Honored by San Diego Magazine for serving the area's "Best
Sushi," Café Japengo has compiled this brief history
of sushi. Designed to educate and enlighten, our guide also
features different sushi types, ideal accompaniments, and proper sushi etiquette. We hope
you enjoy learning about sushi as much as we enjoy preparing
it for you.
According to Japanese lore, sushi made its debut approximately
1,300 years ago. At that time, the delicacy was far from what
it is now. The preparation of sushi was performed as a technique
to preserve fish by using salt. During the Edo period (approximately 600 years ago), the
first culinary preparation of sushi as we know it today (fish and rice)
was performed in Tokyo.
Today, sushi is divided into two main culinary forms: Tokyo-style
and Osaka-style. In Tokyo, sliced fish is placed on a bed of rice, or
wrapped with rice and seaweed. In Osaka, sushi is prepared by slicing
fish, laying it on rice, and then pressing it in a wooden box.
Legend has it that sushi is the original "finger food," first enjoyed
by Japanese card players hundreds of years ago. It is said that seaweed
paper was rolled on the outside of the sushi to avoid "sticky fingers"
Types of Sushi
Although there are many different ways to prepare sushi, the two most popular varieties are:
Nigiri-Zushi: Rectangular bars of vinegared rice are topped with a dab of Wasabe (Japanese horseradish) and a thin slice of fresh raw fish.
Maki-Zushi: A sheet of seaweed paper is coated with vinegared rice and fresh raw fish. Vegetables are placed in the center, and then rolled and sliced.
Visitors to our sushi bar enjoy "condiments" with their sushi. They might not realize that each accompaniment has a specific purpose other than just simple flavoring:
Ga: This is a thinly sliced pickled ginger. It should be eaten a little at a time between varieties of sushi to freshen the palate.
Wasabe: This is green Japanese horseradish. It is made from a green knobby root that is ground into a powder. Wasabe is a very powerful seasoning that makes the "fishy" taste of sushi disappear by momentarily paralyzing the mouth.
Soy: This salty sipping sauce has historical significance. Its flavor reminds us of what sushi tasted like when the preparation was merely used as an act of conservation.
Ocha (agari): This is Japanese green tea. It is very refreshing, rinsing the mouth and tongue of fat build-up from the fish. For this reason, plenty of tea is served in a large mug.
Sushi was originally a finger food. While chopsticks are often used, they are by no means
mandatory, nor are they as easy to manage as fingers!
To eat sushi, pick it up at one end, turn it upside down, and lightly dip it in the soy
sauce. The fish should always hit your taste buds first, not the rice.
Fondness for soy sauce leads some people to soak the rice part of the sushi in it. This
is not recommended as it makes the rice fall apart and obliterates the flavor of both the
rice and topping. Soy sauce should act as a complement to the foods with which it is
In addition to green tea and sake, beer is also excellent with sushi.