Sushi delivers a one-of-a-kind dining experience, featuring firm fish with rice, sauce, and other unique components. Whether you pair sushi with sake, cocktail, or wine, this Japanese staple is always delectable and mesmerizing.
Many people will agree with me on that, the Japanese origin part. Therefore, my question about sushi origin may surprise many sushi enthusiasts. However, do you know that the iconic dish’s background is more complicated than you think?
The first mention of sushi in Japan dates to the 7th century, while there are certain indications of sushi culture in China from the 2nd century. So, the puzzling question is: Is sushi Japanese or Chinese? Let’s learn the true origin of sushi in this article!
Brief Description Of Sushi’s History
This history and evolution of sushi is an intriguing development of a simple meal. The earliest sushi version, known as narezushi, dates back to the 2nd century in the Mekong River and later spread to China.
At that time, it was a method of preserving raw fish with salt and rice. Fish was put in rice and left to ferment, creating conditions unfavorable for the growth of bacteria.
Thus, this practice enables the fish to remain edible for longer periods. After the fermentation process, people discarded the rice and only consumed the fish.
Since the process takes over a year to complete, this food was considered luxurious and was prepared for the nobles during celebrations and festivals only. Also known as Funazushi, this traditional kind of sushi is still available nowadays in Shiga Prefecture.
In the 7th century, the technique had found its way from China to Japan. The term “sushi” was first used in the Yōrō Code, published in 718.
During the Muromachi era (1336 – 1573), the Japanese initiated a big shift by seasoning rice with vinegar to speed up the fermentation process. This so-called namanarezushi allows people to enjoy sushi instantly as opposed to months like before.
Then, in the Edo era (1603 – 1867), the Japanese created a new sushi dish called hayasushi (fast sushi), consisting of fresh fish and vinegared rice.
Especially during the 19th century, chef Hanaya Yohei revolutionized the sushi industry with nigirizushi. In lieu of covering the fish with rice, the Japanese chef shaped sushi rice into an oblong, topped with a thin fish slice, and served with wasabi and soy sauce.
This nigirizushi (finger sushi) is similar to the sushi version everyone enjoys nowadays.
Is Sushi Japanese Or Chinese?
As you see, sushi has a long history that spans over two millennia and has developed in many cultures, including Chinese and Japanese being the most notable versions.
Historically, sushi originated in China in the 2nd century. Later, in the 7th century, this earliest sushi version traveled to Japan. Since then, the Japanese have successfully developed sushi into a worldwide phenomenon.
Thus, regarding historical timeline, China is the inventor of sushi. Yet, in terms of the huge contribution to popularizing the staple dish, Japan is the winner!
If Chinese sushi is more like a preservation method to keep raw fish fresh and edible for longer periods, the Japanese adaptation has developed the dish into a true culinary delicacy.
Furthermore, while Chinese sushi comprises mainly pickled fish, the Japanese version includes fresh seafood, cooked rice, and meticulous preparation skill.
For a broader view, sushi also attributes its development to Korean cuisine. Instead of using wasabi and pickled ginger, Korean sushi replaces them with gochujang (a red pepper sauce) and kimchi, respectively, to add spicy tastes and crunchy textures.
Sushi In Western Cuisine
In the early 1900s, due to the Japanese immigration after the Meiji Restoration, Western cuisine welcomed the entrance of sushi. Yet, only the upper class can smack their lips on the delicacy.
After World War II, Japan reopened to international commerce and business, sushi experienced another surge in popularity in the United States. Around the 1960s, middle-class Americans began sampling sushi and embracing it.
Numerous restaurants started offering novel sushi rolls to help Americans get used to eating sushi. The genius of California Rolls using crab sticks and avocados earns sushi more popularity among Americans.
Major cities in the United States, including New York and Chicago, quickly joined the craze. Throughout the 1990s, sushi has transformed into a nationwide phenomenon, with even more Japanese restaurants established.
FAQs About Sushi Origin
I dedicate this section to answering the top inquiries about the origin of sushi. Hopefully, the additional information here will round out your knowledge about the topic.
1. Why is sushi essential in Japan?
Sushi is not an everyday item in Japan. Instead, it is a significant cuisine that the Japanese really take pride in. Unlike the fatty and ornate sushi found in the Western culture, you will see modest sushi rolls when visiting the sushi bar in Japan.
2. What marks the first presence of sushi in the United States?
Sushi arrived in the United States for the first time in the 1960s when Kawafuku Restaurant opened in Los Angeles. From then on, sushi quickly became a favorite in the country, from A-list celebrities to immigrants.
3. Who is the inventor of modern sushi?
Modern sushi, or nigirizushi, is the invention of Hanaya Yohei. He put fish over hand-pressed vinegared rice to form the new version during the Edo era (around 1824).
Sushi: From Preservation Method To Global Phenomenon!
In a nutshell, China is where the earliest sushi version emerged as a fish preservation method, while Japan adapted it and transformed the delicacy into a global phenomenon. Sushi forms an integral part of both Chinese and Japanese heritage.
I hope you have enjoyed my quick tour of sushi’s history via this article. What is your thought on sushi development over the years to become a treasure all over the globe like today? Drop a comment below to let me and other readers know!