What Is Edomae Sushi? Unveiling the Origins of Nigirizushi!

Update-date: Dec 12 2023
What Is Edomae Sushi? Unveiling the Origins of Nigirizushi!

Sushi has garnered international popularity. Though boasting a rich history spanning approximately 1,200 years, the early iterations of sushi differed significantly from its modern counterpart. This article delves into the evolution of sushi, shedding light on how it transformed into the delectable dish we know today, along with recommendations for some of the finest sushi restaurants in Tokyo.

The History of Edomae Sushi

The History of Edomae Sushi
"Edomae sushi" represents a distinct style of sushi where the rice and topping (seafood sourced from Tokyo Bay) are shaped together.

Although that may just sound like regular sushi today, it wasn’t until the 18th century, back when Tokyo was called “Edo,” that sushi began to take on its contemporary form.

During this time, Edomae sushi was considerably larger than the bite-sized portions we enjoy today. In fact, it was about the size of a fist! Rather than a haute cuisine experience, Edomae sushi served as a form of fast food available at street stalls, catering to the hunger pangs of the common folk.
What Is Edomae Sushi? Unveiling the Origins of Nigirizushi!
So, what types of sushi were enjoyed before the creation of Edomae sushi (also called nigirizushi)?

In fact, the roots of sushi in Japan trace back to a fermented dish that starkly differs from Edomae sushi. Documents from around the 10th century mention “narezushi,” a dish in which salted fish is fermented together with raw rice. It was particularly prevalent in the Kansai region.

While modern nigirizushi features fish atop rice, narezushi utilizes rice to facilitate fermentation, and the rice itself is discarded before consumption. This "narezushi'' has persisted as a regional specialty, as seen in dishes like "funazushi" from Shiga Prefecture, and continues to be savored today.

From "narezushi,” where everything was fermented over time in a wooden box, sushi later evolved into "hakozushi" (beautifully shaped sushi with fish, shrimp, egg rolls, and so on, laid out into a wooden box), "makizushi" (rolled up sushi), and even "bozushi" (sushi made by placing rice and ingredients in a rectangular wooden frame and pressing from the top). Even today, when nigirizushi is eaten nationwide, these types of sushi are still commonly eaten in the Kansai region, especially in Osaka.

The Characteristics of Edomae Sushi

The Characteristics of Edomae Sushi

Today, you can savor nigirizushi no matter where you are in Japan. Yet, despite their similar appearance, the flavors of Edomae sushi and Kansai nigirizushi exhibit subtle distinctions.

The most notable contrast lies in the rice. The rice in Kansai nigirizushi carries a sweeter profile compared to that of Edomae sushi, owing to a higher sugar content. This is because many styles of Kansai sushi, like "bozushi,” are made to be relished after a period of time, perhaps between acts of a play or during an excursion. So, a greater amount of sugar is incorporated to prevent the rice from drying out.

Kansai nigirizushi also features more rice than Edomae sushi, so the rice is made more flavorful to keep the palate engaged.

In Kansai, it’s easy to get your hands on fresh white fish such as sea bream from the swift currents of the Seto Inland Sea. These fish pair well with sweet rice.

If you have the chance to indulge in nigirizushi in both Kansai and Kanto styles, take note of the nuances in the rice!

What Is Edomae Sushi? Unveiling the Origins of Nigirizushi!
If you get the chance to experience authentic Edomae sushi in Tokyo, some recommended Edomae sushi staples to try are anago (saltwater eel), kohada (yellowfin tuna), and zuke maguro (tuna marinated in soy sauce).

While historically, only the red meat of tuna was used due to its quick spoilage, today various tuna cuts, including "toro" (fatty tuna), have become popular choices for Edomae sushi.

Anago, in its prime season from mid-July to early September, is thoroughly boiled before being coated in a sweet soy sauce glaze. The succulent, fatty flesh delicately melts in the mouth. Making this requires considerable time and effort, involving the careful removal of the eel’s natural sliminess, precise cooking to maintain the meat's integrity, and the application of a sauce that takes ages to cook.

Kohada, a bluefish available from December to February, serves as another testament to a chef's expertise. Balancing the right proportions of vinegar and salt for the fish's preparation is a challenging task.

It can be argued that the additional steps taken to prepare the toppings for Edomae sushi showcase the unique qualities of the chef.

Recommended Edomae Sushi Restaurants

Here are some Tokyo restaurants where you can savor Edomae sushi! Both are situated near Nakameguro Station, a chic area favored by the younger crowd, in close proximity to Shibuya and Daikanyama.

Sushi Onikai +1 (Tasuichi) (Nakameguro)

Sushi Onikai +1 (Tasuichi) (Nakameguro)
For those desiring an excellent sushi experience without the formality associated with many traditional establishments, take a look at Sushi Onikai +1 (Tasuichi). The restaurant provides a laid-back, casual ambiance where you can relish original fare that still upholds the traditions of Edomae sushi.

Take, for instance, the [Soy Marinated and Smoked Seasonal Fresh Fish]. This delightful creation involves marinating seasonal fish in soy sauce and smoking it right in front of the guests. The gentle rise of the smoke and its enticing aroma heighten the anticipation for the sushi. The fish's flavor intensifies, delivering a profound taste that lingers in your mouth.

The [Shrimp Tempura with Nori], with its visually stunning presentation, is a dish you shouldn't miss. [Tempura Miyashiro], which has earned a star in a global gourmet guide, is situated on the ground floor of this establishment. Their freshly fried shrimp tempura stars in this dish, delicately enveloped in rice and seaweed.

You can only have these offerings in the [Omakase Course] (11,000 JPY), as this is the only thing on the menu. Comprising 15 pieces of sushi and three small dishes, it showcases thoughtfully chosen seasonal delights.
What Is Edomae Sushi? Unveiling the Origins of Nigirizushi!
From the white-wood counter, you can observe skilled chefs crafting your sushi right before your eyes.

The restaurant boasts an extensive selection of wines and sakes, allowing you to choose the perfect pairing for your sushi.

Sushi Onikai + 1 (Tasuichi)

Open: Part 1: Dinner 18:00-20:00Part 2: Dinner 20:30-22:30
Closed: Irregular
Average price: -
Access: 2 minutes walk from Nakameguro Station
Address: 3F, Plage Meguro, 3-9-5, Kamimeguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo Map
More Details   Reservation   

Sushi Tsukiuda (Nakameguro)

Sushi Tsukiuda (Nakameguro)
The owner, who honed his skills at numerous renowned establishments, meticulously selects ingredients to craft sushi that is not only visually appealing but also allows you to savor the excellence of the ingredients themselves.

The "Chu Toro" (medium-fatty tuna), which uses fresh domestic tuna, offers an irresistible, melt-in-your-mouth flavor.

The Boiled Octopus is meticulously seasoned with salt and soy sauce, not only to preserve its texture but also to enhance the natural flavor of the octopus. The result is a savory dish that isn’t too sweet, creating a perfect complement to sake.

A distinctive offering unique to this restaurant is the Boiled Abalone. The abalone is expertly cut into bite-sized pieces and served with soy sauce that has the essence of kelp and abalone liver boiled into it. Though quickly cooked, the abalone has a surprisingly soft texture and concentrated flavor.
What Is Edomae Sushi? Unveiling the Origins of Nigirizushi!
Upon entering this establishment, guests are invited to remove their shoes. The hallway is adorned with tatami mats, leading to a white wooden counter that exudes a commanding presence. The warmly decorated restaurant also features a private room accommodating up to four people.

Sushi Tsukiuda

Open: [Tuesday - Sunday] Lunch 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm / Dinner Part 1 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm / Dinner Part 2 8:30 pm - 10:30 pm *Dinner reservations are available in two parts.
Closed: Monday
Average price: [Dinner] 25,000 JPY / [Lunch] 15,000 JPY
Access: 10-minute walk from Nakameguro Station on Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line and Tokyu Toyoko Line
Address: 1-11-15, Higashiyama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo Map
More Details   Reservation   
While nigirizushi has become a culinary delight found throughout Japan, its birthplace is Tokyo! When exploring the vibrant city, make sure to relish Edomae sushi, where the artistry of chefs truly shines.
Disclaimer: All information is accurate at time of publication.
Update-date: Dec 12 2023

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