The differences in taste between sushi in Japan and abroad K-Sélection
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The differences in taste between sushi in Japan and abroad

Sushi is one of Japan's most recognizable and beloved dishes. In its rolled form, sushi has become popular around the world. But how do the Japanese prefer to eat it? Here's a brief overview of how sushi is consumed in its country of origin and the differences in the choice of ingredients and toppings between Japanese consumers and sushi lovers abroad.

The differences in taste between sushi in Japan and abroad K-Sélection

A different dish in Japan

The sushi goes back to the dish narezusushi, a fermented version popular at the time Heian of Japan (794-1192 AD). The most popular form of sushi today is nigiri-zushi, which consists of searing (握る, nigiru; sear) the main ingredient on a bed of rice soaked in vinegar (シャリ; shari).

Japan is full of sushi restaurants, with 22 establishments nationwide. This equates to approximately 557 restaurants per 17,77 residents. Yamanashi Prefecture has the most sushi restaurants per capita, with 100 per 000 people. Sushi restaurants take many forms, ranging from high-end establishments with traditionally trained chefs to popular, fast-paced conveyor belt sushi chains.

Although sushi is extremely popular outside of Japan, it often takes a different form abroad than in its country of origin. Japanese people who have lived abroad often comment on the foreign fixation on sushi rolls (手巻き寿司; temaki-zushi). In Japan, the nigiri is considered the traditional form of sushi, the Temaki being generally reserved for special occasions such as setsubun. The Japanese also place particular importance on the freshness of ingredients and the skill of sushi chefs.

The differences in taste between sushi in Japan and abroad K-Sélection

Favorite sushi ingredients of Japanese and foreigners

So how do the Japanese like to eat their nigiri? Which toppings dominate? The answer to this question varies from year to year. It may also differ slightly from one survey to another. For this article, we were able to examine the seven best responses from a survey conducted by MyNavi in April 2023. The latter was also compared with an older survey carried out by the site SushiWalker in 2021. Here are the top five:

5- The fish used

The differences in taste between sushi in Japan and abroad K-Sélection

In Japan, theengages (base of flatfish dorsal fin) is fifth on the list, but it is more of a specific cut than a particular fish. The Japanese praised the firm and fatty texture of this part of the fish.

The differences in taste between sushi in Japan and abroad K-Sélection

Abroad, it is or (sea bream) which is very popular with non-Japanese sushi lovers. Its popularity extends notably to Korea and in the preparation of carpaccio in Italy. On the other hand, the or only occupies 24th place in the ranking of MyNavi

4- Negitoro or Uramaki

The differences in taste between sushi in Japan and abroad K-Sélection

In Japan, the negitoro (tuna/chopped onion fat) is a well-known specialty, dating back to 1964 and created by the Kintaro sushi chain at its Asakusa store. This dish is popular not only for its taste but also for its affordable price.

The differences in taste between sushi in Japan and abroad K-Sélection

On the other hand, abroad, the uramaki is very appreciated. It is a type of inverted sushi with rice sprinkled with sesame seeds on the outside and ingredients and nori seaweed on the inside. This dish is popular in the United States, Italy, Chile and Germany, among other countries. Sushi Walker mentions, much to the dismay of its Japanese readers, that it may contain various ingredients, including cheese.

3- Grilled Salmon or Shrimp

The differences in taste between sushi in Japan and abroad K-Sélection

In Japan, grilled salmon is a specialty appreciated for its fatty and smoky taste obtained using an acetylene torch. This dish is highly prized for its unique flavor, which some fans call never disappointing.

The differences in taste between sushi in Japan and abroad K-Sélection

On the other hand, abroad, the choice of shrimp may seem more ordinary. However, given the popularity and frequent consumption of shrimp in countries like Thailand, Vietnam, America and France, it is natural to find them as a sushi topping. In the United States and France, where people are generally more reluctant to eat raw meats and seafood, shrimp is often steamed. On the other hand, steamed shrimp takes 11th place on the list of MyNavi.

2- Tuna

The differences in taste between sushi in Japan and abroad K-Sélection

Both in Japan and abroad, tuna is very popular, especially naka-toro, or medium fatty tuna, which is often chosen to prepare sushi. Japanese fans praise its taste as well as its fatty and rich texture. Some also note that its red color contributes to a beautiful presentation and that its taste generally remains consistent from store to store.

Outside of Japan, tuna is very popular among sushi lovers in Korea, Vietnam and other Asian countries. However, it is not universally popular in countries like Brazil and Malaysia, where it is difficult to obtain or where customers are simply not used to eating raw seafood.

1- Salmon

The differences in taste between sushi in Japan and abroad K-Sélection

Both in Japan and abroad, salmon has become a very popular sushi choice, which may be surprising given Japan's abundance of seafood. For decades, raw salmon was not popular in Japan, but this changed starting in 1986 thanks to a 30-year campaign by Norwegian producers to associate Norway with salmon and introduce raw salmon into restaurants of conveyor belt sushi.

Japanese consumers love salmon for its absence of fishy smell, its fatty side, and its juicy and meaty taste. It became the favorite sushi ingredient of 17,4% of respondents to a survey in Japan, more than double those who chose tuna (8,5%). And this popularity is not limited to Japan; salmon is the number one choice for sushi around the world, whether as a topping in maki-zushi or as a topping for nigiri.

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