Today is International Sushi Day. A day to go out and get some California rolls or even make your own overflowing with as many ingredients as you want. However, in Japan – the birthplace of sushi – California rolls are hard to come by. The most common form of sushi you will find in the country of cherry blossoms is known as “nigiri.”
Nigiri contains two components: 1) “Shari,” the vinegared rice and 2) “Neta,” the ingredient (typically raw fish).
With just these components, sushi masters all over the world have managed to distinguish themselves from one another. Some choose to showcase rare cuts of fish – hand-picked fresh from the market every morning, while others take the time to age the fish in a mixture of their special concoction to bring out the umami flavor. Still others break with convention and serve beef sushi seared to perfection.
Easily awed by the selection of things that can be presented on these beds of rice, I used to think that the “neta” was the outstanding component that makes or breaks the bite-sized nigiri sushi. Little did I know that the bed of rice played just as important a role. From the variety of rice to the amount of vinegar, it’s all part of the choices made. Some sushi masters opt for a softer mouthfeel, while others boldly go for the brown rice – tougher but with a bit of bite. And lastly, how much rice is just right to rest the prized slice of raw fish upon and to satisfy the eagerly waiting customers?
Writing about sushi is making me crave the dining-in experience where I can physically see the chef and staff’s dedication to their craft. But for now, I am off to buy sushi vinegar for my homemade, definitely-not-elegantly rolled California-style sushi while being grateful to those who have given their energy and time to allow all of us to continue enjoying food in these challenging times.
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