History of Sushi vinegar

The history of Sushi is the history of vinegar

The reason why the red-vinegared Sushi rice was used for the traditional Edomae-Sushi

In Japan, where rice is the most important agricultual product, rice vinegar made from rice has been produced for a long time and has been used as a seasoning. On the other hand, red vinegar made from sake lees was developed and started in the late Edo Era.

Sake lees are created in the Sake brewing process. However, making vinegar was taboo for sake brewers in the past because once acetic acid bacteria got mixed into sake, all the sake became vinegar. In the late Edo Era, Nakano Matazaemon, a sake brewer in Owari of Aichi Prefecture, tried and succeded to make vinegar from sake lees, and the production of the red vinegar was widespread.

Around that time, sushi broke out in Edo, and the red vinegar introduced to Edo became popular as it went well with sushi rice. The red vinegar was mellow, rich, and sweet, and were able to create delicious sushi rice without sugar that was precious at the time. That was one of the reasons why sushi chefs preferred red vinegar. The popular sushi shops which had made sushi with expensive rice vinegar came to use red vinegar one after another, and the red vinegared sushi rice became the standard of the Edomae sushi before long.

Red vinegared sushi rice has become popular worldwide

Red vinegared rice was commonly used in the Edo Era. However, it died out due to “the Yellow moldy rice incident” around 1950. At the time, the imported rice was discolored during transportation by mold and became toxic.

After more than 60 year, its value is being re-evaluated. By adopting red vinegar with the Japanese major sushi chain, the red vinegared sushi rice has been gaining attention. It is now a new boom both in Japan and abroad.

The red vinegar used for red vinegar is characterized by a reddish color as the name suggests. This is because sake lees, as raw materials for vinegar, have been aged for a long time. The protein and starch contained in sake lees are changed into amino acids and sugars, by enzymes derived from rice malt during the aging process. And additionally, the Maillard reaction of amino acids and sugars occurs, and the sake lees becomes red.

Red vinegar is rich in amino acids known as Umami. The red vinegared rice with Umami goes well with oily sushi toppings such as Oh-toro (Extra-fatty bluefin tuna) and Seared salmon, and so the Umami is strongly felt in the mouth.