Originally developed as a form of pickling in order to keep fish and vegetables from going bad by packing them in soured fermenting rice, Sushi has come a long way from its meager beginnings in ancient Japan. It has undergone many changes over time, shaping it into the wholesome, tasty treat we know and love today.
Vinegar was not added to sushi until the Muromachi period (A.D. 1336-1573). It was found to boost the flavor considerably and shorten the fermentation process.
Pressing of sushi rice and other ingredients in bamboo mats began much later still as processes and methods changed and it became more of a quick consumption food than a long drawn out fermentation one.
Today's sushi usually consists of sushi rice, fresh fish and seafood ingredients, various assorted vegetables complimented with garnishes and condiments such as pickled ginger and wasabi (a hot horseradish based paste). Tuna, White Fish, Roe, Crab, Eel and Conch are commonly used seafood in sushi. Vegetables include tofu (soybean curd), cucumbers, carrots and many others.
Traditional sushi has also been applauded as a wonderful way to stay healthy due to it being naturally high in vitamins and minerals, carbohydrates, protein and generally low in fat. Tofu consists of soybean curd, a healthy alternative to meat that when consumed regularly could help lower bad cholesterol, strengthen bone among other things and is a great source of vitamin E and calcium. Seaweed is rich in B-vitamin foliate, iron, calcium and magnesium.
Making a name for oneself as a true sushi chef can take upwards of ten years of hard study and hands on sushi training in order to prepare and present it properly. Proper sushi preparation and presentation is a true art form.