Above: (L) "Sushi Steve" Inglima, (R) Rick "Sushi Sammon" at Yama Sushi in Las Vegas. The photos were taken about a year apart.
This post is actually an expanded email that my friend and fellow sushi lover (and awesome fellow musician) Steve Inglima sent to me after he read this article (screen grab below) about eating sushi.
I took the photos below at Samurai restaurant here in Croton-on-Hudson, NY. Notice the Rick Sammon roll on the menu! What an honor. :-)
Take it away Steve!
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As the article says, more Japanese people prefer to eat sushi with chopsticks then their hands! But, the history of sushi does suggest it was meant to be finger food.
What we think of as sushi (Nigiri) was "invented" in the feudal period of Japanese history where the class of warriors (samurai) were very revered and respected mercenaries. They were basically hired swords to protect various wealthy rulers. They wore protective gear, and it was a bit of a nuisance and a security risk at times to remove all of that stuff, so it was a very welcome invention to be able to simply walk up to a counter (Edo, in Japanese) and order some bite sized pieces of fish on rice that they could eat with their hands without the disrobing etc.
It was the original "fast-food". So, its heritage suggests that in fact nigiri style sushi should be eaten with your fingers. In fact, this form of sushi was known in that time as "edo-maii", or "in front of the counter".
However, the deeper behind the scenes creation of sushi was a method of preserving fish prior to the invention of refrigeration. Rice was soaked in vinegar, and then wrapped around fish that was sliced to put it in contact with it, then wrapped in seaweed, and then put in a wooden box and buried in the ground for cool temperature stability.
So, that's the reason that the current sushi rice (knows as "Shari") is seasoned in vinegar, and the rolls are wrapped in seaweed paper. So, when that box was taken out of the ground and the assembly unwrapped, the fish was just sitting on the rice.
Today, you can order sushi somewhat like this, called Chirashi. It's chopped up sushi grade fish just sitting on top of the rice in a box. And THAT is eaten with chopsticks. So, the real origin of sushi is in fact a chopstick utensil meal...
So, when anyone tells you (who thinks they know what they're talking about) that you should eat sushi with your hands, you can tell them "well, yes and no," and then tell them why and then to stuff it in their maki hole :)
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Thank you Steve for sharing!
When in Vegas, don't miss out on some of the best sushi ever at Yama.
Explore the light,