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The word "sushi" makes most people think of raw fish, but sushi actually refers to the vinegared rice that is topped with lots of different ingredients, not just raw fish. Sushi originated in China as a means to preserve fish with rice. Salted fish and cooked rice were layered and pressed into a container before being stored under stone weight and water, to be fermented without air. Only the fish was consumed; the rice was discarded. It wasn't until the 1800s, after the Chinese and Japanese cultures met, that sushi began to take the form we recognize today. The rice was soured with vinegar and became just as important as the fish and other toppings.

Sushi is now more popular than ever, and with good reason. It's low in fat, seaweed contains many vitamins and minerals, and fatty fish (salmon, mackerel) is a good source of omega fatty acids. Even the rice vinegar and spicy, sinus-clearing wasabi aid in digestion.

With supermarkets now carrying the ingredients and basic tools, making your own sushi at home is pretty easy. With a little practice, you will be cooking perfect sushi rice, hand-shaping sushi nigiri, and rolling beautiful sushi maki in no time. The recipes that follow aren't necessarily traditional, but they are a great way to entertain friends and family with something light, fresh and a little different this summer while sipping some cold sake or a Sapporo beer.

Wasabi warning

Wasabi is hot, so take care how much you dab onto each piece of sushi. Experimenting will tell you how much you can tolerate, and remember that the heat rush, tingling sensation and watering eyes only last for a few seconds. The benefit: a good dose of wasabi will leave you feeling invigorated.

Sushi terms

Nori - sheets of seaweed paper
Temaki - cone-shaped hand rolls
Sushi nigiri - pressed in hand
Sushi maki - rolled sushi
Sashimi - fresh, raw seafood sliced into thin strips and served with a dipping sauce and garnish
Wasabi - Japanese horseradish

Grading soy sauce

Light - saltier and thinner
Dark - aged longer, has a thicker consistency

Recipes featured in this article:

Ryan Skelton is the executive chef at Sobeys.

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