Sushi is a staple of Japanese cuisine. It consists of fresh raw fish thinly sliced and served with soy sauce.
Nutritious and delicious, sushi is a healthy choice of food rich in omega-3 fatty acids, these are essential as our bodies don’t produce them naturally.
There’s more to sushi than meets the eye. Whether or not you crave sushi, there are some fun facts we think you would find interesting.
Check out these facts about sushi. You can decide which of these you want to remember for your next game of trivia.
Sushi Fun Facts
1. The Origins of Sushi
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Sushi was originally developed in Southeast Asia to preserve fish in salt and rice. This technique of using fermented rice as a fish preservative was originated by Southeast Asian vendors several centuries ago. The technique was eventually exported to China and finally made its way to Japan a few years later.
2. Sushi Wasn’t Always a Delicacy
Sushi has very humble origins. The meal was introduced in Tokyo as a convenient way to eat rice and fish. It started as cheap street food you could enjoy for less than JPY200, very much like popcorn in the theater. Back then, people ate sushi with their hands – without using any chopsticks.
Today, sushi is the complete opposite of fast food and people and is considered to be an expensive meal.
3. A 1923 Earthquake Made Sushi a Japanese Staple
September 1st, 1923 is a date that the Japanese people will never forget. It’s when a 7.9-scale earthquake leveled Tokyo and killed over 140,000.
Sushi vendors used this as an opportunity to bring their stalls into the city. It didn’t take long before those stalls grew into full-fledged restaurants. By the 1950s, sushi was almost exclusively served indoors.
4. Advances in Refrigeration Made Sushi Go International
Thanks to numerous advances in refrigeration technology in the 1970s, Japan was able to ship fresh fish over long distances. The demand for sushi in Japan increased and sushi bars opened in droves around the country. A growing network of distributors and supplies allowed sushi to be exported worldwide.
5. How Sushi Made its Way to Los Angeles
In the late 1960s, Noritoshi Kanai and co-founder Harry Wolff opened their restaurant named Kawafuku in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. The sushi bar proved to be popular among Americans and it didn’t take long before more outlets sprung up in the US.
In 1970, the sushi-themed restaurant Osho was opened in Hollywood and mostly catered to celebrities. This gave sushi the mainstream success it needed to become popular across the US.
6. Hanaya Yohei Invented Modern-Day Sushi
Yohei is a Japanese cook who always experimented with different dishes. Before the days of refrigeration, the fermentation process was the only way to preserve fish. However, fermentation took a long time to make sushi.
Yohei came up with a solution- nigiri sushi. He used raw tuna fish and placed it on top of vinegared rice balls and hand-molded the ingredients together. Many believe this to be modern-day sushi.
7. Most Sushi Restaurants Serve Fake Wasabi
Most sushi restaurants serve wasabi as a side dish. However, the wasabi they use is fake and substituted with mustard flour, green coloring, and horseradish.
Authentic wasabi is very expensive and served in expensive sushi restaurants for an extra price. Diners don’t mind the fake wasabi because it tastes very close to the real thing.
8. Wasabi Was Used to Kill Bacteria
Real wasabi contains many antimicrobial chemicals used to kill parasites in raw fish. However, this is no longer needed due to technological advancements. Seafood is now frozen, eliminating any parasites. However, restaurants continue to serve wasabi paste to honor the timeless tradition.
9. Rice Wasn’t Always Eaten with Sushi
It’s hard to imagine eating sushi without rice, but before the advent of refrigeration, rice was used to ferment the fish. It played a role in developing a unique umami flavor. Once the fermentation was completed, the rice was discarded and the fish was ready to eat.
Modern day sushi now includes vinegared rice as an important part of the delicacy.
10. Five Different Kinds of Sushi
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There are five different types of sushi you’ll find at restaurants. These are nigiri, sashimi, maki, uramaki, and temaki. Sashimi is simply meat served without any other ingredients. Sushi consists of rice and other ingredients rolled inside a sheet. Maki is served as a roll with the seaweed on the outside.
Uramaki is served with seaweed on the inside and rice on the outside. Temaki is cone-shaped and rolled by hand. Nigiri is a rectangular mound of rice served with a piece of sashimi.
11. Nigiri is Eaten Upside Down
Not many people know this but nigiri sushi is designed to be eaten upside down. Nigiri should be placed upside down in the soy sauce and eaten ‘rice-side up’. It is eaten using your hands, not the chopsticks.
12. Sushi is Not Always Raw Fish
It’s a common misconception that sushi is raw fish. However, sushi is not raw fish. That credit goes to sashimi. Sashimi is thinly sliced raw fish served with sauces and sushi.
Sushi can contain various types of seafood including fried, cooked, or smoked fish. Veggies that can be served on the side include cucumber, carrots, avocado, and spinach.
13. Nori was Not Always Tasty
Nori is used to wrap around your sushi. However, back in the old days, it was scraped off wooden piers and boat undersides piers. It was then pressed into sheets and dried in the sun. Today, nori is made by shredding edible seaweed.
14. Fugu – Poisonous Sushi
Fugu is a delicacy in Japan made from blowfish. It is so poisonous that even a small mistake could be fatal. Only highly trained and licensed chefs are allowed to serve the dish in Tokyo. Fugu contains tetrodotoxin, a deadly poison that paralyzes the muscles while the victim stays fully conscious.
It consists of a sodium channel blocker that slowly kills the victim while they are unable to breathe.
15. Sushi Masters Undergo Training for 10 Years
Sushi masters are highly respected in Japanese culture because they undergo years of training, often more than ten years, to become a master. They spend their initial years of training in learning how to correctly hold a sushi knife. Before long, they become experts at balancing texture and flavors.
16. Funazushi – The Funkiest Sushi in the World
Funazushi is still served in Japan with a taste similar to a pungent cheese. Unlike modern sushi, funazushi is made with freshwater fish, eel, and loach. The process follows the old-school pre-refrigeration method of sushi making. It takes about three years before the fish is ready to eat.
This results in a stinky smell but umami-laden sushi.
Women were not allowed to work as sushi chefs until very recently. This is because it is believed that women’s makeup and hair oil can alter the taste and smell of sushi. The outdated view on women stems from Japan’s largely patriarchal society and women’s role in doing household chores.
18. A Holiday for Sushi
The first international Sushi Day was celebrated on June 18, 2009. The holidays were created to encourage more people to try sushi. The festive-themed day provides a convenient excuse to indulge in this culinary delicacy.
19. The Right Temperature and Weight is Crucial to the taste of Sushi
Sushi rice is kept at room temperature and sushi itself is served at room temperature. Although cold sushi tastes good, the flavors are better when the room temperature is at about 20–21 C.
The weight of the rice ball in nigiri sushi should be around 20-25 grams.
20. Chefs Use Different Ingredients for Sushi Depending on the Season
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Japanese cuisine takes the season into account. Chefs use ingredients to bring out the best flavor and colors depending on the season. This is very true for sushi. Sushi chefs avoid using out-of-season produce. Fish that are in season are said to be the tastiest.
21. You’re Supposed to Eat Sushi with Your Hands
Struggling with chopsticks? You’re not supposed to eat sushi with chopsticks anyway. Sushi has traditionally been eaten by hand. This is important so that the chopsticks don’t ruin the shape and appearance of the sushi. Make sure to wash your hands first.
22. Use Soy Sparingly
Sushi is mostly served with soy sauce. However, before you soak your sushi into the saucer, only dip the fish lightly. Dipping the entire sushi rice will ruin the vinegar flavor, form, and texture of the sushi.
Moreover, it is not recommended to take the fish off from the rice to dip it in the soy sauce. Doing so can ruin the assembly of sushi and detach them, which is considered to be offensive.
Disturbing Sushi Facts
In this Buzzfeed video, participants learn disturbing facts about sushi while they are eating sushi. Some of the facts discussed will change your views on sushi forever.
Now that you know all there is to know about sushi, it’s time to step out and try some sushi. It was adopted from Southeast Asians by China before making its way to Japan. The underlying formula behind sushi hasn’t really changed much; it’s about skillfully balancing form, texture, and shape.
Stay tuned to this space for more interesting facts about sushi.
I’m Natalie Garcia and I started this website to share my love of trivia, facts and fun knowledge tidbits. We cover things like celebrity gossip, historical facts, tv shows, world leaders and just odd and random fun things. I started this site to have some fun with my hobby and share some useful information with you, our community. Please feel to send me your suggestions and feedback through the contact form. And if you have suggestions for things to write about, please shoot me a message!