In the 1820s, a man named Hanaya Yohei found himself in Edo. Yohei is often considered to be the creator of modern nigiri sushi, or at least its first major marketer. In 1824, Yohei opened the first sushi stand in the Ryogoku district of Edo. Sushi is said to have originated in China between the 5th and 3rd centuries BC, as a means of preserving fish in salt.
Narezushi, the original form of sushi, has been made in Southeast Asia for centuries and, today, there are still traces of it in some parts. Narezushi appeared in Japan in the 8th century, and it still survives today in the form of foods such as carp sushi. Narezushi was primarily a means of preserving food, and each Japanese region developed its own version. In those days, sushi was eaten during holidays and festivals, and it was also an integral part of the celebration.
Generally speaking, narezushi was made of rice and fish pickled together, mixed with rice vinegar and sake, placed under a large stone to prevent decay and let it ferment. However, rice was mainly used to promote fermentation and was discarded so that only fish would be eaten. The method spread throughout China and, by the 7th century, had reached Japan, where seafood has historically been a staple food. The Japanese, however, took the concept further and began to eat rice with fish.
Originally, the dish was prepared in the same way. However, in the early 17th century, Matsumoto Yoshiichi, who lived in Edo (the city we now know as Tokyo), began seasoning rice with rice wine vinegar while preparing his “sushi” for sale. This allowed the dish to be eaten immediately, rather than waiting for the months it would normally take to prepare sushi. Sushi is made from small pieces of raw fish that are wrapped in rice and seaweed.
The algae, called nori, is collected with submerged bamboo nets. While some sushi is mass-produced with robots, the best sushi is made by hand. Sushi rolls are prepared by selecting certain types of fish that meet the highest standards of fat content, color and flavor. The sushi chef cuts small pieces of fish and combines them with spices such as ginger root.
Wasabi and soy sauce are commonly used to flavor sushi rolls. Chefs use a type of vinegar that is made with fermented rice to flavor rice that is used to surround fish and spices. Finally, the roll is wrapped with a little nori. In Southeast Asia, sushi was developed in the 5th and 3rd centuries BC as a way to preserve raw fish in fermented rice.
The gutted and salted fish wrapped in fermented rice was stored for months without spoiling. Around the 8th century, Japan became the first country to adopt this practice.