Today I found out I liked cucumbers. Well, sort of. Today, I also found out that I needed to learn how to properly eat sushi. Do you eat it in one whole bite or you take bites? How do you eat them so all the components stay together? I really still don’t know.
As you can tell, I’m a newbie at eating sushi and I’m also scared of eating raw foods. My friend and I went to Ichiban Café today in Columbia, MD, the same place where I got my bubble tea. It’s a Chinese-Japanese fusion restaurant meaning they serve all the Chinese foods you except, such as General Tsao’s chicken and lo mein, as well as bento boxes and sushi rolls. I ordered the shrimp tempura sushi roll. It had the iconic rice/seaweed wrap with cucumbers and shrimp tempura in it, and the whole roll was covered in some sort of sauce that tasted like sweet soy sauce.
As you can see from the photo above, the dish looks like sushi. I mean, it is sushi. But, sushi doesn’t always have to look like that.
Meet my friend Sam.
She studied abroad in Tokyo, Japan last spring for about four or five months and stayed with a host family. I talked to her about what sushi is really like in Japan and what authentic sushi really looks like. Like most Asian foods in America, this one has been Americanized. Sushi can look like this
or can even be presented like this
But American Sushi is very different from authentic, Japanese sushi. According to Sam, any sushi that has rice on the outside is considered American Sushi.
In more authentic Japanese traditions, “ sushi is about color combinations. A colorful plate is the most traditional. That’s why those pieces of plastic grass are sometimes in sushi containers. Color combinations are really important in Japan and having a colorful plate is important.” In addition to the color palate, traditional sushi commonly contains Tako (Octopus), Maguro (Tuna), Uni (Sea Urchin), and/or Sake (Salmon). “Sometimes, very rarely you will see horse sushi. Yes raw horse.”
But how did we get from sashimi style sushi crafted by master chefs to the California Roll?
In the 1960s, younger generations started seeking out new foods. A little restaurant called Kawafuku in Los Angeles served sushi. Shigeo Saito was the sushi master that helped popularize the little dish. He served traditional sushi, in sashimi style, but soon took the first step towards Americanization in the 1970s, which was…the California roll.
The California roll was created due to a seasonal change. Tuna was a seasonal fish back in the 70s, so Saito used avocado as a way to mimic the texture of the tuna. Then, crab was used to replace the taste of tuna. The first California rolls were served wrapped with seaweed, but since his clientele thought of it as “too adventurous,” Saito moved the seaweed inside into what you see today.
From then on, people were crazy about the sushi. American chefs started to Americanize the dish in more ways by adding local and familiar ingredients.