No one doesn't know about sushi from Japan we would say. Big chances that someone has never been to Japan but could have had sushi multiple times in his or her life. Why is sushi such a big deal and what is it different from sashimi?
As an Island country, the most available food source for Japan is the ocean. Most people due to that work as a fishermen, sailor or other jobs on the boats to bring food back to the people on the land. In old times, boats easily went out to the ocean for months to fight against the waves, winds, natural weather changes, etc to search for and get enough food back for sale or even just sharing among close families. What could the people on the boats eat? Or once they came back from the ocean, what if there were earthquakes and tsunamis that they couldn't go out for a long time? Sushi became a great way to store fish or seafood in fermented rice for possibly months at a time. The lacto-fermentation of the rice prevented the fish or seafood from spoiling. The rice then would be discarded before consumption of the fish or seafood. Sushi without rice, or the slices of seafood itself is sashimi.
It was not until Edo period that fresh fish were served over vinegar rice. Before that vinegar was added to the preparation in the Muromachi period (1336–1573) for the sake of enhancing both taste and preservation. In addition to increasing the rice's sourness, the vinegar significantly increased the dish's longevity, causing the fermentation process to be shortened and eventually abandoned.
Depending how the seafood is served with rice or other materials, there are different types of sushi. Chirashizushi ("scattered sushi") serves the rice in a bowl and tops it with a variety of raw fish and vegetable garnishes; Futomaki ("thick, large or fat rolls") is a large cylindrical piece, usually with nori (seaweed) on the outside; Hosomaki ("thin rolls") is a small cylindrical piece, with nori on the outside; Ehōmaki ("lucky direction roll") is a roll composed of seven ingredients considered to be luck; Nigirizushi ("hand-pressed sushi") consists of an oblong mound of sushi rice that the chef presses between the palms of the hands to form an oval-shaped ball, and a topping draped over the ball. There are a lot more. Foxes, messengers of Inari are believed to love fried tofu so Inarizushi is created to attract them. It is a pouch of fried tofu typically filled with sushi rice alone and the shape resemble foxes' ears.
Fishes and seafood commonly used for sushi include tuna, Japanese amberjack, yellowtail, snapper, mackerel, squid, eel, pike conger, octopus, shrimp, clam, fish roe, crab, shellfish and more. Wasabi, soy sauce and pickled ginger are regular condiments come along with sushi. True wasabi has anti-microbial properties and may reduce the risk of food poisoning. Sweet, pickled ginger is eaten in between sushi courses to both cleanse the palate and aid in digestion. Green tea or sake goes well with a raw seafood feast in Japan.
Have fun watching Travel Thirsty's video that leads to the second part of our sushi/sashimi article soon