We all know how delicious sushi is. Especially if you’ve visited our sushi restaurant on 8th Street in Washington D.C., you know about our amazing roll selection. People know if they’re wasabi or pickled ginger types (or both), they know whether they dip their sushi into soy sauce or if they take more of a purist route. There’s so much we know about sushi, but how often do we stop and consider its history?

Sushi Hachi is here to give some insight into the mysterious origins of sushi. A culinary delicacy with a rich history, we recommend you learn about sushi whilst simultaneously dining at our sushi restaurant. That way you can really get in touch with sushi’s historic roots, of course. We’re happy to save you a table while you do so — make a reservation or call our restaurant today!

The Legend

Legend has it that in ancient Japanese times, there once was an elderly woman who was afraid that thieves would steal her rice. To prevent this from happening, she began to hide pots of rice in osprey nests so no one could find them. As she eventually got hungry, she would go around and start collecting her rice pots.

But as she was gathering these pots, she noticed that scraps of fish from the osprey’s meal was mixed into the rice. Plus, the rice had begun to ferment with time — and it was actually pretty tasty. This new mixture wasn’t just scrumptious, however; the fermented rice was also a way to keep the fish from going bad.

The History

Folklore is always fun, but the written history of sushi can be traced back to the 4th century in China. A dictionary from that era “mentions salted fish being placed in cooked rice, causing it to undergo a fermentation process,” as PBS explains. In Southeast Asia, the practice of using fermented rice to help preserve fish also has been recorded as taking place at least several centuries ago. There’s a chance that the process of fermenting rice was happening even before then, there just hasn’t been any earlier documentation.

Did You Know? When rice starts to ferment, lactic acid bacilli are produced. This acid, when combined with salt, creates a reaction that slows the growth of bacteria in fish.

The Spread

Religion has always had a curious way of bringing about new foods to different regions, and sushi is no exception. Researchers believe that sushi was brought to Japan in the ninth century, likely in part to the growing spread and popularity of Buddhism. While other regions in Asia are credited with fermenting rice, Japan is thought to be the first place to make sushi as its own dish.

There’s even more to say about the history of sushi and how it became popular in the US, but that’s a story for another time. In the meantime, you can enjoy this traditional dish by visiting our sushi restaurant on 8th Street! Check out our menu and stop on by — we look forward to hearing from you!