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Probably most people that you know have tried sushi. This exotic Japanese food is one of the most popular food around the world – something like pizza or coffee. Ever wondered why is that?
Have you been thinking about why is it so widespread and extremely popular in the U.S.? It is a little strange, isn’t it? Well, the popularity of sushi could be explained with a combination of reasons, and some of them are: sushi is healthy, convenient, exotic and of course – delicious!
Eager to find out more now? Yes, the popularity of sushi is rather peculiar. Follow our article and find out everything there is to know about the large-scale popularity of sushi.
The secret behind the sushi popularity
Sushi restaurants are everywhere; they are almost like McDonald’s or any other fast food brand. Believe it or not, the culture of eating raw fish a.k.a. sushi wasn’t so popular in the past like it is today.
But now, there are few thousand sushi restaurants only in the States and what’s more interesting – some new sushi mixtures are appearing across the globe. Sushi has become one of the most popular international dishes in the world, and almost anywhere you go you can find a sushi restaurant.
However, the real question is – how did sushi become so popular and why? Was it because of the exciting idea of eating raw fish? Or because it is exotic food from Japan? Or something third? What it is that makes sushi so popular outside of Japan?
Ready to get your mind blown away? There is no sole secret reason. It is the combination of more things that merged together and made the whole world fall in love with sushi. Now, we will list and explain all the reasons why sushi is so popular:
1. Sushi is healthy
As you know by now, the main sushi ingredient is rice with vinegar and fresh, raw fish. Relatively healthier than most fast foods or other popular options. It’s not greasy or oily, and that’s one of the reasons why people love it.
Admittedly, it is not without calories or fat and should also be, like everything else, eaten with a dose of balance. It has vinegar, and it’s often eaten with wasabi – so take care if you have a sensitive stomach. But all in all – sushi is a far healthier option than many other popular dishes.
2. It’s really convenient to eat
It’s small, comfortable and problem-free food to eat. And modern, fast-paced people just appreciate that really much. It doesn’t matter if you are eating them in a Japanese restaurant or in your own home – sushi requires no equipment, and you will not make a big mess while eating.
Moreover, what is also useful is that you can eat sushi with one hand. You can easily enjoy its different textures, flavors, and aromas – all in one plate. And, you can effortlessly share it with your friends or family – it’s great gathering food.
3. Different shapes and varieties
One thing that sushi indeed isn’t is – boring. You can’t ever get enough of it, because there are many varieties to try and sushi presentation is just pure art. There are many modern and traditional assortments of sushi – from nigiri and maki to Californian rolls or even some sushi hybrids – you can never get tired, and there is a choice for everyone.
Onwards, sushi appearance could be easily called art. Japanese chefs arrange the sushi with such care and aesthetics; it’s just unbelievable. Sushi always looks appealing, with a diverse set of colors and structures. As you eat with your eyes first – this fabulous presentation makes sushi even more attractive to eat.
4. Sushi is exotic
One of the most important reasons why is sushi so popular is its diversity from all the other cuisines there are in the West. Sushi is incredibly different from all of the national and regional dishes in the West and is an exciting new culture to dive into.
Trying out food from different cultures never gets boring; it’s an entirely new experience most people enjoy experimenting. Moreover, it’s really fresh compared to some other international dishes and different from processed food that is so common today.
The story about sushi you didn’t know
Well, now that you understand why is so popular you need to find you how did all of this happen. Let’s start with a history lesson.
It’s the common thought that sushi was created in Japan and that the popularity grew from there. But that is not quite the truth. The history of sushi traces back for a few thousand years – as this most people don’t know, but sushi originated, at least in its first form, from China rice fields.
The first resemblance of sushi was a Chinese dish know by the name of narezushi. This ancient food contained fermented rice and salted dish – it’ was heavily salted and fermented for the sake of preserving the meal.
What is further interesting is that when eating, the rice was usually tossed – that is something we cannot even imagine doing today. Practically, the rice was used only to wrap and preserve the fish.
The expansion of narezushi from China to Japan happened in the 8th century, and over the next couple of centuries, the dish started to change. The Japanese began to boil the rice and also introduced rice vinegar that helped ferment the rice more quickly. These are the first outlines of sushi that we know today.
We say outlines because it was still now the same – sushi was often cooked due to lack of any refrigeration method and it was in surprisingly bigger chunks. Yet, if we want to know when did today’s form of emerged we need to mention the name of sushi chef Hanaya Yoehi.
He changed the former sushi in a few ways. First, he didn’t throw the rice away anymore and secondly, he added smaller bit-size raw fish. This way he created a delicious and hand-sized meal suitable for anyone. The name of this meal was – nigiri – and the sushi that we know today was almost ready to start conquering the world.
First nigiri sushi started to spread all over Tokyo around the 1920s, and the refrigeration allowed it to spread all over Japan. And, afterward, sushi was ready to spread across the U.S. and later across the world.
When did sushi become popular in the West
The first-time sushi was introduced in the West was in the early 1900s, when the Japanese immigration started, but the sushi wasn’t popular among anyone except a small part of the upper-class.
The real popularity of sushi started after World War II when Japan became open for trade and business to the rest of the world.
The 1960s were the years where everything changed. Besides, the whole social shift in the United States stared that was especially visible in the change in fashion, lifestyle, and food – that was the perfect setting for sushi popularity to explode.
The exact year when everything changed was 1966. That was the year when a small sushi bar opened in Los Angeles. They served Japanese dishes like tempura and teriyaki but also sashimi and traditional sushi. The restaurant was called Kawafuku, and it was the first sushi restaurant in America. This marked the beginning of sushi domination.
Of course, it wasn’t a boom right from the start, but by the late 1960s, eating sushi has become fashionable, and sushi restaurants were opening all over America. During the 1970s, in parallel with the expansion of the Japanese business scene in the US, sushi started to become more popular – with Western culture having a significant influence on its further development.
For its popularity in the West, the crucial role had the emergence of the California sushi roll (see recipe) – which opened the door to the trend of fusion cuisine and introduced many new ingredients in the preparation of sushi.
Adding some characteristic American ingredients, like avocado, really helped people to get more accustomed to this new exotic food. Moreover, sushi menus further grew by combining elements like cream cheese and lots of different toppings. This way sushi became “Americanized” and loved all over the world.
For more info: Difference Between Japanese Sushi And American Sushi
What does the future hold for sushi?
Sushi – the traditional Japanese dish or culinary art, as some call it, is now more popular than ever in the world. Will that last or will people just get bored from it?
Thanks to the innovations and exciting sushi fusions with Western cuisine there are always new types of sushi rolls and combinations to try. Literary, there are hundreds of different sushi rolls waiting for you to try – and new ones are being created every day.
You can go and try simple sushi that is leaning into the traditional sushi to some modern variations like for example sushi bowls and even some strange ones like– sushi burritos. As for the future – even if you never tried sushi or you think you might not like it – it’s doubtful that you will not find a sushi roll for you. The future of sushi is just beginning, and we are impatiently waiting for new experiments for sushi that will craft new dishes using traditional and modern sushi ingredients.