Sushi has become quite popular in the past few years as an exotic dish that has found its way into our popular consciousness and a place in our list of takeaway foods. It is a novelty for us, but the Japanese have been enjoying this dish for centuries, and as they often do, refined something simple with their own exquisite sensibility and made it into an aesthetic experience that starts way before you put it in your mouth.
However, you might be surprised to learn that what we have come to know as sushi, isn't really a Japanese traditional dish. It is based in the Japanese cuisine, of course, but the sushi roll that comes to our mind when we say sushi was actually created in America. The roll of seasoned rice wrapped in seaweed and with some ingredients inside, including but not limited to raw fish - sometimes, even with no raw fish at all - are a Western product meant to commercialize this food under an exotic brand. We are not saying that it is not delicious - but if you go to Japan to try sushi where it was born, you will be surprised by what they actually give you instead of a sushi roll.
In fact, the word sushi has nothing to do with raw fish. Sushi refers to the seasoned rice that is served with the rest of the food. The Japanese, as many Far Eastern cultures, eat rice the same way we eat bread, and it is the main dish in many meals. The seasoned rice known as sushi is often combined with sashimi, which is the slices of raw fish that we know. Traditionally, sushi is eaten with your fingers - not chopsticks - and consists of a bun of sushi rice with a slice of sashimi on top.
The two main risks of eating raw fish is bacteria and parasytes. When properly handled, raw fish should not be a major cause for concern, especially about parasytical colonies. Proper and thorough freezing will kill all parasytes found in the fish, and combining raw fresh fish with the right antibiotic natural ingredients, such as the famous and traiditional wasabi, should make it safe enough for anyone to eat.
However, we as consumers cannot control how sushi is prepared. It takes a lot of training to prepare sushi properly, and if the sushiman or sushiwoman makes a mistake, it could be at the expense of our health.
Bacteria found in raw meat can cause food poisoning, wich is very nasty but rarely lethal. Yet, the vomit and diarrhea might last for days and these infections are harder to treat than those from meat such as cow and pork, so there is risk of dehydration, especially among children and the elderly.
Also, parasytes can travel through our bloodstream and find a place in spots like our limbs and even our eyes, and from there, feed on our fluids or cells. These parasytes might also reproduce and live in our digestive system, feeding on the nutrients found in our food, and therefore preventing us from benefitting from them.
Doctors also warn us that sushi and other raw fish dishes like the Peruvian ceviche is a food we should avoid in pregnancy, because the medication that we would need to take in order to get rid of the parasytes and bacteria could harm the foetus and cause miscarriages and/or health problems to the baby.
It is not advisable that you make your own sushi, unless you have been properly trained and perform your task responsibly. Eating poorly made sushi is risky to your health; it will very rarely kill you, but you could end up with some nasty parasytes in your body, or food poisoning that has been reported to last for many days in some cases.
Make sure you don't buy sushi from places that don't seem trustworthy, and stick to those that have good reviews and have sushimen and sushiwomen that have been properly trained. Also, make friends with the wasabi, which is an antibiotic spice that will help kill all the remaining bacteria on your raw fish.
If you're not a fan of spicy food, here is a Japanese hack: Japanese green tea, also known as matcha, is perfect for washing away all the spice from the wasabi. It has chemical components that cancel the effect of wasabi on your tonsils, so next time you can order some green tea with your sushi.
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