Sushi accompaniments such as wasabi and pickled ginger, or gari, are essential to bolster the great taste of sushi, but they also play an important role in making raw fish safe to eat and preventing food poisoning. These effects have only recently been scientifically explained, but they’ve been part of received sushi wisdom in Japan for centuries. Take a look at the key condiments and accompaniments to sushi below.
Sushi/Rice Vinegar: Sushi Protection
Has powerful sterilizing and anti-bacterial effects, making it an indispensible condiment for the safe consumption of sushi. Rice vinegar or Sushi vinegar (sushisu), is also used as tezu, literally ‘hand vinegar’, to moisten the hands when rolling sushi, keeping the hands clean and hygienic, and preventing the rice from sticking.
Wasabi: Making Raw Fish Safe
Contains allyl isothiocyanate, which prevents the germination of bacteria, helping to prolong the freshness of fish. The strong taste and smell of wasabi also stimulates the appetite and aids the digestion of food. Further, it is an effective deodoriser, neutralising raw fish odours and replacing them with a fresh smell.
Soy Sauce: Flavour, Aroma, Power
The delicious aroma of naturally brewed Japanese soy sauce whets the appetite, and its deep, complex flavour can be enjoyed in a huge variety of ways. On top of that, it helps sterilize against bacteria which can cause food poisoning. Soy sauce is used for dipping sushi and sashimi, and also as a marinade in certain preparations.
Gari: Deliciously Healthy
The strong sterilizing properties of ginger prevent food poisoning and boost the immune system. It is made by pickling finely cut ginger in sweet vinegar, and the distinctive pale pink colour is a natural result of this process. Gari also helps eradicate odours from fish and is a highly effective palate cleanser.
Green Tea: Full of Vitamins
The anti-bacterial power of catechin, contained in green tea, curbs the multiplication of bacteria. It freshens the mouth and removes fishy smells. In sushi restaurants, powdered green tea is often served, rather than leaf tea. The tea is drunk throughout, to keep the mouth cleansed after each course.
Bamboo Leaf: Used for Storing
Contains anti-bacterial salicylates which help prevent the deterioration of sushi toppings, and is often used in takeaway and boxed sushi. It also has a decorative function, and can be used either underneath the sushi or as partitioning. Many chefs can create quite stunning creations from these simple leaves.