The Japanese diet has been long studied for its health benefits and relevance to the long life expectancy of their people. Their diet mainly consists of simple staples such as rice, soy, fermented or pickled vegetables and fish. Compared to other Asian countries, the Japanese eat a lot of fish as they are surrounded by the ocean.
Why our fascination with Japan you ask? Simple. Sushi.
The origins of sushi is believed to have sprung from a need to keep meat fresh. They would wrap the fish in rice to preserve its freshness and they later started adding vinegar to rice to speed up the fermentation process. In the 1900’s, Tokyo food stalls started the much talked about nigiri style sushi by placing fish over rice balls. It didn’t take long after that for the love of sushi to take off.
Knowing your basics
There are so many types of rolls, condiments and fillings you may see depending on which restaurant you dine at. Let’s narrow it down to the three basics.
Up first, nigiri. This is usually sushi with a fish topping served on top of rice. Not all nigiri is raw fish, and this is a great starter for those that are new to sushi because of toppings like cooked prawns, crab and egg.
Next is sashimi. For those that appreciate good quality raw fish, this is the go to. Fish or shellfish served by itself with wasabi and gari (pickled ginger).
Maki. When people talk about sushi rolls, this is it. These rolls are made of rice and mixed vegetable fillings wrapped in seaweed. Uramaki is similar but a reversed maki roll with rice on the outside and seaweed wrap around the filling.
Sushi vs Health
Let’s be real. Carbs are not the devil some think it to be. Sushi is actually a great source of carbohydrates with close to zero unnecessary fats. Overall, well prepared sushi and incorporating a sushi-heavy diet lowers the risk of heart diseases, strokes, ensures hormonal balance, and even reduces risk of cancer. Let’s look at the components separately.
The fish used in traditional sushi is very rich in protein and contribute positively to our calorie intake. It helps to boost metabolism which helps the body’s ability to function regularly without feeling lethargic. The most sought after benefit is the omega-3 fatty acids which contribute to the rich taste and good cholesterol needed to maintain a healthy heart.
The two main accompaniments of ginger and wasabi contain multivitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help to maintain a healthy digestive system and stabilize blood pressure. The green and brown algae seaweed used often in nigiri and maki are an excellent source of iodine and calcium.
Where to go in Male’?
With the re-opening of Oishii in Hulhumale’, many are crossing the bridge to try their specialty Japanese cuisine for lunch and dinner. Led by the experienced Chef Fatheen who made a feature appearance on the very first issue of Taste last year, Oishii has gained a strong reputation over a short period of time. With a love for Japanese cooking, Fatheen and his Sous Chef Shifu has created a menu that is authentically Japanese with just the right amount of fusion dishes in the mix. From sushi and sashimi platters, to complex yet delicious mains and dessert favourites flavoured in classic ingredients such as matcha and miso, this is an experience worth trying out more than once. Head over to our website to see our favourite picks from the menu.
Words by Aminath Ishrath
Photos by Oishii