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A Brief History of Sushi

Honored by San Diego Magazine for serving the area's "Best Sushi," Café Japengo has compiled this brief history of sushi. Designed to educate and enlighten, our guide also features different sushi types, ideal accompaniments, and proper sushi etiquette. We hope you enjoy learning about sushi as much as we enjoy preparing it for you.

According to Japanese lore, sushi made its debut approximately 1,300 years ago. At that time, the delicacy was far from what it is now. The preparation of sushi was performed as a technique to preserve fish by using salt. During the Edo period (approximately 600 years ago), the first culinary preparation of sushi as we know it today (fish and rice) was performed in Tokyo.

Today, sushi is divided into two main culinary forms: Tokyo-style and Osaka-style. In Tokyo, sliced fish is placed on a bed of rice, or wrapped with rice and seaweed. In Osaka, sushi is prepared by slicing fish, laying it on rice, and then pressing it in a wooden box.

Legend has it that sushi is the original "finger food," first enjoyed by Japanese card players hundreds of years ago. It is said that seaweed paper was rolled on the outside of the sushi to avoid "sticky fingers" while playing!

Types of Sushi
Although there are many different ways to prepare sushi, the two most popular varieties are:
  • Nigiri-Zushi: Rectangular bars of vinegared rice are topped with a dab of Wasabe (Japanese horseradish) and a thin slice of fresh raw fish.
  • Maki-Zushi: A sheet of seaweed paper is coated with vinegared rice and fresh raw fish. Vegetables are placed in the center, and then rolled and sliced.
Sushi Accompaniment
Visitors to our sushi bar enjoy "condiments" with their sushi. They might not realize that each accompaniment has a specific purpose other than just simple flavoring:
  • Ga: This is a thinly sliced pickled ginger. It should be eaten a little at a time between varieties of sushi to freshen the palate.
  • Wasabe: This is green Japanese horseradish. It is made from a green knobby root that is ground into a powder. Wasabe is a very powerful seasoning that makes the "fishy" taste of sushi disappear by momentarily paralyzing the mouth.
  • Soy: This salty sipping sauce has historical significance. Its flavor reminds us of what sushi tasted like when the preparation was merely used as an act of conservation.
  • Ocha (agari): This is Japanese green tea. It is very refreshing, rinsing the mouth and tongue of fat build-up from the fish. For this reason, plenty of tea is served in a large mug.
Sushi Etiquette
Sushi was originally a finger food. While chopsticks are often used, they are by no means mandatory, nor are they as easy to manage as fingers!

To eat sushi, pick it up at one end, turn it upside down, and lightly dip it in the soy sauce. The fish should always hit your taste buds first, not the rice.

Fondness for soy sauce leads some people to soak the rice part of the sushi in it. This is not recommended as it makes the rice fall apart and obliterates the flavor of both the rice and topping. Soy sauce should act as a complement to the foods with which it is eaten.

In addition to green tea and sake, beer is also excellent with sushi.

Click here to learn about the World-Class Chefs at our San Diego CA Restaurant.

Indulge your passion. Feed your soul. To request more information or reserve your table at our La Jolla CA restaurant, call (858) 450-3355 - or click here for online reservations.