International Sushi Day, 18 June: How Are You Celebrating It?
18 June is International Sushi Day, a day on which people all across the world celebrate the wonderful Japanese dish called sushi. You probably didn’t even know this day existed, and that’s not surprising considering that it is not really a holiday. Let us take a closer look at how this day of celebration began.
How did International Sushi Day Exist?
International Sushi Day was started 12 years ago by a man named Chris DeMay as an initiative on a Facebook fan page of which he was the owner. It somehow became recognised by Chase’s Calendar of Events as an official celebration as well, which legitimises it as an actual celebration. Fast forward to 2021, and many countries around the world have recognised 18 June as International Sushi Day.
Myths About Sushi
Before we can get to celebrating sushi, let’s first tackle some of the most common myths and misconceptions about sushi:
1. Sushi is only made with raw fish—The main misconception by most is that sushi means raw fish, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The earliest form of sushi, called narezushi, didn’t even involve raw fish, as narezushi is fish that has been fermented with raw rice and salt. This is probably due to confusion between sushi and sashimi, as sushi simply refers to a dish made of vinegared rice topped with an assortment of ingredients including both raw and cooked foods, while sashimi refers exclusively to sliced raw foods. Most Malaysians also would have already been familiar with sushi that uses cooked ingredients, such as unagi (eel) and fried prawns.
2. Sushi should only be eaten with chopsticks—It may seem like dining etiquette, but sushi was originally made to be a street snack to begin with, so it is perfectly fine for you to be eating sushi using your hands and fingers. In fact, master sushi chefs would insist that you eat sushi with your hands and fingers. The only thing that is required is that you eat each piece of sushi in one bite.
3. Sushi is common everyday food in Japan—Thinking that people in Japan eat sushi almost every day is not quite correct, because sushi is more like laksa rather than nasi lemak in Malaysia. In fact, bread is more popular in Japan than sushi, and has overtaken rice consumption in Japan since 2014, and a survey of Japanese people taken in September 2019 reveals that less than 7% of Japanese people eat at sushi restaurants once a month or more. There’s even a nickname for such people who eat at sushi restaurants at least once a month: “sushimen” (for men) and “sushijo” (for women), which goes to show just how unusual that the Japanese would consider someone who frequently dines on sushi.
4. You should mix wasabi into the soy sauce—This may simply be up to individual preference since the “wasabi” you’re getting from most sushi restaurants aren’t even the real thing to begin with. Real wasabi is one of the most expensive ingredients of sushi, so much so that only high-end sushi restaurants would even consider having it, and the flavours of real wasabi are only expressed for a very short amount of time immediately after they are grated, so mixing them into the soy sauce would do nothing except kill off their authentic aromas.
How Do I Celebrate It?
Now that you’ve understood a little more about sushi, let’s see how you can celebrate International Sushi Day! First of all, you can simply order sushi from your nearest sushi restaurant. Do check their social media to see if they have any offers celebrating International Sushi Day just as Sushi King had done so before! Of course, that’s not the best way to celebrate sushi: you can learn how to make sushi at home, and it’s not very difficult. There are many tutorials available online which show how easy it is to make sushi yourself. Plus, you get to be creative with your sushi too since you get to decide what you want as your sushi topping! Sushi sambal petai, anybody?
Here’s a video of Iron Chef Morimoto teaching how to make sushi:
Types of Sushi
If you watched the video above, you’ll note that Chef Morimoto made several different types of sushi, but probably not the one you’re expecting, which is the type with one piece of fish or other ingredient laid on top of a small clump of sushi rice. There are at least 11 types of sushi, and you’ve probably never heard of half of them.
- Nigiri—This is one of the standard ideas of sushi: a cylinder of rice topped with an ingredient. The amount and type of ingredients this form can hold are very limited.
- Makizushi—This is the other stereotypical image of sushi: rice and ingredients all rolled up in a sheet of seaweed, resembling unpeeled lemang.
- Gunkanmaki—A relative newcomer to the sushi family, this form of sushi was invented in the 1940s and named after the “gunkan” or Japanese warships because of its shape. Because of its form and function, it can be used for ingredients that other forms of sushi cannot contain, namely salmon roe, sea urchin, etc.
- Temaki—Temaki are handrolls in the form of seaweed cones filled with rice and a variety of toppings. This is also one of the easiest forms of sushi to make at home.
- Inarizushi—This one is somewhat unique because it is basically a deep-fried tofu pouch with rice, but other ingredients can be included as well.
- Narezushi—The ancestor of all sushi; this is as close to the original as you can get, because the first form of sushi, as mentioned earlier, is raw fish fermented with raw rice and salt. It is extremely pungent, and is compared to blue cheese. Perhaps even durian?
- Chirashizushi—It’s basically a bowl of vinegared rice with any variety of ingredients, especially seafood, “scattered” on top of it; that’s where it gets its name, as “chirashi” literally means “to scatter”.
- Sasazushi—This form of sushi is wrapped in bamboo leaves and it’s a regional speciality of the Niigata and Nagano Prefectures. Given that their bamboo leaves are much wider, the presentation ends up resembling nasi lemak more than it does lemang.
- Kakinoha-zushi—Instead of bamboo leaves, the sushi in Nara Prefecture are wrapped in persimmon leaves (“kakinoha”), which imparts a subtle flavour to the sushi.
- Temari—Temari is another form of sushi that is easily made at home, given that they are simply balls of rice with the ingredients pressed onto them. You can find guides that show you how cling wrap can be easily used to make these beautiful sushi balls.
- Oshizushi—Another form of sushi that is pressed together is oshizushi, alternatively known as hakozushi. It originates from Osaka, and is made using a rectangular box where the ingredients are all pressed together before they are cut into neat angular shapes like triangles or rectangles.
With the right tools (and ingredients), making your own sushi is not hard, especially when there are so many different forms of sushi to choose from.
So, how are you planning to celebrate International Sushi Day? What sushi is your favourite? Let us know in the comments section below!
Your Gateways to Getaways,