Records show that sushi was first served in Japan back in the 8th century. However, this dish of raw food isn’t the original sushi. That type of sushi is today referred to as narezushi, which translated to “fermented sushi.” This fermented sushi comes from Southeast Asia. It was used to preserve fish by placing the meat in a wrap of fermented rice. Later, when the fish was eaten, the fermented rice wrap was thrown away. This process was especially important in northern areas of Japan where the cold winters made it difficult to catch fish. Fermented sushi became one of the main sources of protein during the colder part of the year.
While fermented sushi without the rice was eaten in Asia, the Japanese often ate rice with their fish. This semi-fermented meal usually consisted of partially raw fish that was wrapped up in rice. It was eaten fresh so it till had all of its flavoring. This type of sushi shifted the focus from preserving the food for winter to eating a new type of meal. It became very popular during the Muromachi period, which lasted from 1337 to 1573.
It was in the Edo period (1603 to 1868) that sushi as we know it was created. Called haya-zushi, or “fast sushi,” it introduced the idea of rolling the fresh fish within the rice so that both could be eaten at the same time. Instead of using rice for fermentation, it was mixed with the fish, vegetables, vinegar, and other items to create a sushi roll.
Today’s sushi is a modern variation of fast sushi created by Hanaya Yohei. His sushi was designed as a fast food that could be eaten quickly with the fingers or in a more formal setting with chopsticks. It uses no fermentation at all.