Edomae-zushi (a kind of sushi) (江戸前寿司)

Edomae-zushi (江戸前ずし, also written as 江戸前鮨, 江戸前鮓 or江戸前寿司) is haya-zushi (quick sushi), centered on nigiri-zushi (hand-shaped sushi). 'Sushi,' used throughout the world today, mainly refers to this Edomae-zushi. This sushi was also called 'Edo-zushi' or 'Tokyo-zushi' in the past. Edomae originally meant the sea in front of the Edo castle or the fish there, but later, it referred to the fish and shellfish in the Tokyo bay as well. Furthermore, as in the case of unagi kabayaki (the eel that has been steamed, broiled, and seasoned with a slightly thick, slightly sweet sauce), Edomae also meant Edo-style or Tokyo-style. However, as the term 'Edomae-zushi' became widespread, 'Edomae' was frequently omitted. In the narrow sense, 'Edomae-zushi' means the sushi using the fish and shellfish caught in the Tokyo bay or the one made by using the technique that was popular until the early Meiji period. However, in the broad sense, 'Edomae-zushi' means the whole sushi provided in the sushi shops that mainly serve Edo (Tokyo)-style nigiri-zushi (this article will focus on the 'Edomae-zushi' in the broad sense).

The types of Edomae-zushi

Edomae-zushi is centered on the nigiri-zushi mainly made of hand-shaped cooked vinegared rice topped with raw fish and shellfish, or marinated or cooked ones, including maki-zushi using kanpyo (gourd strip roll), chirashi-zushi (vinergared rice with thin strips of egg, pieces of raw fish, vegetables and crab meat arranged on top), and inro-zushi (cooked vinegared rice packed inside of a cooked squid). Edomae-zushi, rarely made as a home-cooked meal, is basically the work by sushi chefs.

Edomae-nigiri-zushi

It mainly refers to the type made of hand-shaped cooked vinegared rice topped with raw fish and shellfish, marinated spotted shad or mackerel, boiled conger, cooked prawn, or an omelet placed on hand-shaped cooked vinegared rice. In most of sushi of this type, wasabi (Japanese horseradish), shoga (ginger) or oboro (chopped, cooked and pressed fish or shellfish formed into a solid that is flavored and colored; primarily sold as imitation crab) is inserted between a topping and vinegared rice, or is placed on the topping. In the past, kanpyo was used for fixing topping items that were likely to drop, but nowadays, a seaweed cut like a belt is used instead. There is also the type of sushi in which soft and not-easy-to-fix-on-the-rice topping items, such as salmon roe and sea urchin, are placed on the top of a hand-shaped vinegared rice ball wrapped by a sheet of dried laver so that the topping does not drop. This type of sushi is called 'gunkan-maki' (literally, warship roll) and is said to have been invented in 1941 by 'Kyubey' a sushi shop in Ginza.

The term 'nigiri-zushi' is sometimes abbreviated to "Nigiri."

Major topping items of Edomae-nigir-zushi

The topping items of Edomae-nigir-zushi are called 'tane' or 'neta' (reading 'tane' backwards) that is used as the jargon for 'tane.'
Major tane items include the following:

Flatfish, righteye flounder, sea bream, Japanese seaperch, and whitebait

Tuna, bonito, swordfish, and salmon
Striped jack, great amberjack, and yellowtail (and its young fish)

Spotted shad (and its young fish), halfbeak, young sea bream, mackerel, Japanese horse mackerel, and sardine

Ark shell, trough shell, abalone, surf clam, edible cockle, and clam (common orient clam)

Prawn, squilla, and crab

Squid and octopus

Conger and omelet

Salmon roe, and sea urchin

Shiitake mushroom, and green onion

Maki-zushi (sushi roll)

The maki-zushi of Edomae-zushi is ordinarily called 'nori-maki' (vinegared rice rolled in dried laver). Nori-maki ordinarily refers to the thin sushi roll version of kanpyo-maki (pickled gourd roll). The thin sushi roll wrapped by a half-size dried laver was the quintessential nori-maki and called 'teppo' (literally, gun) from its shape. However, nowadays, the term 'teppo' is mostly used for indicating the kanpyo-maki with wasabi. Tamago-maki (vinergared rice rolled up in a thick slice of egg omelet with various ingredients in the center) and date-maki (a rolled omelet mixed with fish paste) were popular in the prewar era, but they are becoming less popular recently.

Major Edomae-nori-maki

Kanpyo-maki: the nori-maki with boiled seasoned kanpyo at the core.
With wasabi added, it is also called 'teppo-maki.'

Tekka-maki: the nori-maki with sliced, scraped, or finely chopped tuna spiced with wasabi placed at the core.

Negitoro-maki: the nori-maki with fatty minced tuna and chopped green onion placed at the core.

Oboro-maki: the nori-maki with prawn (or fish) oboro placed at the core.

Anago-maki: the nori-maki with boiled conger placed at the core.
A combination of cucumber and boiled conger is called 'Anakyu.'

Kappa-maki: the nori-maki with small pieces or strips of cucumber placed at the core.

Shinko-maki: the nori-maki with pieces of pickles, ordinarily, of takuan-zuke (yellow pickled radish), placed at the core.

In addition, futo-maki (or ichimai-maki: thick sushi roll) and temaki-zushi (hand rolled sushi) are also served in many Edomae-zushi shops. Because originality can be easily introduced in maki-zushi, new rolling methods as well as new ingredients are adopted in recent times. However, there are many (Edomae) sushi lovers who frown on such a situation.

Chirashi-zushi

Chirashi-zushi served in today's Edomae-zushi shops features sushi rice with raw items accompanied by the toppings used for nigiri-zushi. Until the prewar era, only cooked items using shiitake mushroom, vinegared lotus root, omelet, and oboro, boiled and seasoned conger, prawn and spotted shad, were adopted.
Chirashi-zushi is sometimes abbreviated to 'chirashi.'

Inro-zushi of squid

In the classification of sushi, the sushi in which a squid or a bamboo shoot is packed with sushi rice is classified as inro-zushi. In the Edomae version, sushi rice mixed with chopped gourd, gari (slices of ginger pickled in sweetened vinegar) and mominori (toasted and crushed dried laver seaweed) is packed into the body of a boiled and seasoned squid, and the packed squid is served topped with the sauce called tsume. Also called 'Ikano inro-zume' (literally, inro-packing of squid).

Sushi rice

Sushi vinegar is made by adding salt to vinegar, or by adding salt and sugar to vinegar. The amount of salt and of sugar to be added depends on each sushi shop, but the amount of vinegar is around 360 ml for around 3.6 liters of rice.

Transfer the firm rice to a hangiri (wooden tub for cooling cooked sushi rice) while still being hot and mix it with sushi vinegar. Stir the rice with miyajima (shamoji [a wooden spoon]) like scooping and cutting it to mix sushi vinegar with the rice evenly. When sushi vinegar is mixed with the rice evenly, supply the wind to the rice with an uchiwa fan to give a luster to the rice. The rice is ready to eat when the temperature drops to body temperature.

Preparing toppings

In recent years, raw ingredients are often used as the toppings. However, because Edomae-zushi was invented in the era when no refrigeration technology was available, there exist various techniques to process materials for the toppings such as sujime (marinating in vinegar) or shoyu-zuke (pickling in soy sauce).

Sujime (marinating in vinegar)

Sujime is a relatively old cooking method. Ingredients, salted, are immersed (or dipped) in vinegar. In addition to spotted shad, sillago, young sea bream, and mackerel, horse mackerel and halfbeak, which are used without being cooked nowadays, were ordinarily marinated in vinegar. Seashells and whitefish can be marinated in vinegar as well. The ingredients that became sour because of being immersed in vinegar for a long time are often coated with oboro.

Shoyu-zuke (pickling in soy sauce)

Ingredients are immersed (or dipped) in soy sauce-based seasoning liquid for a while.
Red flesh in tuna that was marinated in soy sauce is called 'zuke.'
Marinating in soy sauce includes the immersion of the red flesh in soy sauce-based seasoning liquid for a long time for rich texture, the immersion of sliced red flesh in it for a short time, the immersion of yushimo-processed red flesh (making the surface marbled, for example, by pouring hot water over it) in it. In the past, whitefishes were often marinated in soy sauce.

Nimono (food boiled and seasoned)

When serving processed conger or clam, it is stewed before being coated with the boiled down sauce called 'tsume.'
The topping called 'steamed abalone' is actually close to nimono. In the past, squid and whitebait were stewed as well, but recently, this process has almost disappeared.

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Octopus, prawn, and squilla are boiled. Squilla, in many cases, is boiled in the place of origin before purchased. It is not rare that boiled ingredients are put through more complicated processes such as being marinated in seasoned vinegar or being cooked in broth.

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Salt is added to prawn and fish paste. Beaten egg is added little by little. Finally, sugar is added and the processed paste is heated on low heat. Depending on the extent of thickness, it is called 'atsuyaki' (thick tamagoyaki) or 'usuyaki' (thin tamagoyaki). Dejiru-maki' in which dejiru (soup stock) is used instead of the paste is also often made. Using paste is the quintessential process for Edomae-zushi, while dejiru-maki is rather a process for Japanese dishes. Because tamagoyaki at Edomae-zushi shops is, in general, sweet, many people eat it at the end of meal as though it were a dessert.

How to make nigiri-zushi

Hold a tane (sushi topping) on the palm of the left hand, take a suitable amount of sushi rice with the right hand, develop it into the desired shape (called sharidama [rice ball]), take wasabi on the index finger, paste it on the tane, and place the sharidama on the pasted tane. After making a cavity at the center of the sharidama with the left thumb or the right index finger, turn it over (called tekaeshi technique) several times so that the rice surrounding cavity will fill it. The tekaeshi techniques include hon-tegaeshi technique, tate-kaeshi technique and kote-gaeshi technique. However, nowadays, few sushi chefs use the hon-tegaeshi technique, which was recognized as the basic in the past. The finished shapes of sharidama include tawara-gata (barrel shape), hako-gata (box shape), funa-gata (boat shape), jigami-gata (fan shape) and most sushi chefs adopt funa-gata today. Making nigiri-zushi is called 'tsukeru' (pickling) and the cooking place is called 'tsuke-ba' (pickling place). This expression derives from the fact that sushi was originally pickled fish, and shaping sushi by hand is regarded as important as 'tsukeru' in making sushi. An instantaneous feeling of oneness generated between a sharidama and a topping by pressing them by hand in an appropriate force is the highlight of Edomae-nigiri-zushi, and finding the delicate oneness feeling is the sushi chefs' chance to show their skill.

Recently, sharidama forming devices are becoming popular particularly in conveyor belt sushi shops. When vinegared rice is put into the device, sharidama are automatically formed. After tane is simply put on the sharidama, a nigiri-zushi is complete and served. This type of sushi is different from the quintessential nigiri-zushi that are made on the feeling of oneness generated between a sharidama and a topping by pressing them by hand.

How to make nori-maki

It is important to make nori-maki just before it is eaten. Roast laver to bring out the flavor as well as to make it crispy and roll up it and rice together quickly. When making a Kansai style sushi roll, the laver, not roasted, is rolled up firmly because letting it stand for a while before it is consumed is normal.

Place a half sheet of roasted laver on a makisu (sushi mat) so that the near side of the laver is aligned and put an appropriate amount of sushi rice on it properly. After spreading the rice on the laver from the left center to the right center, spread it up and down with 1 cm margin left on both sides. Place spices and ingredients in the center and roll up the makisu from the near side. Shape it cylindrically when a kanpyo roll is made and squarely when a tekka roll (tuna sushi roll) is made. Cut the roll into four pieces when a kanpyo roll is served and six pieces when a tekka roll is served.

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There are words and phrases unique to the Edomae-zushi world including the words called 'sushi-kotoba' (sushi words) in ancient times and the jargons used among sushi chefs. Essentially, these jargons should not be used by customers.

Agari: green tea
Originally, the tea served before meal was called 'debana' and that served after meal 'agari.'

Aniki: not fresh tane

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Odori: live tane
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Gari: slices of ginger pickled in sweetened vinegar
Deriving from the feel of the material

Kan: one piece of nigiri-zushi is counted as one kan.
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Gyoku: tamago-yaki (omelet)
Gyoku (玉) is also pronounced as tama, the same pronunciation as the 'tama' of 'tamago' (an egg).

Shari: boiled rice, but referring to sushi rice at sushi shops.
Deriving from busshari (Buddha's ashes)

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Tracing back to stand-up sushi shops ('tachi' means standing-up).

Zuke: tuna pickled in soy sauce

Tsukeba: a cooking place where sushi is made

Tsukedai: rest for putting sushi on the counter
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Tsume: the salty-sweet sauce made by seasoning and boiling down conger broth
Deriving from 'nitsume' (boiling down).

Toro: fatty portion of tuna belly
Deriving from torottosita shitsukan (fatty texture).

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Nikiri: soy sauce evaporated with sake or sweet sake
Used for applying to sushi, or as dipping sauce.

Neta: ingredients used for fillings and toppings
Reading tane backwards.

Murasaki (literary, purple): soy sauce
Deriving from its color

Yama: indicating that there is no more neta. Bamboo grass is sometimes called yama.

The invention of Edomae-zushi

It is said that Edomae-nigiri-zushi was invented by Yohei HANAYA at the 'Yohei-zushi' in Ryogoku, or by Matsugoro SAKAIYA at the 'Matsuno-zushi' in Ataka. The first reference to Edomae-zushi is found in a senryu (humorous poem) in "Yanagidaru" (a collection of senryu) published in 1829: 'Sushi shaped by ninja's magic' (made in 1827).* Ninja's pressing his hands together at eye level before using ninja skills looks like shaping sushi by hand.

"Katei sushino-tsukekata" (How to make sushi at home) written by Seizaburo KOIZUMI, Yohei's great-grandchild gave a description which referred to "Matanu aoba" (Green leaves that do not wait) (hand-copied; Its whereabouts unknown; May be destroyed in an earthquake) written by 文久子, Yohei's grandchild. According to the description, there were some people who made nigiri-zushi in the past, but each piece, packed into a box partitioned with bamboo leaves, was lightly pressed for several hours. Because Yohei hated the pressing, he invented nigiri-haya-zuke (quintessential nigiri-zushi) so that sushi would be served just after it has been made. There are several theories about when Yohei started selling nigiri-hayazuke, but it may be around 1824.

"Kiyoshoran" (an en encyclopedic book on cultures) written in 1830 by Nobuyo KITAMURA pointed out that 'the Matsugasushi, having started operations in Fukagawa rokken bori early in the Bunka era (1804-1817), changed the sushi world completely,' which 'changed completely' can be interpreted in two ways. One interpretation is that sushi shops in Edo, as a result of the invention of nigiri-zushi, completely shifted their attention from the Kansai-area style sushi such as oshi-zushi (lightly-pressed piece of sushi topped with cooked ingredients) to nigiri-zushi. The other one is that the sushi shops started selling sushi at a higher price than before and other ones followed suit, which trend changed the sushi world completely.
The sushi shop was called 'Matsu-zushi' or 'Matsuga-zushi.'
However, these names came from 'Ataka no matsu' and Matsugoro, its owner, and the real name of the shop was 'Isago-zushi.'
The shop reportedly changed its name to 'Matsuno-zushi' later.

Nigiri-zushi established itself by the Bunsei era (1818 - 1831), and 'Yohei-zushi' and 'Matsuno-zushi' became the first shops that played an important role for that. Nigiri-zushi won the Edo people's heart, immediately spreading throughout the Edo City. As represented by the opening of the Edo style sushi shops in Osaka toward the end of Bunsei era and in Nagoya during Tenpo era 1831-1845), nigiri-zushi spread nationwide.

Edomae-zushi from the late Edo period to the early Meiji period

"Morisada Manko" (a kind of encyclopedia of folkways and other affairs in the Edo Period) cited egg omelet, omelet roll, nori-maki using gourd, spotted shad, raw tuna, prawn soboro, whitebait, and conger eel as the types of Edomae-zushi. In this era when neither cooling nor freezing technology was available, tane was marinated in vinegar or soy sauce, or cooked before used as toppings or fillings. Plenty of tuna was caught toward the end of Tenpo era. When a street stall selling sushi named 'Ebisu-zushi' served sushi topping with tuna meat that was parboiled and immersed in soy sauce, the sushi became quite popular and the fish established itself as one of the major tane of Edomae-zushi. However, it is said that tuna was not used in famous sushi shops, because it was positioned as gezakana (a low-grade fish) at that time.

While 'yatai-mise' (stall) selling sushi at a reasonable price became ubiquitous in Edo City, sushi shops called 'uchi-mise' (operating at a fixed place) offered relatively high-priced sushi.
Some senryu made in those days mentioned sumptuous sushi offered by 'Matsuno-zushi' and 'Yohei-zushi.'
While uchi-mise mainly offered takeout sushi or delivered sushi, the ones with a sign 'Gozen' (literally, meal) displayed on the door allowed people to have lunch in zashiki (a Japanese style guest room with tatami flooring) on the premises. Two types of sushi, inexpensive sushi affordable for the general public and expensive one, reflect today's co-existence of two types of sushi shops, belt-using sushi shops and traditional style sushi ones. Under the Tempo Reforms that prohibited luxury, the owners including sushi chefs of more than 200 sushi shops suffered tegusari penalty (confinement to one's residence and restraint in behavior with handcuffs on the wrists).

Edomae-zushi from the late Meiji period to the early Showa period

Because ice makers started operations toward the end of 1890s, sushi shops had easy access to ice and some of them owned electric refrigerators around the end of the Meiji era. Because of the improvement of coastal fishery methods and distribution, handling fresh seafoods became increasingly easier. In Edomae nigiri zushi, the ingredients that had been marinated in vinegar or soy sauce, or cooked were gradually used raw. With a variety of ingredients available, a smaller-size nigiri-zushi became dominant and the shape of nigiri-zushi became similar to that of today's nigiri-zushi.

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Under strict food control in the era immediately after the end of World War II, sushi shops were prohibited from doing business openly due to the enforcement of the Emergency Restaurant Business Measures Ordinance in 1947. In Tokyo, the sushi association members made negotiations with the government and won the right of doing business officially in the form of making ten pieces of nigiri-zushi (or four rolls of maki-zushi) in exchange for 180ml of rice. Because Kamigata (Kyoto and Osaka area) and other areas nationwide followed suit, Edomae-zushi became dominant across the country. When making 10 pieces of nigiri-zushi from 180ml of rice, the size is considerably large, categorized as 'oo-nigiri' (a big-size nigiri-zushi), which size was popular from the Edo to the early Meiji period. A sushi chef who knows the situation of that time said, "We sometimes placed in the front of my shop a bag in which dummy rice was put to avoid prosecution."

During the high-growth period after the war, the street stalls selling sushi disappeared due to hygienic reasons. Sushi, in general, was categorized as a luxury, while there were the sushi shops selling sushi at a reasonable price. On the other hand, 'Mawaru Genroku-zushi', a conveyor belt-using sushi shop, opened in Osaka in 1958, and 'Kyotaru' and 'Kozosushi' started operations as takeout sushi shops offering sushi at a reasonable price. By around the 1980s, conveyor belt-using and takeout sushi shops were successful nationwide, which made sushi accessible to ordinary people once again.

In "How to make sushi at home" written in 1910 by Seizaburo KOIZUMI, a descendant of Yohei HANAYA, the maki-zushi using ham (or cold meat) seasoned with pepper was introduced, which description means that Edomae-zushi (quick sushi) essentially welcomes various ingredients. Sushi created a big boom on the west coast of the United States in the 1970s, and in particular, 'Californian roll' born out of the boom became quite popular and was reimported to Japan. In 'New sushi-dane and sushi' in "Textbook for sushi techniques" published in 1975, as many as 100 new sushi-dane (ingredients), including caviar, porcino, lobster, natto (fermented soybeans), junsai (water shield), and shiitake mushroom, were introduced. Today's sushi shops offer sushi using all types of foodstuffs. On the other hand, the sushi shops using traditional foodstuffs and traditional cooking methods, which are categorized as exclusive ones, are also popular.