Is Sushi Chinese Food?

We all adore raw seafood and its many variants, and this type of cuisine has managed to become among the most popular throughout the US. But people are not really sure where its origins lay, and is sushi Chinese food.

So, is sushi Chinese food? The answer is no because the dish as we know it today traces its origins back to 19th century Japan. However, the earliest origins of it are tracked down to 2nd century China and the way the Chinese fermented the fish in rice. And since they have discarded the rice while the Japanese consumed it together, it can be claimed with certainty that it is, after all, Japanese.

Slices of seafood on top of a black plate

Different ages had different names for a dish that will become sushi in future Japan, so let’s explore a bit of its history. Let me show you how it evolved through the influence of Chinese culture to the way it is shaped in the modern world.

Is Sushi Chinese Food or Related to China in Any Way?

Americans love their Asian cuisine, and sushi sits high at the top of the most favorite dishes throughout the US. It’s no wonder if you, at least occasionally, have asked yourself if it is an American or Japanese dish or whether this type of food perhaps originates from China. The truth is that without the fermenting technique originating from 2nd century China, the seafood delicacy would probably not have seen the light of day. But, the Japanese culture and cuisine are to blame for bringing it to the world.

Before Sushi Came, China Had Narezushi, the Chinese Fermented Fish

The tasty bites have come a long way through history from the initial fermentation at the very beginning of the new era. From China’s method for preserving food to the delicacy we’ve come to know and love today have been many steps, and many of them were influenced by Chinese culture. They had used the fermentation of the rice with salt to preserve the fish, although the rice was thrown away when the fish was consumed. Here’s the early history of one of our favorite Asian dishes:

  • The fish preserved this way was named Narezushi (鮓, pickled fish with rice and salt,) and the name can be found in the dictionary from the 2nd century China.
  • The form of fermented fish that the people of Japan preferred to consume along with rice was namanari or namanare. The slices of seafood used in the making of nanamare were partly raw and wrapped in rice. It was also consumed fresh before it began to change the flavor. The dish was highly popular during the Muromachi period that lasted from XIV to the XVI centuries.
  • Haya-zushi was the third type of seafood dish that emerged during the Edo period (XVII-XIX). It was made so that both the rice and fish could be consumed together, thus becoming a unique delicacy of the Japanese. This time, instead of being used for fermentation, rice was being mixed with vinegar, while the vegetables, dried food, and raw fish were added.
  • Nigirizushi (finger sushi, because it’s shaped with fingers) is a mound of rice with a slice of raw fish on top. It became popular at the beginning of the XIX century, and it’s the type of sushi we know of today. Modern Japanese chefs have trained in making this delicacy for years and use the best rice available.

Curious to know more about other Japanese delicacies? Read also :

Is Nigiri Sushi?

What Is Sushi Hamachi?
Can You Eat Sushi The Next Day?
What Is Sushi Sauce And How It’s Made?
What Is Tobiko?
Where To Buy Sashimi?
Is Sashimi Tuna?

How It Spread Throughout Japan

As Japanese culture changed and evolved, so the cuisine went with it. The new method of preparing sushi was getting popular, as it took less time to prepare the dish – the rice was cooked instead of steamed, and the vinegar was added to reduce the fermentation period.

While history can point to one chef, in particular, Hanaya Yohei, as the inventor of the technique in making a nigirizushi, it has spread throughout the country after the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923. It happened when the chefs from Edo started to relocate all over the country, bringing and then popularizing the seafood delicacy.

Makizushi Is Another Slice of Japanese Culture We Like to Enjoy

What many people think about when you say sushi (or at least other than us, fanatic Asian cuisine-loving individuals) are the makizushi. In other words, it’s rolled sushi. It is made from rice, vinegar, and seaweed, which is filled with raw fish and vegetables and then rolled. It’s also commonly known as norimaki or the seaweed roll because of the way it’s made. You can see how a roll with different ingredients is made in the following video.

Know Your Seaweed Rolls

The main difference between makizushi and common sushi is that you get to enjoy various flavors blended together into rolls. But not each roll is the same – they differ not only in ingredients but also in the thickness.

Types of makizushiHow to distinguish it
ChumakiA roll that is medium-sized and usually made with just two or three ingredients.
FutomakiThicker rolls with a number of ingredients, which are usually sakura denbu, cucumber, and omelet, with the addition of other flavors.
HosomakiThese rolls are long and thin, using less seaweed than other types of makizushi. They also usually contain only one ingredient.
UramakiUramaki or the inverted makizushi are rolls made with rice on the outer layer. The next is seaweed and the rest of the ingredients.
TemakiTemaki or homemade rolls are the ones you roll with hands instead of a mat.

Sushi Is an Integral Part of Japanese Culture That Had Spread Around the World

Sushi is a delicacy with a rich history that has its roots in a process invented for preserving food when there was no possibility for keeping it any other way. It has come a long way, from the initial method of fermenting in China to the centuries of reshaping the recipe in Japan. But as it spread throughout the world, it has become an international treasure, with many restaurants perfecting it and making it in many different flavors.