The Evolution of Sushi

Sushi pic
Sushi
Image: allrecipes.com

After spending several years as a software engineer with Twitter and Airbnb, Florian (Flo) Leibert established Mesosphere, Inc., which enables clients to consolidate control of all their devices and applications into a single Web user interface. Florian Leibert is an aficionado of all dishes prepared with fresh fish and is especially fond of sushi.

The origins of sushi are obscured in the fog of time, but it likely was first prepared in Southeast Asia as a method of preserving both rice and fish. A fourth-century Chinese book refers to salted fish in cooked rice, a combination that triggers fermentation in the rice, which in turn retards the growth of bacteria in the fish. The Japanese are credited with making sushi a regular dish in which the rice and fish are prepared and then served together. The process of preparing sushi originally involved packing fish in salted rice and compacting it under weight for at least six months. Various methods were implemented over the years to speed up the process until by the early 19th century, it took only a few hours to prepare, by compressing layers of rice seasoned with vinegar alongside layers of fish.

The sushi enjoyed today was developed in the 19th century in what is now Tokyo. Sushi entrepreneur Hanaya Yohei prepared sushi by adding salt and rice vinegar to freshly-cooked rice and letting it sit for only a few minutes. He then rolled the rice into a small ball and topped it with a thin slice of fish freshly caught in the bay. The fish’s freshness eliminated the need for fermentation or preservation. This style, called nigiri, remains highly popular to this day.

Another popular form of sushi, the roll, or “maki,” consists of vinegar-seasoned sticky rice wrapped in pressed seaweed around countless fillings, including fish, cooked egg, scallions and other vegetables and even fresh fruits or cream cheese. Some chefs even batter and deep-fry sushi rolls.