A Craving for Nigirizushi

Sushi probably defines Japanese cuisine; it has been enjoyed by the Japanese for many centuries. It was first developed as a way to preserve fish in rice but it used to be a lengthy process, taking many months to cure the fish. Eventually the process contracted into hours with the use of rice vinegar and wooden box press-molding, but sushi still took hours to make. There are several types of sushi; nigirizushi is one of the most popular.

A Brief History

Hanaya Yohei (1799–1858) is credited with inventing the nigiri (hand-formed) sushi toward the end of the Edo period. A son of green grocers, Yohei learned the art of sushi making. During this period, sushi was made fresh from the  catch of the day out of Tokyo Bay.

Toro nigirizushi (tuna belly). | www.bluewaikiki.com

Since tuna belly consists of fatty meat that would easily spoil, Hanaya Yohei would marinate the fish in vinegar or soy sauce and cook them slightly to make the fish last longer (refrigeration had not yet been invented). He would then form balls of sushi rice and top them with the marinated and cooked slices of fish. Many Japanese thought that Yohei’s technique was far from the traditional Japanese sushi they had been accustomed to, but his fresh style quickly became preferable to the old fermented taste.

Nowadays, nigirizushi is often served with other kinds of sushi on a combination platter to give the diner’s palate a play of tastes of the many varieties.  Hanaya Yohei’s legacy of nigirizushi is still carried on today and is considered to be one of the most popular Japanese gastronomic marvels, known all around the world.

Assorted nigiri. | Mike Saechang

Ingredients

Nigirizushi is typically made with fresh fish and sushi rice. The rice is formed into something that resembles a football (but a lot smaller) that is then topped with a fresh slice of raw fish. Some other varieties of nigirizushi use a strip of toasted nori (seaweed) to hold the rice and slice of fish together. The fish used for topping is called neta and is usually eel, tuna, haddock, octopus, shad, or shrimp. The neta can be served raw, batter fried, or grilled.

Want to see how nigirizushi is made? Take a look at this how-to video:

Click image or: http://youtu.be/cdQzX9SR_gk