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When we talk about food in Japan, it’s natural to think sushi because it is one of those traditional Japanese delicacies that have gone global. Sushi can be found in almost every corner of the world and the dish has also undergone an amazing evolution to woo the non-Japanese. In the US, sushi has undergo numerous evolutions and there are types of specialty rolls you may not have heard before.
But, is sushi a comfort food in Japan? I would say ‘No’ because comfort food refers to the dishes that have a sentimental or nostalgic connection. Such foods comfort people because they bring back childhood and family memories. However, sushi is not a daily meal in Japan. It is rather a luxury food that is made occasionally on special events like festivals or birthdays.
Furthermore, a sushi dinner is typically expensive so the Japanese don’t go for it regularly. Comfort food is something that reminds people of motherly love or their wife’s affection and their roles in preparing food for the family. People long for comfort foods when they are sick or feeling vulnerable, and surprisingly, this is not sushi.
Sushi Is More Of A Luxury Food In Japan
During the Edo Period, sushi was invented as a simple fast food or snack served the busy travelers. It was served one piece and eaten humbly with hands. No one knew at that time that this simple delicacy would become so popular and gain such popularity around the world.
With the globalization of sushi, it has now turned into a internationally-famous delicacy. It has transformed from street-side poor man’s meal to a gourmet specialty prepared by highly trained chefs who often spend over 10 years practicing the sushi art, hence they are considered as the masters of this culinary form.
The price of sushi-grade fish is high because it has a limited shelf life and needs to be consumed quickly or stored at a very low temperature. High-end restaurants invest in expensive commercial-grade refrigerators to store raw fish, hence the price of sushi is high.
Six Reasons Why Sushi Is Not A Comfort Food In Japan
The Japanese highly revere the sushi chefs and they consider their skills as something that comes with years of practice. Hence, you will not find mothers or wives making sushi at home on a daily basis. They believe that it should only be prepared by the masters only.
Only on special occasions, mothers may prepare chirashizushi or temaki sushi to celebrate a birthday, picnic, or wedding. So, this is not a dish that the Japanese relate to childhood memories or get nostalgic about.
Raw fish is expensive, so it’s not a feasible option for the average people in Japan to buy sushi-grade fish to make sushi rolls or nigiri at home. Furthermore, making sushi rolls or nigiri require special rolling or molding skills that home cooks lack.
Preparing sushi is a time taking process as it requires a lot of preparation other than cooking rice. It involves seasoning the rice, slicing/ cutting/ chopping fillings, and then rolling or forming the shape. Thus, home cooks prefer to prepare rice and curry instead, which takes less time.
Japanese cuisine comprises of several other types of food that are not only delicious but easy to make at home. As a result, the local people in Japan prefer to make dishes like ramen noodles, rice-curry, and onigiri at home.
Sushi meal for two may cost about $50 at a decent sushi restaurant in Japan. As a result, it’s more like a luxury food people indulge in order to celebrate something or impress a date. It’s not the go-to food in Japan when people are hungry.
Tools People Can Use To Make Sushi At Home
Although sushi is not the type of comfort food people in Japan make on a daily basis, you can learn the skills of making sushi with the help of tools and sushi kits (see my reviews) available online. While it’s true that the master chefs have a trained for years and it’s tough to replicate restaurant-style sushi at home, you can still enjoy good quality sushi at a less price.
I know many people who love sushi so much that it’s close to comfort food for them, but these are exceptions. If you are one of them but find it financially draining to eat at a sushi restaurant every time you crave for a roll or nigiri then try making your own at home.
I would suggest that you start by making simple sushi rolls like the cucumber maki roll or avocado roll at home. If you worried about the quality of raw fish available at the grocery store or supermarket, skip raw fish altogether and use cooked sushi options instead. I have created an article that contains the best sushi recipes for beginners.
There are also several sushi kits available online. They contain some of the basic tools such as a bamboo mat, nori sheets, nigiri mold, sushi knife, chop sticks, and so on. These simple kits and tools make it easier for people to make sushi at home.
If you are a home cook passionate about sushi, try using the veggie options instead of raw fish to rule out the risk of getting food disease and storage issues. You can use a variety of vegetables to make delicious vegetarian sushi at home. They are easy to prepare, take less time and don’t go bad if left at room temperature. Plus, they are a much affordable option than buying raw fish.
With the easy sushi tools and quick sushi recipes at home, you can make sushi frequently for dinner instead of making it a luxury food, reserved for special occasions. If you are a home cook who enjoys making sushi for dinner on a regular basis, your kids may grow up calling sushi a comfort food.
Top 7 Comfort Foods In Japan
Now that you know sushi is not a comfort food in Japan, let’s take a look at the different types of food Japanese eat on a regular basis and have emotional connection with them. These are the types of food a child usually grows up eating in an average household. As a result, these dishes remind them of motherly love, childhood memories, and their country (if they live outside Japan).
This is a typical traditional dish that Japanese mothers prepare regularly at home. You can also find numerous Katsu restaurants in Japan and even if the eatery is not Katsu-specific, you may still find it on the menu. This is a delicious dish usually made of pork, but any type of meat can be used for the preparation. The steak katsu is more like a new dish that is trending in Japan. It is covered with panko and deep fried to perfection. It is usually served with pickled veggies (oshinko), rice, miso soup, and finely sliced cabbage.
#2. Hot/ Cold Udon
Udon is another popular comfort food in Japan and it may be served hot or cold. Some people prefer it hot garnished with thinly sliced scallions and tempura. It’s a rather filling dish that is regularly prepared in the Japanese household. The soup base is light but the noodles are filling. You can also find udon shop in the railway stations for people to stand and eat quickly. The cold version of the dish is usually enjoyed in the summer season when the hot soup doesn’t feel so appetizing. In cold Udon, you can use the same ingredients such as sake, soy sauce, mirin, and dashi
This dish involves sautéed ginger pork, one of the favorite comfort foods of the Japanese. It comprises of thinly sliced pork meat marinated in freshly grated ginger, mirin, soy sauce, and sake. It is usually served with finely sliced cabbage to give you the perfect flavors of fresh cabbage mixed with sauces. Similar to other dishes, Shoga-yaki is usually served with rice, pickled vegetables, and miso soup.
#4. Grilled Salmon
It is a common tradition in Japan to eat grilled salmon for lunch, dinner, or even breakfast. The Japanese believe that it’s one of the healthiest foods with which you can start your day. The fish is pre-salted so the meat has a distinct flavor that you cannot find outside Japan. You can buy salmon in small quantities, which makes this a reasonably priced meal. If you order from a restaurant, you can expect the grilled salmon to be served with rice, pickled vegetables, and soup.
Tempura is a popular comfort food in Japan and it is usually made of seafood and vegetables that are dipped into a batter and deep fried. While cooking tempura looks simple, you need some skills to make the perfect batter to ensure that it’s not too thick, overcooked, or soggy. The perfectly cooked tempura has a light golden color with a crispy and crunchy exterior. Shrimp and vegetable tempura are also popular fillings for sushi rolls, and you can find the yummy recipes here.
#6. Soba Noodles
Soba is another Japanese comfort food, pretty similar to Udon. The main difference lies in the type of noodles used in preparation. Soba primarily comprises of buckwheat noodles, while the udon contains wheat noodles. The udon noodles are slightly thicker than the soba noodles. Although buckwheat has ‘wheat’ in its name, it is not related to wheat and is one of the finest whole grains. It is gluten-free and can be served hot or cold.
#7. Rice-Based Dishes
Rice is a staple food in Japan and some of the popular comfort foods also comprise of rice. Curry rice is the most preferred of all rice-based dishes and the curry may be made of carrots, potatoes, and onions served with steaming rice. This is a hearty meal that enjoys more than once every week in Japan. Other rice-based dishes include Omurice, which comprises of flavored fried rice served with egg omelet and ketchup-based sauces. Another popular rice dish is ongiri or rice ball wrapped in a roasted nori sheet. It may contain fillings like boiled eggs or flaked salmon.
Is sushi fast food?
Yes, sushi may be considered as fast food because it was invented to be served quickly to the passer-bys in the Edo period. It was only later than it turned into gourmet food and globalization led to the creation of specialty sushi rolls served at high-end restaurants. I have created an article that explains does sushi count as fast food.
Is sushi finger food?
Many people believe that sushi is a type of finger food that can be easily picked with the help of fingers and eaten quickly. Although finger foods is more of a westernized concept, sushi perfect fits into that description.
Which is the most popular type of sushi prepared at home?
You will mostly find chirashi sushi prepared by moms in Japanese households. This dish requires no rolling or molding skills, and they can be prepared quickly. I have created an article that explains in detail what is chirashi and how to eat chirashizushi.