Sushi — as we know it today — is a hallmark of Japanese cuisine. When sushi went global in the 1970s, people fell in love with its fresh flavors and simple, yet mouth-watering presentation. Since then, sushi has become a must-have in restaurants around the world, like Basil Ginger in Wasilla, AK. Sushi has undergone several transformations to gain its classic characteristics of freshness and simplicity. If you go back far enough, sushi would be unrecognizable.
The story of sushi starts in Southeast Asia over a millennium ago. There, preserving fish in salt and fermented rice was a common practice to slow the growth of bacteria. This application eventually carried over to Japan, which likely occurred around the ninth century when Buddhism — and its strict dietary restriction against meat — became popularized. Rather than discarding the rice after fermentation, the Japanese ate the rice with the pickled fish.
For many centuries, eating this combination of preserved fish and fermented rice was a luxury that only the wealthy could afford. It took at least six months to ferment the ingredients properly — and that was considered speedy. Cooks achieved this by placing weights on the rice and fish. The more weight there was, the faster fermentation occurred. Around the 15th century, a civil war forced cooks to cook faster. Thus, more weights were added to the process, eventually cutting down the fermentation time to a month. Despite the fish not being completely pickled, it was surprisingly delicious, and quickly became fashionable to eat.
With the development of the city of Edo — now Tokyo — in the 19th century, sushi began taking form in the way we’re more accustomed. Fish was placed on top of vinegar-soaked rice and compressed in a wooden box for two hours. Afterwards, it was sliced and served in bite-size pieces. For one bright entrepreneur, two hours was still too long a wait.
In the 1820s, a young man named Hanaya Yohei situated his stall near one of the busiest bridges in Edo. Using freshly caught fish from the river and freshly cooked rice, he took the speedy fermentation process to the next level. Yohei mixed salt and rice vinegar into the rice for a few minutes, hand pressed the rice into a small ball, and placed a thinly sliced layer of fresh, raw fish on top. Within minutes, modern sushi was born.
Sushi continues to develop in ways that surprises and delights. Modern sushi chefs created sushi rolls —– fish and rice wrapped in seaweed — that is now a staple in sushi cuisine. Even the addition of specific fish, like salmon, has transformed the sushi and sashimi experience.
Basil Ginger prides itself in preserving the tradition of bringing the highest quality ingredients to their customers. Experience Basil Ginger’s top-quality cuisine for yourself. Call them to make a reservation at (907) 376-7222, and check out the rave reviews on their Facebook page.