Sushi: The Marriage of Rice and Fish

May 15, 2014 by

This article was written by Samuel Phineas Upham

All sushi can trace its roots back to Southeast Asia, where the practice of pickling fish became popular. The mountain people of the region would pack their fish with rice to preserve it. The rice would produce lactic acid as it fermented, which stopped the fish from spoiling. Only the fish was eaten, so the rice would be discarded.

The people of Edo, who were not known for their patience, found this practice to be rather wasteful. They enjoyed the fruits of their labor, but wasted too much rice in the production process. It took them into the 17th century to figure out an alternative method to prepare sushi.

Thanks to doctor Matsumoto Yoshiichi, the people of Edo learned that they could add vinegar to their rice to achieve the same taste. This cut down on the prep time, and eliminated some of the need to wait, but sushi was still a far cry from the “all you can eat” bars of today.

Sashimi came into being during the nineteenth century. A man named Hanaya Yohei managed to create the fresh seafood concoction with a finger-sized fish filet atop rice and vinegar. He took the practice to Edo, where he opened a food stall and became an almost instant success.

Sushi quickly grew into an industry in Edo, with men carrying boxes of it on their backs for delivery. Hundreds of sushi stalls began to pop up around the city, using bamboo mats to cover their stock of food. The sushi itself was packed into rice, just like the olden days.

About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Samuel Phineas Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Samuel Phineas Upham on his Twitter page.

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