The Popularity of Modern Sushi

May 29, 2020
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The enduring popularity of sushi is down to its convenience and adaptability over the years.

Sushi in its earliest form has a history, almost 2,000 years old. A simple dish of fermented fish wrapped in sour rice, “narezushi”, it is thought to have originated in the Mekong Delta area of southeast Asia before spreading across China to its now acknowledged home, Japan, around 1,300 years ago.

It was a simple and convenient dish that stayed fresh longer and kept travelers, farmworkers, and villages sustained in the days before refrigeration. The rice wasn’t eaten, it was there merely to protect the fish and keep it edible longer. The rice was thrown away and the salted fish became a cheap, handy, and long-lasting food source.

Over the following centuries, it changed and adapted. Sometime in the Edo period in Japan, the mid-1800s, restaurant owners in Edo began turning the dish into something we recognize today. A chef by the name of Hanaya Yohei is generally attributed with having the greatest influence.

He discovered that the previously discarded rice could be tossed with vinegar, pressed into bite-size pieces, and made a perfect and tasty base for the accompanying slice of preserved fish laid on top, thus creating nigiri sushi that soon became entrenched in the Japanese culture and lifestyle.

After WWII, the concept of sushi began to spread around the world, despite strong resistance from many Western consumers to eating raw, uncooked fish. By the 1960s, sushi was starting to see growing popularity and acceptance, especially on the US west coast. Experimentation began to take hold and resulted in a wider range of combinations, though still seafood-based, and the development of an inside-out form called makizushi, with crab meat, cucumber and avocado rolled inside the rice – the now ubiquitous California Roll.

Today nigiri sushi, as well as sashimi and makizushi, are common globally and a standard feature in Grand Cayman, thanks to the freshness and quality of the local seafood.

Food safety guidelines in many western countries insist that raw fish first be frozen to kill potential parasites and other nasties. In the USA only fresh tuna and certain types of farm-raised fish are exempt, although the FDA Food Code says its guidelines are voluntary. EU regulations allow shellfish such as clams and sea urchin to be served fresh and raw, but require raw fish to be frozen at -20 Celsius for at least 24 hours before being prepared for consumption. Purists believe this damages both taste and texture.

Visitors looking for the best sushi in the Cayman Islands have a wide variety of choices of venues and menus to suit most tastes and budgets, especially in the George Town and Seven Mile Beach areas, where many restaurants and takeaways cater to large numbers of residents and tourists.

With strong competition for diners and with a vast array of quality seafood, you can be sure the ingredients are guaranteed to be fresh and the presentation of the highest quality when dining in Grand Cayman.