April 16, 2008
by Takuro Yoshida
Sushi comes in a wide variety of forms and can be made with many different ingredients. Even if you know a lot about sushi and enjoy it often, you have probably never eaten temarizushi. Temarizushi are small rice balls wrapped tightly with thinly sliced fish. This petite sushi is a bit hard to find and It is easy to eat, especially for women — even those who are wearing bright lipstick! Let me introduce you to temarizushi.
Generally, sushi costs a lot because the raw fish is expensive and the chef needs highly skilled techniques. If we want to eat perfect sushi, we have to go to some pricey sushi shops or sushi bars and spend a lot of time and money.
Temarizushi, however, is a less demanding kind of sushi. Thanks to its simple recipe, almost anyone can prepare it. You can make temarizushi by hand by pressing rice and fish into a ball-shaped form using a small sheet of plastic wrap. Just unwrap the rice ball when it’s formed to your liking. Comparatively, sabazushi (mackerel) or other sushis are difficult to make and need much time. This is why temarizushi is the “easygoing sushi”.
The ingredients are also different. Sushi is sometimes processed because it is sometimes brought to eat as a picnic lunch under the warm sun. For that reason, the fish used are sometimes processed so as to prevent food poisoning and to look appetizing. For example, salmon is smoked, conger eel is steamed, shrimp is poached and bream is pressed by kombu (this is called kobu-jime). Temarizushi gives us an unusual sushi taste.
Temarizushi is said to have a long history but no one actually seems to know when it was invented. With its easy recipe, temarizushi probably began in family kitchens. Today it can also be found in Japanese restaurants as one of the dishes in the course cuisine. Some cafes in Kyoto offer it for lunch. And recently, it has comes to be popular and started being sold at the famous Isetan Department Store in the JR Kyoto Station complex.
While researching this article, I began to wonder why ― if temarizushi has such a long history ー it is not more famous than sabazushi or other sushis. I decided to ask the chef at the traditional Kyoto restaurant Rokusei (六盛). As the chef explained: “Think about sabazushi. It has been made when festivals or parties were held. But temarizushi is usually made as one of the dishes in course cuisine and it is also made at home. Temarizushi is more homey than sabazushi, so I think temarizushi is remarkable for forigneers.”
Temarizushi may not be well-known, but it is such an interesting sushi! I hope you understand now how different it is from other kinds of sushi. How would you like to try eating this uncommon kind of sushi?