Japan's Oldest Sushi
Our journey to uncover the secrets of sushi will take us across Japan. Our first port of call is Japan's largest lake, Lake Biwa. On the western shore of the lake is Katata, Shiga Prefecture. Here we can find a food that is at the root of Japanese sushi. This food, Funa-zushi, is created by pickling fish and allowing it to undergo lacto-fermentation. The name of the sushi comes from its crucial ingredient, a freshwater fish known as crucian carp. Funa-zushi is said to have been eaten in Japan for around 1,500 years since arriving from China and Southeast Asia. This is the finished Funa-zushi. The strong fragrance and taste is reminiscent of mature cheese. Funa-zushi is only made by a handful of businesses, some of them founded more than 300 years ago. These businesses all use traditional production methods that limit the volume produced and make Funa-zushi a rare, hard-to-find delicacy.
Sushi Made from the Clear Streams
The next stop on our tour of Japan's sushi is Wakayama Prefecture, where we can see various types of sushi. Here they consume more vinegar than almost anywhere else in Japan. One particularly popular variety of local sushi uses a whole sweetfish. Wakayama is blessed with many clear streams. The Hirai River in particular has excellent water quality. For local people, the sweetfish is considered a gift from the gods. The young sweetfish at the start of the season have a very mild flavor, and soft thin skin, making them ideal for sushi. After salting, the fish are marinated for approximately 10 minutes, in vinegar. The sweetfish is then served with a very generous serving of vinegared rice. The gift of the river. It's the feast they've been waiting for.
On the final stop of our sushi tour of Japan, we're going to see the skills used to make Edo-mae-zushi. The taste of Edo-mae-zushi depends on how the fish or shellfish is prepared. As the shellfish have a light taste, they are served to customers after being simmered lightly and flavored with a salty-sweet sauce. Squid may be difficult to bite off and chew, so it is carefully scored, allowing it to be chewed and swallowed easily together with the rice. Edo-mae-zushi is about exquisite texture and taste. One might say that it is the ultimate form of sushi, which started out 1,500 years ago as preserved food.