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Sushi 103: Journey to the West

by Bethany (follow)
Dishes (15)      Japanese Cuisine (4)      Articles (69)      Sushi (3)     
As you’ve seen in the previous instalment, there are many, many different types of sushi to be found in Japan. Traditional sushi emphasises simplicity, freshness, quality and aesthetics in accordance with the oriental philosophy: “good food in small portions”.

When sushi first made its way to the western world, chefs encountered fundamental differences in available ingredients, customer palate, and approach to food, which sparked the need to reinvent the sushi for a completely new audience.

It started in Los Angeles in the 1960s, when Japanese sushi chef Ichiro Mashita did not have access to traditional sushi staple toro, fatty tuna. He quickly discovered that avocadoes have an oily texture that is similar to toro, and western customers were less averse to it than raw fish. He substituted the tuna for avocado.

western sushi
Belmont Roll - Ernesto Andrade, Flickr

The next problem was the nori. Western audiences were not overly fond of the appearance or taste of it, especially since it was wrapped all around the roll. Mashita flipped the rice and nori around, hiding the nori, thereby creating the uramaki inside-out roll. This became what we now know as the California Roll.

In many ways, the California Roll kickstarted the sushi phenomenon in the western world. New ingredients were continuously being used, and new types of sushi started appearing in menus everywhere. Makizushi, in particular, became incredibly popular with its new audience, as it can be easily modified to accommodate for different ingredients.

Here are some of the more popular ones over the years:

California Roll
Ingredients: Avocado, kani kama (imitation crab), cucumber, and tobiko (flying fish roe)

california roll
California Roll - Felix Chia, Flickr

Philadelphia Roll
Ingredients: Raw or smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber, avocado, and onion

philadelphia roll
Philadelphia Roll - Quinn Dombrowski, Flickr

Spider Roll
Ingredients: Fried soft-shell crab, cucumber, sprouts, lettuce, tobiko, avocado, and spicy mayonnaise

Spider roll
Spider Roll - Phu Son, Flickr

Rainbow Roll
Ingredients: Avocado, kani kama, cucumber, tobiko, and sashimi draped over the top of the rice

rainbow roll
Rainbow Roll - hello sandy, Flickr

These are mostly made as uramaki, but they can also be found as futomaki (with the nori on the outside).

Another thing to note is that, although these kinds of sushi are very common in most western societies, you won’t be able to find any within Japan. Western sushi has become a dish of its own, largely removed from traditional Japanese sushi, and has flourished in its own right.

What are your favourite kinds of sushi? Have you tried experimenting with your own sushi ingredients at home? Let us know!

<< Back to Part Two

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