Recently, Japanese food has been recognized as a healthy, elegant alternative to the heavier foods that people have become accustomed to in the West. In all likelihood, sushi is the first kind of food that comes to mind when most Westerners think of Japanese food. Because of richness and profusion of fresh fish and other seafood in Toyama, as well as the availability of top-quality sushi restaurants, most of our attention will be focused on sushi. We will describe the uniqueness and variety of Toyama's seafood harvest, as well as Sushi's folklore, history and main ingredients.
The location of Toyama bay creates an ideal environment for dazzling array of aquatic life. In the Sea of Japan, the warm water current coming from the South mixes with cold water masses, creating favorable conditions in Toyama bay that allows an abundant catch of the following types of fish: yellowtail, squid, whelk, tuna, salmon trout, crab, sea bream, cod, herring and mackerel
During the spring to early summer, the most prominent catches along Toyama's coastline are of firefly squid. From April to June every year, hundreds of Toyama residents go to the seaside to catch the tiny firefly squid that spawn close to the coastline of Toyama on warm summer nights. The spawning runs of these squid are so unique that the coastline off Namerikawa city has been designated a "special natural monument" by the Japanese government.
During the early winter, thunderstorms usually signal the arrival of swarms of yellowtail in Toyama bay. Yellowtail, or buri in Japanese, is a prized local delicacy that brings good profits to the local fishermen. Buri can be ordered in many nigiri-zushi restaurants throughout Toyama.
Sushi and its Folklore
Next, it would be useful to explain the difference between sushi and another common type of raw seafood: sashimi. Sashimi is carefully sliced raw fish served with a special kind of soy sauce and Japanese horseradish wasabi, while sushi is carefully sliced raw fish served on top of a small oval shaped piece of vinegared rice with wasabi. Sashimi is often served as an appetizer before the main course, while sushi often cinstitutes an entire meal by itself. However, given the fact that outside of Japan, sushi is by far the most widely known and popular form of Japanese food.
Let's briefly examine the folklore and history of sushi. As legend has it, long ago sushi was "discovered" by an old man and his wife. One day, the old couple was in a generous mood, so they left some rice in an osprey's nest near their house before leaving for town. When they came back, they were surprised to find that the osprey had left some fish in the nest. They brought the fish into their house and ate it. They were delighted by the flavor that the partially fermented leftover rice had given to the raw fish. Though the story itself may not be true, it agrees with historical accounts of how rice was used to preserve raw fish.
The History of Sushi
Actually, sushi almost certainly originated from a method of pickling fish that was first practiced in parts of Southeast Asia, and later introduced to Japan together with rice cultivation. During this time period, rice was packed with fish for long-term storage of several months to a year. As the rice fermented it produced latic acid, which gave the fish a vinegary taste and kept it from spoiling. At first, as in the production of nare-zushi, only the fish was eaten and the rice discarded; however, by the 16th century, this method of preparing sushi had fallen into disfavor, mainly because a new, more efficient way of preserving fish was discovered at that time. This new method , called nama-nare, allowed both the rice and fish to be consumed together in a few days.
Later, during the 17th century, the practice of adding vinegar to sushi rice came into favor. It is believed to have gained popularity both because of the resulting tart flavor, as well as the reduction in waiting time necessary before the sushi could be eaten; sishi could now be eaten just a few days after it had been made.
It was not until the early 1820's that anything closely resembling modern sushi came into being. It was at this time that truly fresh slices of raw seafood were first served on top of thin slices of vinegared rice. Sushi (also called Edomae-zushi) became popular in the area that is now modern day Tokyo. Until the end of World War II, it was sold mostly from portable stalls\small two wheeled carts with a rectangular shaped storage compartment. Rising standards of living in the post-war period brought better sanitation, and the beginning of today's aesthetically pleasing sushi restaurants.
Why don't you come to Toyama to enjoy delicious seafood with me?
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