Haya Nare Zushi
The surprisingly short history of Nigiri-zushi, or hand-shaped sushi
Talking about sushi, most people think it Nigiri-zushi, which is the fresh fish like tuna or salmon over a small portion of vinegared rice shaped by the hands. When you say you want to eat “sushi” in Japan, you might mean it as Nigiri-zushi.
Nigiri-zushi is also called haya-zushi , or quick sushi, invented in the Edo period to satisfy the appetite of short-tempered Edokko.
NAREZUSHI, the first Sushi
In fact, the first sushi is called NAREZUSHI that is an lactic fermentation of fish with rice and salt.
This is a local specialty made by the technique of fish preservation in the times without the refrigeration technology, which is still prepared in some area now. There are many varieties depends on the fish caught in each area.
The popular Narezushi is as follows; Funazushi made of Crucian carp in Shiga pref., Sanmazushi of saury in South Wakayama pref., Sabazushi in north Wakayama and Heshiko in Fukui pref. is made of Mackerel.
In addition, there is Izushi using molded rice instead of rice and salt in Hokkaido and Hokuriku area which is also a kind of Narezushi. It will be introduced in the next opportunity.
When making Sabazushi in north Wakayama, Mackerel is cleaned and filled with salt, then preserved for over one month. Then it is desalinated and put it on salted rice, wrapped with the leaves of Arundo donax and stored in a barrel with a weight on top for ten days then ready to eat.
As it is deeply fermented, it has an extremely peculiar smell and taste that not many people loves it. But once you feel it nice, you will be the enthusiast! That goes well with sake.
They also have HAYA-NAREZUSHI which is much easier to make, even if in summer when the fermentation is unstable. The taste is much softer than NAREZUSHI, actually it is similar to “sushi” as you usually remind of.
It is vinegared mackerel over seasoned rice also wrapped with the leaves of Arundo donax, which is kept for one night. The mackerel oil is absorbed into the rice through the night, it becomes much delicious. This is a summer tradition of Wakayama prefecture.
Wakayama is located one hour from Osaka by train. Savoring these local specialties is a nice experience as one of the travel stories of your visit to Japan.
※Arundo donax is a perennial plant belonging to the rice family. The leaf is alike to a bamboo leaf, but it is thicker. It is used for wrapping NAREZUSHI not only the antiseptic effect, but for transferring the fresh aroma to the ingredients.
You can eat "Nare Sushi" which is one of the oldest local cuisine in Wakayama pref.
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