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Raw Goods

I thought I knew a thing or two about sushi until I came across Sushi Encyclopedism. The website (http://homepage3.nifty.com/
maryy/eng/eng.htm) is truly encyclopedic. It includes sushi do's and don'ts (dip the fish, not the rice, in the soy sauce; the rice absorbs too much soy sauce and marks you as an amateur), sushi history, a sushi glossary and links to some of Japan's most revered sushi restaurants. If you're a sushi lover like me, you'll eat it up.

I don't know if the website was translated from Japanese into English or written by a Japanese still mastering the English language, but the text can be a little clunky at times ("It does not exactly known still now when and how sushi came to Japan," begins a section on the origins of sushi). But the website appears to be a labor of (sushi) love and is a gold mine of information.

For example, did you know that the first sushi dish is believed to date back about a thousand years? Known as funa-zushi, it's an elaborately prepared dish made by salting a small carp and letting it ferment for, oh, I don't know, a year or two. Think stinky tofu, but stinkier and fishier. Although it's still served in parts of Japan, you're unlikely to find it on the menu at your local sushi bar next to the dynamite rolls and sake bombs.

I also learned how to ask for real wasabi. Fresh wasabi is called hon-wasabi (true wasabi) and it's far superior to the green powdered stuff. Powdered wasabi contains horseradish, mustard and coloring agents. Unfortunately, true wasabi, a horseradish native to Japan, is rare.

The website offers pithy bits of sushi wisdom like this proverb on pickled ginger, or gari: "If the taste of [the] gari is superb, the restaurant is undoubtedly [a] good one, and vice versa."

Sushi Encyclopedism also includes a "3-D stereoscopic sushi photo gallery." The gallery consists of pairs of identical images. To view them in 3-D you have to master the subtle art of cross-viewing—crossing your eyes so that your left eye looks at the right image and your right eye views the left one. It gave me a headache, but it's worth a try.

It's said that the wise man knows that he truly doesn't know. If that's the case, I'm a friggin' sushi genius.

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From the September 14-20, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.