In the last sixty years, since the end of the Second World War, one Japanese dish has gone from a low-end food of the every-man to one of the top cuisines in the world. Sushi is now served in nearly 4,000 restaurants throughout the United States, generating $2 billion in annual revenue and employing over 20,000 people, according to Statistics Brain. To say that sushi is popular in the States would clearly be an understatement.
Sushi could climb to even greater heights in the U.S., that is once people start to realize what sushi is. Consider, when you ask people if they like sushi, one of the most common responses is “No, I don’t like raw fish.” However, as They Call Me an Egg, a blog dedicated to Japanese culture, suggests, this response shows a clear misunderstanding of what makes sushi sushi. Sushi is defined by the semi-sweet, semi-sour rice called sushi-meshi, or sushi rice in English. Subsequently, sushi can be enjoyed by anyone, vegetarian or pescatarian. Don’t believe me? Here are four of the most popular types of sushi that have no trace of fish.
One of the best types of vegetarian sushi served at top sushi restaurants is tamago nigirizushi. Tamago means “egg,” and nigirzushi means “hand-pressed sushi,” according to About.com. Tamago nigirizushi is made by cooking a sweet, savory egg omelette, cutting it into strips, and placing those strips on top of rice, securing the two together with a belt made of seaweed. It’s a simple type of sushi, but as the best sushi restaurants in the world know, simple is good.
This type of sushi, sold only in top sushi restaurants, combines quintessential Japanese ingredients to offer an authentic dining experience. Natto, according to the Japanese food blog Just Hungry, is steamed soy beans that have been left to ferment atop rice straw with the addition of a bacteria. What’s left is a strongly scented, powerfully flavored food that is considered to be a health-food. Wrapped in sushi rice, toasted seaweed, and accompanied by a bit of pickled kelp, natto maki makes for a tasty, if strange, type of fish-free sushi.
It’s the unique restaurant, indeed, that serves kinpira maki stateside, but if you can find it, you’ll likely have stumbled upon one of the top sushi restaurants in the country. Kinpira is a a slow-simmered dish of burdock, carrot, and chili pepper. It’s a savory, slightly spicy dish that goes especially well with sushi rice.
Thanks to its unusual sweetness, inarizushi is often considered to be one of the stranger types of fish-free sushi sold at top sushi restaurants. Inari means fried tofu and is often considered to be the favorite food of mischievous foxes in Japanese folklore. Inarizushi is a savory mixture of vegetable rice stuffed inside of a skin of fried tofu. The tofu is quite sweet, playing extremely well with the unique type of sushi rice within.
If you’ve spent your life being afraid of sushi, now you know that you don’t have to be scared of one of the world’s favorite foods. Next time you’re at the top sushi restaurants near you, be sure to ask about these fish-free options for a delicious meal you won’t forget. Research more here.