NIPPONIA No. 47 December 15, 2008
Special FeatureSushi! Sushi! Sushi!
Each part of Japan has its own sushi recipes, using local ingredients and local preparation methods. Vinegar is generally used, but in some parts of Japan the ingredients are fermented instead. In every case, the bounty from the sea is highlighted to bring out flavor and appearance. These pages present sushi traditions that have developed over time in tune with local natural and cultural environments.
Written by Sanada Kuniko Photos by Kawada Masahiro
Hako-zushi (box sushi) from Hokkaido
Sushi rice is pressed into a box-like container, with a layer of boiled crabmeat placed on top. Hokkaido is famous for its crab, so you can imagine how good this is. (Photo: Hibino Terutoshi)
Nare-zushi (fermented sushi) from Akita Prefecture
Salted sandfish and vegetables are marinated in a mixture of rice and koji malt, to promote fermentation. Sandfish (hatahata) is a specialty in Akita. (Collaboration: Suzuki Suisan)
Nigiri-zushi (hand molded sushi) from Tokyo Prefecture
Boiled prawn, omelet and other ingredients are placed on sushi rice that has been amply seasoned with vinegar and salt. Each individually formed sushi is wrapped in a leaf of bamboo grass, to help prevent the development of bacteria. This type of sushi is said to have inspired all other Edo-mae types of nigiri-zushi. (Collaboration: Sasamaki Kenuki-zushi Sohonten)
Maki-zushi (rolled sushi) from Tokyo Prefecture
Deep-fried tofu skins are simmered in a salty-sweet broth, then slit open to make a pouch in each one. Sushi rice is stuffed into the pouches. The sweet, tasty flavor of the tofu skins and the vinegary taste of the rice go well together. A treat for all ages.
Hako-zushi (box sushi) from Toyama Prefecture
Bamboo grass leaves, which help prevent the development of bacteria, are laid on the bottom of a round wooden container. A layer of sushi rice is pressed on the leaves, and then fillets of trout are placed on top. Popular also as a boxed lunch sold for train travel. (Collaboration: Masunosushi Honpo Minamoto)
Nare-zushi (fermented sushi) from Ishikawa Prefecture
Pieces of yellowtail (a fish) placed between round slices of white turnip are marinated in rice and koji malt to promote fermentation and provide a robust, lactic acid flavor.
Nare-zushi (fermented sushi) from Shiga Prefecture
Crucian carp is fermented in rice and salt for a long time, then sliced thinly. This variation has the longest history of all Japanese sushi. Because the ingredients are fermented, it releases a strong aroma.
Chirashi-zushi (ingredients scattered in sushi rice) from Kyoto Prefecture
Sushi rice is mixed with pieces of grilled common Japanese conger and vegetables that have been simmered in a broth seasoned with sugar and soy sauce. Thin strips of omelet are arranged on top. This is steamed, and served hot. (Photo: Hibino Terutoshi)
Bo-zushi (pole sushi) from Kyoto Prefecture
A mackerel fillet marinated in vinegar is placed on a roll of sushi rice, then topped with kombu seaweed. Everything is rolled tight in a bamboo sheath. The kombu and sheath are removed before eating. This treat contributes to the enjoyment of the Gion Festival, one of Japan’s three most important festivals. (Collaboration: Hanaore)
Nigiri-zushi (hand molded sushi) from Nara Prefecture
Slices of mackerel or salmon are placed on small clumps of sushi rice, wrapped with leaves from a persimmon tree, then pressed with a weight overnight. Persimmon leaves are said to help prevent bacterial action. The leaves are removed before eating. (Collaboration: Hiraso)
Maki-zushi (rolled sushi) from Osaka Prefecture
Sushi rice is spread on a sheet of nori seaweed. Next, simmered kampyo gourd strips, a long strand of omelet and other ingredients are placed on top of the rice, and the seaweed is used to make a roll. There is a custom of eating a roll, without cutting it into slices, on February 3, the first day of spring under the old calendar, in the hope that this will bring good luck. (Collaboration: Baiko)
Hako-zushi (box sushi) from Osaka Prefecture
Cooked ingredients and sushi rice are placed in layers in a mold, then pressed. Everything is removed from the mold, cut into bite-size pieces, and then arranged to make an attractive presentation. A favorite among merchants in Osaka. (Photo credit: Kono Toshihiko)
Chirashi-zushi (ingredients scattered in sushi rice) from Okayama Prefecture
Pieces of vegetable simmered in a sweet broth are mixed in sushi rice, and then generous quantities of seafood from the Seto Inland Sea are placed on top. A sumptuous meal sometimes called matsuri-zushi (“festival sushi”). (Photo: Hibino Terutoshi)
Boze no sugata-zushi
Sugata-zushi (cleaned fish served whole with sushi rice) from Tokushima Prefecture
The underside of Japanese butter fish is slit, the innards and backbone are removed, the fish is marinated in yuzu citron vinegar, and then placed whole on sushi rice. A great treat during autumn festivals in Tokushima. (Photo: Hibino Terutoshi)
Nare-zushi (fermented sushi) from Kagoshima Prefecture
Sweet sake made in Kagoshima was traditionally mixed in rice, then set aside for fermentation to take over before the rice was used for sushi. Today, the fermentation process is eliminated. Emphasis is placed instead on enjoying the fragrance of the sake. (Photo: Hibino Terutoshi)