I Can Always Learn More About Sushi!

A Blog About Japanese Food (Sushi!) – I’m In!

So, this blog post about sushi came just came through my feed.  Those who know me well are aware of my foodie-ness and interest in what people eat in other parts of the world.  I dove right in and took a look.  You can, too, here at Pickled Plum.  Caroline over there is a foodie, a photographer, a model, and sells Japanese cooking things and a cookbook on her website.  It was inevitable her blog would show up in my stream one of these days, given my years of making Japanese food a semi-serious hobby.  Ask me about my vast and pristine bento box collection sometime. I’ve been following her blog for a short while, and have enjoyed the beautiful food photos (anticipated, given her background) as well as some more in-depth than usual facts about jJapanese food.

photo of a variety of sushi

When this sushi/sashimi/musubi post showed up, I clicked so I could read more.  As Caroline has lived in Japan and I have not, I was curious to compare sushi in Japan and sushi in the United States.

As I mentioned, I have not lived in Japan; I’ve never even visited.  My practical knowledge is limited to some (no, I’m not sharing
how many) decades of experience eating in Japanese American restaurants, living in communities with a high concentration of Japanese Americans, and dating a Japanese American guy. Can you see a theme here?  My experience is in one country, Caroline’s is in the other – I was revved to read and compare.

I’ve also read every Japanese cookbook I could find, authored by experts in both countries, and plowed through a few Food of Japan and History of Sushi reference books.  So, though not practical, some of my knowledge does come by way of Asia.

Ready to Learn and Discern? Here We Go!

What Goes into that Sushi?

  • Sushi ~ Sushi means seasoned rice, used to make various sushi dishes.  I say sushi rice is sweetened with mirin and seasoned with rice vinegar; Caroline says rice seasoned with sugar, vinegar, and salt.  Neither of us mentions that monosodium glutamate was used in sushi rice decades ago, both in Japan and the United States.  And most of the time, when people say sushi, they mean the various things made with sushi rice, not just the rice.
  • Onigiri ~ Warm, salted rice is hand-shaped, usually in a triangle about the size of the palm of your hand.  Flavorful items may be mixed throughout the rice or hidden in the center.  Sometimes onigiri are wrapped in seaweed.  Onigiri are meant to be portable, are often found in lunch boxes in Japan, and are served at room temperature.
  • Nigiri ~  I’ve always understood that nigiri refers to a small rectangle of sushi rice with a thin slice of fish or other topping on it.
    • Nope, Pickled Plum says that dish is nigiri sushi and that nigiri is the same as onigiri.
  • Nori ~ Nori is thin, dried seaweed sheets, used for making maki sushi. Actually, now that we’ve finally become comfortable in America with the idea of dried seaweed, I feel okay elaborating and sharing that nori is made with a species of algae called pyropia, which is raised and harvested by some pretty fancy aquaculture.
  • Maki ~ Maki is a sushi roll consisting of fish or another ingredient surrounded by sushi rice and wrapped in nori to make a cylinder, which is sliced for serving.  Maki is made by layering nori, then rice, then the filling on a special bamboo mat and wrapping it tightly so the cylinder holds together. Tekkamaki are skinny, futomaki are fat, uramaki are inside out, and tempi are rolled by hand into an easily consumed cone shape.photo of sashimi
  • Musubi ~ Musubi on a menu tells me there is some connection to Hawaiian culture afoot.  Musubi is a big, flattish maki made with plain rice, a grilled slice of spam, and teriyaki sauce.  It is served warm.  Spam was introduced to Hawaii by our Navy.  Sailors stationed in Pearl Harbor enjoyed (?) this salty, canned meat product invented by Hormel and marketed tothe military as a shelf-stable substitute for real meat.  Spam wouldn’t spoil in the hot tropics of Hawaii, and is now popular in a number of dishes there, including music.
    • Who knew? Pickled Plum states that musubi is the same as onigiri and nigiri.
  • Sashimi is thinly sliced raw fish, and, since it has no rice, is not sushi.

Sushi often includes that effective sinus clearing green condiment, wasabi.  Alongside the little cone of wasabi paste, you’re likely to see a small mound of sweet pickled ginger.

I so enjoyed exploring Caroline’s blog, Pickled Plum.  All kinds of great stuff over there.  Hope you take a look too!


Photos in this post come from Pixabay and are released under Creative Commons CCO.