Sushi is a beloved spiritual experience in Japan. In America, it is something more of a Hollywood showboating experience. The average American is a poser who doesn’t know a wasabi from a horseradish or a sea bass from an eel. In light of this fact, many opportunistic shops have milked money out of trendy sushi connoisseurs by selling common fish at exotic fish prices. In many places, you really are just paying for that American dream, a fancy name, and some fantasy about where your food was caught.
The manner by which America has embraced and disgraced Japanese foods extends to many other ethnic dishes that have been horrifically imitated and Americanized like caviar. The only real caviar is from the roe of the wild sturgeon. The Chinese fortune cookie is another American concoction that seeks to impute ancient Chinese wisdom and tradition where none existed. Likewise, the Japanese traditions in raising Wagyu beef separate it from the American philosophy that ranchers simply need the right off-spring to certify their beef as Wagyu.
Americans have reconceptualized sushi
A lot of things are different about Japanese culture and their spiritual values of cuisine and what sushi is about. The average American probably thinks “sushi” means raw fish in Japanese. The truth is that “sushi” comes from the Japanese word for vinegared rice. Americans have reconceptualized sushi in the most iconic form by replacing the traditional raw fish with fully cooked imitation crab in their California Rolls. The American taste for sushi is often limited to sampling it at the Chinese buffet and scoffing at the price charged in Japanese restaurants. Americans don’t seem to get the exotic sensual delight that sushi really is in Japan.
Sushi is an art form in Japan
An itamae (AKA sushi chef in the USA) trains for five years in apprenticeship under a master sushi chef before they can even touch fish. Real sushi restaurants may prepare their own soy sauces from scratch with subtle flavorings and enhancements to compliment particular sushi rolls. The wasabi that is used in America is really just horseradish, mustard flour, and green food coloring. Real wasabi is expensive to grow and needs to be consumed within fifteen minutes of freshly grating it to experience its true flavor. Almost all the wasabi in the US is fake. And, nowadays, nearly as much of the wasabi is fake in Japan as corporate interests take precedence over ethnic authenticity.
Commercialization of Sushi
The mass commercialization of ethnic dishes has produced some very off results. Many of the workers in Japanese restaurants are actually Chinese. The Chinese probably sell more sushi than the Japanese by incorporating it into their buffet menus. Gas station and refrigerated sushi rolls have come up with their own form of sushi that, in many cases, has developed a strong sense of aversion among consumers who forever reflect upon a foul first impression.
Sushi grade seafood has very interesting characteristics that the average American doesn’t understand. The majority of the sushi and sashimi grade fish that is imported into the US is flash frozen to kill any parasites. The fish need to be killed as quickly as possible after being retrieved from the sea to minimize the level of lactic acid released into their muscles. Lactic acid will toughen the meat and remove that sensual soft sushi texture that true enthusiasts desire. The FDA doesn’t have any real standards beyond “parasite destruction guarantees” regarding the flash freezing process.
Few Americans understand how to properly eat sushi
They have Americanized the dish into a new form. Instead of using the ginger to cleanse the palette between rolls, they are simply combining it with tasteless sushi to give it a kick. Yes, ginger is not supposed to go on your sushi. The American reconceptualization of sushi is fast food and whatever sells. Throwing some panda pictures on the chopsticks wrappers and giving the sushi a fancy name like dragon or rainbow roll is enough to capture the American market.
Another American practice is dipping the rice side in soy sauce. The rice has a tendency to absorb the soy sauce and overpower the subtle notes of the sushi roll. It is best to put some soy sauce on the fish and then flip it over to add a little wasabi before enjoying. Mixing the wasabi and soy sauce can also detract from the chemistry a prominent sushi chef sought to create by blending custom soy sauces to compliment a particular roll. But, of course, when you are talking about typical fast food American sushi, there is no prominent sushi chef or homemade soy sauce involved.
Eating sushi can be an exciting culinary adventure for everyone. SushiFork of Tulsa makes the adventure even more exciting by having a fuller understanding and appreciation of this international delight.