Chef Essig's Featured Item of the Week

Sushi at UNC? Dining Services can do it all!


How much do you know about Sushi? The term Sushi implies that a particular dish contains rice or Sushi meshi, also known as shari. Sushi rice is short-grained rice that is perfectly cooked and tossed with a mixture of vinegar, sugar, salt, and sometimes sake. The rice is usually cooled before being served.

Sashimi is the term that refers to dishes or varieties of sushi that contain raw fish, raw seafood, or other raw proteins. Sashimi has its place among coastal cities and countries where fresh seafood can be obtained. Away from coastal areas, you will often see a wide array of Makizushi which is the term for rolled sushi that can contain a variety of ingredients, cooked meats, and sushivegetables.

Most Makizushi are rolled in a wrapper of Nori. Nori is seaweed, traditionally cultivated in the harbors of Japan. Originally, seaweed was gathered from the docks of the bays in Japan, rolled out into sheets, and dried in the sun, in a process similar to making paper. Nori is toasted before being used in food. Today, nori is most commonly farmed, produced, toasted, packaged, and sold in standard-size sheets which come about 7 in by 8 in. Good quality nori is thick, smooth, shiny, black, and has no holes. Nori by itself is an edible snack and is available flavoredwasabi with teriyaki sauce. The flavored variety, however, tends to be of lesser quality and is not suitable for sushi.

Commonly when ordering sushi you will receive a small amount of green paste known as Wasabi. Be cautious as it is very strong. Often it is referred to as Japanese horseradish. It is a very distant relative of the horseradish we are familiar with but has unique differences. Real wasabi is known as wasabi japonica. It is the most flavorful, highly potent and also very expensive. Most of the wasabi that you will find in restaurants today is seiyō wasushisabi or imitation wasabi. Ironically in Japan the horseradish that we are familiar with in the US is known as seiyō wasabi, or Western wasabi.

The origins of sushi can be traced back to 700 AD in China. Once the cultivation of rice was established the crop found many uses one of them being an ingredient used to preserve fish. Fresh fish would be salted, packed in rice, placed in a wood box and covered with stones. The weight of the stones would press out moisture into the rice which caused the rice to ferment and form acids. These acids would act as a preservative for the fisushish. The rice at the end of the process would of course be inedible but the fish was safe to eat.

Sushi as we know it today started in Edo (Tokyo) in the 1820's. Hanaya Yohei is documented to be the first to introduce Edoites to a mixture of vinegared rice and sashimi (fresh sliced raw fish). Bite size morsels of various combinations were prepared and served for customers directly from his sushi stall. Not only did Hanaya introduce raw fish to sushi rice, he began a tradition of serving snack food at its freshest and fastest. His idea won immediate favor over the more time-honored sushi dishes. The portable stall was popular through WWII and was the "Fast Food" predecessor to the sushi bars of today.

Happy Dining!
Executive Chef Aran Essig, CEC, CCA

Chef Aran Essig, CEC, CCA

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