Sushi - Edomae style

by Kaori - Japan Local Guide

Sushi is now widely kown all over the world.


And the standard  form of Sushi is 'Nigiri-zushi,' which originated from  Edomae sushi(Edo= ancient Tokyo, mae= front).  

For my future customer :) I would like to tell you a secret of Edomae sushi.


Sushi - Edomae style

The birth of Edomae-sushi date back to early 19th century, the middle of Edo period. Until then, western-style suhi, Chirashi zushi in box or framented sushi as a preserved food were the strandards of sushi.


By using fresh sea food caught in Tokyo Bay, people in Edo had started selling small sized sushi with fresh seafood on the street.  As people in Edo were often reffered to as 'inpatient' or 'short-tempered,'  they loved this  portable, and easy to eat food.  Edomae sushi now become a world standard, but there is something missing, if compared with the original style of Edomae-sushi until the beggining of 21st century. 

Sushi - Edomae style

 Sushi - Edomae styleSushi - Edomae style

seafood often used for  Edomae sushi


If you enter a sushi restaurant, where sushi chef is making sushi in traditional Edo style, you will find that the color of rice is brown.  You may think inside your head  'Oh my god, I chose wrong restaurant. They use dodzy, old rice...' 


But it is not. I myself did not know this until recent years.   Traditionally, people in Edo used 'red vinegar'for Edo mae style Sushi. 

Shari- this is how we call sushi rice, is usually fravored by white vinegar, sugar and salt. The white vinegar is made of rice or other grains. On the other hand,  red vingear is made of sake lees. In the process, they mature the liquid squeezed from sake lees by taking long time. As they matured, the color turned dark red- to almost black like soy sauce. 


When they mixed it with rice, it has richer,  milder flavor compared with white vinegar. 

Sushi - Edomae style

Sushi - Edomae style

When I tried sushi with red vinegar for the first time, I felt something missing and even thought the taste was boring. It is because my tongue got used to sushi rice fravored by sharp white vinegar and lots of sugar.


However, after I left the restaurant I could not stop remembering that mild, subtle, but rich flavor again and again. When I tried normal sushi after several days, I was dissapointed with that.


As red vinegar itself has richer Umami ingredients in it, they do not need to put much sugar or salt when mixed with rice. Therefore, it enphasize the taste of fish and the Umami flavor stays long in your mouth. This was  interesting exprience in my life, my brain was confused and saying completely oppostie thing at the same time.

'No this is not what I expect from sushi rice'   and ' I want to try that taste again, I think it was most delicious'  

Sushi - Edomae style

Then my question is, why I never had have an opportunity to try this red vinegar rice over 30 yerars in Tokyo. This is because,  red vinegar production was lost once in early 21st century


Around the World War Two, the alchool was very precious and there was a period  when sake production was prohibited. Correspondanty,  the skill and production of red vinegar using sake lee was castaway for a while.  Nobody tried to revive it, until a large vinegar company in Aichi prefecture encouraged the revival of tradition. The distribution of red vingar is still limited now,  so I never seen it in the supermarket.


Yesterday, I had an opportunity to try Edo mae sushi with red vinegar for the second time. And I confirmed that red-sushi is trully delicious.  If you are sushi-lover, and travelling over to Japan, please use this opportunity to try authentic Edomae-suhi, and judge for yourself.


Please join my tour if you are interested in my blog and would like to know more cultural secrets. →


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24 Jul 2019


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