Of the many iconic dishes and food disciplines that make up Japanese cuisine, none are as popular or well-known as sushi. History records that, just like tea, this iconic facet of Japanese cuisine was invented in China and brought to Japan around the 8th century.
Originally, sushi was a mixture of cooked rice and fish, both fermented for months until ready to eat. The fresh sushi we know today appeared at the beginning of the 19th century. Meanwhile, Hanaya Yohei created nigiri, a type of sushi formed from fresh fish on a rectangle of rice, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.
Yohei’s delicate presentation and refined, streamlined style of sushi have become the hallmark of Japanese cuisine. Yet when adopted by other countries, sushi often loses its key facet: simplicity. From California rolls to spicy tuna, many non-traditional spins have been placed on sushi by chefs in countries like the United States. This fact is lamented by sushi chef Kotaro Kumita in an interview with City Arts. “In Japan, we have to learn basic things for many years and then people do a little more,” he said. “But here it’s the other way around. People start with the easy: sauces, spices, crazy rolls. And people don’t know the basics. If you don’t know the basics, it’s hard to make a good merging.”