rice in the roll immediately into the soy sauce. In a dip like that, the rice will absorb an excessive amount of the soy sauce.

The natural flavors of the nigiri piece and the fish will then be overpowered by the soy taste. At that moment, all that will taste good on your palette is soy.

Although soy works well as a sort of garnish, it shouldn't take center stage in a dish. Instead, you dip the fish in the soy sauce when making a regular nigiri roll, letting the raw flesh absorb a tiny bit of the taste as an ideal garnish. Delicious!

6. Quick! Stop That Sushi

Conveyor belt sushi restaurant interior
Conveyor belt sushi restaurant interior

You've undoubtedly had conveyor belt sushi if you've eaten a lot of sushi in your life, especially if you've visited Japan and sampled the cuisine. This phenomena, called "kaiten-zushi" in Japanese, is a little conveyor belt that continuously loops across a sushi restaurant's dining area.

When it's all said and done, patrons seated at tables close to the conveyor belt select the sushi rolls that appeal to them, remove them from the belt, and pay the bill.

You can obtain the sushi you want whenever you want it with ease and speed thanks to this method. It functions somewhat like a drive-thru in reverse. The meal is brought to you, saving you the trouble of driving to a few windows to place your order and pick it up! Is there anything simpler than that?

Sushi on a conveyor belt has an interesting history. It started in the 1950s in a sushi restaurant in Tokyo. Yoshiaki Shiraishi was the restaurant's proprietor at the time.

He was experiencing problems hiring trustworthy employees for his restaurant. Even worse (or better), a lot of people frequented his eatery.

Without reliable waiters and other employees, Shiraishi was unable to provide them with the level of service he desired, so he had to become inventive.

In order to serve more customers more quickly and easily, he came up with the notion of the conveyor belt. And from that practical creation emerged a conveyor belt culture that is still widely prevalent in many sushi restaurants across the globe today!

7. California Rollin

California roll sushi on a plate
California roll sushi on a plate

One of the most popular sushi rolls worldwide is the California roll. Alright, that isn't really accurate. In actuality, it's hardly often, if at all, discovered in Japan! Rather, it is a typical roll that is widely available in the US, Canada, Europe, and other Western countries.

The traditional California roll consists of cucumber, crab, and avocado. Easy, delicious, and direct. Its past is also a little unclear.

Some reports claim that the California roll originated outside of the Golden State. Rather, it is purported to have been prepared in Vancouver, Canada, by Hidekazu Tojo, a Japanese chef.

He was irritated because he couldn't convince his Western clientele to enjoy sushi that he prepared with raw fish. Thus, he combined two popular and beloved local products, Dungeness crab and avocado, and the rest is history!

However, that could not be the full tale of the California roll. According to some historians and food enthusiasts, the roll originated in California during the 1960s.

They say that Ichiro Mashita, a sushi chef, constructed it for the first time in Los Angeles in the early 1960s. He was looking for a new and easy way to get his clients to eat more fish, too.

Thus, he went all in on fresh California produce (the avocado!) at his restaurant in the Little Tokyo district of the city, and he made history by popularizing a roll that is now found on sushi menus everywhere.

8. That’s How We Roll

Sushi chef preparing an elaborate sushi roll
Sushi chef preparing an elaborate sushi roll

The size of sushi rolls just keeps growing. Apart from the sushi varieties that are popular in countries like Japan, such as nigiri and sashimi, more American-style rolls have gained popularity worldwide.

These rolls frequently have a tempura (cooked) texture, with cooked fish, baked scallops, or fried shrimp resting on top of a long tube of raw fish that has been rice-rolled. Additionally, it seems like these rolls get longer, bigger, and more intricate every year!

None, however, can rival the record for the longest sushi roll ever made. On November 20, 2016, it was completed at Tamana, Kumamoto, Japan.

The Tamana City Labor Athletic Center was the venue for an event hosted by the Tamana Otawara Festival Executive Committee. They invited around 400 individuals to join them in making the most delicious sushi roll ever. And they carried it out!

At over 9,332 feet (2,844 meters) in its final construction, the Tamana roll officially broke the record for longest sushi roll ever created, according to Guinness World Records.

Together with rice and sushi paper, the 400 participants created a roll that included an enormous amount of pickled daikon radish and sesame. Furthermore, it restored Japan's esteemed status of "longest sushi roll ever produced."

A Russian crew had surpassed earlier attempts with their own record-breaking roll five years earlier, in 2011. However, following the Tamana feat in 2016, Japan is currently home to the longest roll ever recorded. As it ought to be!

9. That’s Some Costly Tuna

large bluefin tuna being auctioned at Tsukiji fish market
large bluefin tuna being auctioned at Tsukiji fish market

The most expensive sushi component ever bought was a 489-pound (222-kg) bluefin tuna fish that the president of a well-known Japanese sushi restaurant paid $1.7 million for back in 2013.

The head of a well-known Japanese sushi company, Kiyoshi Kimura, paid the seven-figure sum at the historic auction held in January of that year at the renowned Tsukiji fish market.

He took this action because, in Japanese tuna households, bluefin tuna is considered a delicacy and is extremely, extremely hard to find. The price of bluefin tuna has skyrocketed due to decades of overfishing, which has caused tuna stocks in waters all over the world to collapse. Furthermore, because it is so rare, sushi diners in Japan refer to it as the "black diamond" sushi component.

Regarding Kimura's auction purchase, in order to break even, he would have needed to sell chunks of the bluefin for as much as $325 per sushi slice.

That was not going to happen, though; at the time, he informed reporters that he intended to price the bluefin pieces at roughly $4.30 per portion in his restaurants and sell the fish at a significant loss.

Kimura claimed to media outlets after purchasing the astronomically priced tuna, "I wanted to meet the expectations of my customers who said they wanted to eat Japan's best tuna again this year." "With this delicious tuna, I hope to lift Japan's spirits." He did cheer them up, even though it cost him a good bit of money to do so.

10. Chasing New Trends

Sushi burrito with various sushi fillings wrapped in seaweed and rice
Sushi burrito with various sushi fillings wrapped in seaweed and rice

The days of sushi being just sushi are long gone. These days, sushi has been appropriated and incorporated into a wide variety of cuisines. Naturally, the elements remain the same as they are in traditional sushi: rice, seaweed, raw fish, spicy mayo, and other items.

However, when Peter Yen created the sushi burrito in 2008, things somewhat altered (for the better, we should add!).

Sushirrito, a fast-casual restaurant in San Francisco, served as the scene. At the time, Yen wanted to garner some attention for his restaurant and was searching for a novel approach to serve sushi to potential patrons.

Observing the surge in popularity of burritos in the US, he decided to try the same with sushi, taking some cues from the culture of Mexican Americans!

Not only was the sushi burrito a hit almost immediately, but it was the only one. Sushi burgers and even sushi donuts have been developed since then. Essentially, it appears that a sushi chef will strive to mash, move, and shape sushi into the form of another dish if they can.

Given that Americans have an insatiable appetite for sushi in all its forms, it is likely that the new creations will always be well-liked. It would be a waste not to use your imagination to provide sushi to clients in inventive, distinctive, and lasting ways. Whatever the case, we'll gladly gobble it up!