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Whether hand rolled, cooked, raw or otherwise, sushi is ubiquitously Japanese. It is the most popular Japanese food by a wide margin and has become a truly worldwide food. 

What most people may not know, however, is that the term “sushi” actually refers to the sushi rice rather than the shape or other ingredients. Sushi rice is cooked rice, typically medium-grain, which has been vinegared with salt and sugar being common additions. The first mention of a sushi-like food was in a 4th century Chinese text, where fish was stored in fermented rice to preserve it. The fermented rice was discarded and only the preserved fish was eaten. Over hundreds of years, this practice slowly changed into fermenting the fish/rice mixture for less time and eating both of them together. 

Modern sushi as we know it today is generally agreed to have first appeared in Tokyo in 1824. This was a nigiri-type sushi, where a slice of fish is delicately draped over a pressed, oblong-shaped bit of rice. In the modern era, there are multiple types of sushi beyond nigiri. There is makizushi, which is what Americans are most familiar with as it is rolled into a circle and surrounded by seaweed. There is also chirashizushi where pieces of various fish and vegetables are put on a bed of sushi rice. 

While there are many different types of sushi in Japan, western countries have taken this food and changed it into a unique style as well. The california roll made its debut in 1979 and has since opened up the sushi market to western countries. American sushi specifically tends to have a large amount of ingredients, sauces, and toppings not found in traditional Japanese sushi. We even have fried sushi, which would be laughed at in Japan! 

With the versatility of styles, flavors, and ingredients, sushi has certainly cemented its place in the diet of people across the world. It is also certain to continue evolving and reaching more people. As the california roll reaches its unofficial 45th anniversary this year, we can only wonder what sushi will look like in another 45 years. 

There are many great restaurants across Houston serving top-quality sushi.

Here are a few of our faves:

Hokkaido Sushi  (in Southwest District)

(in International District)

Kata Robata - (owned by chef Manabe Horiuchi, one of Houston’s best) 

Nippon Restaurant - (one of the oldest Japanese restaurants in Houston) 


Dylan Coffey

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