Sushi is one of the world’s most popular foods, and South Africans can also not get enough of this Japanese delicacy. To celebrate World Sushi Day, Food For Mzansi checks in with some locals masters of the craft.
Sushi started as a method of storing and preserving fish for later consumption in South-East Asia. According to Days of the Year, this was known as narezushi, the fish was stored by being wrapped in salted and fermented rice. This preserved the fish for months at a time thanks to the fermentation of the rice.
Originally, however, the rice was tossed, and only the preserved fish was consumed.
Narezushi changed to namanare, which was a consumption method in which partly-raw fish was wrapped in fresh fish, then eaten. Namanare marks the change from a mere preservation method to a new form of cuisine.
In the Edo Period between 1600AD and 1800AD, namanare morphed into sushi as we know it today. At this point, it was unique to Japanese culture, and fish was often wrapped in rice which was mixed with vinegar (to make it sticky), according to Eat-Japan.This form of sushi had many regional variations, and developed into the modern sushi we so enjoy today.
Not all sushi consists of fish, however. We now have variations that consist of cooked meat, as well as deep fried or vegetarian varieties.
Sushi chefs are proud of their craft. Traditionally, becoming an itamea of sushi in Japan requires many years of extensive training. After five years of working under a master itamea, an apprentice sushi chef then given their first important task: preparing the sushi rice. The entire process of becoming a master of sushi-making can take as long as twenty years, so you are almost always guaranteed to have an excellent dining experience.
Lockdown led this itamae to open his own outlet
Chef Henrico Sampson (40), who is based in Paarl in the Western Cape, went from from apprentice teppanyaki chef to opening his own sushi business in the garage of his home.
He spent nearly 20 years in the food industry before opening his business, called Sushi H, during the heat of South Africa’s initial Covid-19 pandemic.
In 2012, he became the apprentice of a master of Japanese cuisine, Kiyomasu Deon Sensei, at the Okamai restaurant on the GlenWood boutique winery in Paarl.
“The way he made food was next level. I have seen many dishes since 1998, but what he made was beautiful. I’d watch him as he deep fried tempura prawns. I would watch how he sliced tuna or beef with so much care and precision, then grill it in his secret sauce,” Sampson said.
Sampson shared his recipe for his seared salmon with Food For Mzansi’s foodies. Try it in honour of World Sushi day.
Sushi is art, too
Maruwaan Christians (30) is the proud founder of Sushi Fundi. Sushi is not just a flavoured rice roll, he believes, but an art form.
“For me it is the construction in making sushi, inspiration is everywhere. Clients will always ask me, ‘why does your sushi taste so different?’,” he said.
“It is 100% fresh and prepared in front of them, watching me construct a plate of sushi for them, they are feeling positive, they are eating with their eyes, they are actually tasting the sushi before they eat it.”
Before being a master of the art of sushi, Christians worked as a trolley-pusher at a supermarket in Cape Town. He worked hard to rise through the ranks to become a grocery packer, then cashier.
He moved over to the store’s deli, and here he was trained on how to make sushi.
In the spirit of World Sushi Day, also try your hand at his delicious Japanes fried rice.