...what nigiri means? or sushi for that matter?
Whether I go to Blue Ribbon in New York, Mamasake in Squaw or Fuki Sushi in Palo Alto, I love getting nigiri sushi. But before our Cuisines of Asia class today, I never really knew what I was ordering.
Nigiri is a thin slice of fish laid over an elongated ball of rice, with fresh wasabi underneath for some punch.
However, the word nigiri means finger, and the name comes from both the thin, curved shape of the fish and the hands that create it. The elegant curve is meant to evoke a fish jumping clear out of water. Gorgeous, right?
Sushi itself refers to the rice, not the elaborate rolls we have come to equate with the name. Su- means vinegar and shi- refers to the cooked rice. Thus, the most important element in sushi is the quality of the rice. Supermarket sushi rice is invariably a cold, sticky mess, more closely related to wallpaper paste than the melt-in-your-mouth quality of good sushi rice.
Once we get the rice down, the fish element poses a larger question: what about the health of our oceans? A recent New York Times Magazine cover story warned of the end of blue fin tuna and the decline of our fisheries. How do I reconcile my love of sushi with a desire to be sustainable as well?
Here at school, our instructors frequently point us to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch for the latest information on sustainable fisheries. There's even an iPhone app for that! You can search by fish or by region, and Seafood Watch will rate how sustainable your choice is. Now it's easy to have your cake...er, fish and eat it too.