Last Updated: March 7, 2022

Sushi Facts (Everything You Ever Wondered)

Sushi has only grown from strength to strength in the last few years as sushi vendors have popped up everywhere in the world, but what do we really know about sushi?

Sushi chefs would probably be appalled at the amount of things we don’t know about sushi as its history and facts aren’t that easy to find, you have got to look.

Join me as we run through some interesting sushi facts so that you can know more about eating sushi and its history.

Rice was not initially a part of sushi

rice in sushi

You probably can’t imagine ordering some sushi and not getting some sushi rice with your mean in some form. It would just be weird, wouldn’t it?

Well, it will probably surprise you to hear that sushi rice was never originally used in sushi, in fact, you wouldn’t have found a single grain of sour rice accompanying any sushi dish back in the day.

Rice was originally only used to help the fermentation of the raw fish until the fish fermented enough to get that delicious umami flavor. The rice would actually help preserve fish, prevent spoilage, and protect it from decay, which is an ancient technique and after it was done, it was thrown away.

Eventually, it was thought that instead of wasting so much rice it would be better to incorporate it into the dishes. So, instead of wrapping fish in rice while it aged, they now serve fresh fish with vinegared rice balls instead.

Sushi does not mean raw fish

sushi with shrimp and avoacado

When you ask someone who doesn’t eat sushi if they would like to meet you at a sushi restaurant, they almost always say “yuk, raw fish”. Well, they couldn’t be more wrong.

One of the interesting facts about sushi is that it can be made with raw, cooked, smoked, and fried fish and other seafood too. Plus lots of vegetables are also included in sushi like avocado, cucumber, and seaweed so vegetarians can have some sushi too.

Raw fish is actually a specific dish within the world of sushi and it’s called sashimi. Sashimi is usually made with raw salmon or tuna with a side of wasabi, soy sauce, and pickled ginger. It has to be served cold, fresh and cut from a particular part of the fish.

It is absolutely delicious and only ever made from fish that are free of parasites, this is why only a few fish are ever served up as sashimi.

The highest price ever paid for a sushi-grade bluefin tuna was $396,000

A sushi dining experience can be expensive and this is one of the interesting facts about sushi that will shed some light on why.

Bluefin tuna fish caught, handled correctly, and put on ice that qualifies as sushi-grade are incredibly expensive. The most expensive one ever sold was a 754 pound fish for $396k working out at $526/lb.

This fish was sold at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo Bay and beat the record set ten years early to the day. The record price before this fish was $391/lb for a 440-pound fish.

The reason bluefin is the most expensive sushi fish is because it is of the highest quality and taste for premium sushi, plus bluefin tuna stocks are extremely low. This means that a limited number are caught each year, thus driving up the price.

Wasting soy sauce is disrespectful in Japan

sushi with soy sauce

If you are ever eating sushi in Japan then you are in for a real treat as Japanese sushi is some of the tastiest sushi you will ever try as it’s prepared up to such high standards.

There are some rules and etiquette to follow when you’re eating sushi in Japan, one of which includes not wasting any soy sauce. You shouldn’t pour a huge glug of soy sauce, just add it in small doses regularly and use it all before you finish.

You also shouldn’t dip your rice into the soy sauce until it falls apart, technically only the fish should be dipped. You also shouldn’t remove the fish from the rolled sushi in Japan as it is offensive to the sushi chefs who went through the trouble of rolling it in there.

Los Angeles was the first US State to introduce sushi to American food culture

The first sushi restaurant to arrive in America was opened in Little Tokyo in 1966 by a man called Noritoshi Kanai. Sushi chef Noritoshi Kanai opened his restaurant with his business partner and was the first to introduce American food culture.

It is thought to have been the first place ever to offer traditional nigiri sushi to Americans. After the US tasted the delicious nigiri sushi, it wasn’t long until sushi restaurants started popping up all over the country.

It might surprise you to think that it took until 1966 for sushi to reach America since nowadays, it’s almost on every street of a city center in any major US city.

The real wasabi is expensive

real wasabi

Another of the interesting facts about sushi is that you have probably never actually eaten real wasabi. Real wasabi is made from the rhizome of the wasabia japonica plant and it’s very expensive.

Most sushi spots won’t even stock the proper wasabi as it’s not cheap and you’ll only find the real thing served at extra cost in upmarket sushi restaurants. The reason it was used in the old days was to kill parasites and microbes in the raw fish thanks to its antimicrobial chemicals.

Today, flash freezing processes remove all the parasites so the need for real wasabi isn’t there so much.
Instead, they make a green paste out of horseradish, cornstarch, mustard flour, and green coloring. It has a similar taste but it’s not the proper wasabi paste.

Nigiri is meant to be eaten upside down


Another of the great facts about sushi is that nigiri is actually meant to be eaten upside down, and this has a lot to do with only dipping the fish in the soy sauce, not the rice.

When eating this Japanese delicacy, you should use your fingers or chopsticks to grip the nigiri then turn it upside down, dip the fish gently in the soy sauce, and eat the whole thing at once.

If you were to eat sushi a different way at a proper restaurant with traditional values, you would be frowned upon for eating nigiri in any different manner.

This is one of the facts most people don’t even know, so you can whip it out next time you eat sushi with your buddies.

Sushi did not originate in Japan

sushi boat

While sushi is always thought to have been born in Japan, and culturally it certainly is Japanese, it was actually born in Southeast Asia, near the Mekong River.

A dish called nare-zushi which was made with rice wrapped around fish was made close to the Mekong River, and this river is certainly not in Japan.

It’s said that it then became super popular in China before it got to Japan and exploded. This being said, there is another story that only confuses the facts.

It is believed that Hanaya Yohei, was the inventor of Japanese sushi in the 1800s when used cooked or marinated tuna in soy sauce or vinegar and served it on rice balls, the beginning of modern sushi.

An earthquake made sushi more popular

Originally sushi was actually a street food and sushi served by a sushi chef on the side of the road was the norm. But when the huge 1923 earthquake hit Japan, land prices dropped significantly and this created a huge opportunity for a sushi chef.

This allowed sushi roll vendors to move from their roadside or street-side stalls into actual buildings and this is how sophisticated sushi bars popped up all over the country instead of it being a fast food.

There were still some vendors left out on the street but by the 1950s almost all sushi was served indoors at restaurants.

It’s quite amazing that an earthquake made this huge change in the sushi industry and it might not be as popular or even have the same dining experience when eaten today.

There are 6 types of sushi

different types of sushi

If you want to have the best sushi dining experience possible then you need to be aware of what might be on the menu and how it’s traditionally eaten which we covered earlier.

There are actually only six different types of sushi and the six types might surprise you as some bits are missed and it always seems like there are way more types on the menu.

Chirashizushi is scattered sushi over a bowl of rice topped with different ingredients, a bit like a poke bowl

Inarizushi which is named after the Shinto god Inari is a pouch of deep-fried tofu and is sweet, served without fish but marinated in mirin, soy sauce, dashi, and sugar

Makizushi is rolled sushi and this is when rice and other ingredients are rolled in a sheet of nori seaweed, then cut into smaller pieces

Narezushi is the origin matured sushi when the fish is fermented in rice which is then discarded.

Nigirizushi is hand-pressed rice covered with different ingredients of fish, tofu, vegetables, or omelets.

Oshizushi is pressed sushi, aka boxed sushi, and this is made by layering toppings and cutting it into shapes.

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

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