Why Is Sushi So Popular?

It’s no secret many of us love eating sushi today.

Sushi seems to be as popular as McDonalds. Sushi shops are literally located all over Melbourne. There is one practically every one or two blocks in the CBD selling takeaway sushi. Japanese restaurants are aplenty too, some serving sushi on huge sharing platters.

Today sushi seems to be just as popular as burgers. Who would've thought? | Weekly Photo Challenge: Juxtaposition. Photo: Mabel Kwong

Today sushi seems to be just as popular as burgers. Who would’ve thought? | Weekly Photo Challenge: Juxtaposition. Photo: Mabel Kwong

Sushi is believed to have originated in Southeast Asia where people mixed fish with rice in order to preserve the seafood. This spread to Japan around the 8th Century; eating fish with rice was popular with the Japanese. From then on, the Japanese experimented and created different types of sushi and this cuisine eventually spread around the world.

What exactly is sushi’s appeal? Why do so many Asians, Westerners and other races like eating sushi all the time?

We can only speculate, and here are some probable reasons why:

1)      Convenient to eat

Sushi is one of those convenient takeaway foods. Pieces of sushi can be easily tucked away in paper bags or disposable plastic cases and easily carried around. Plus, sushi is relatively clean finger-food: sticky rice holds the condiments together, sometimes with the help of seaweed wrapped around. Also, bite-sized pieces of such sushi tend to fit snugly in our mouths.

2)      Fairly healthy food

Rarely will you find a roll or plate of sushi swathed in oil. Steamed rice is sushi’s main ingredient and so a plate of this delicacy tends to be healthier compared with a plate of fried fish and chips, making the former a go-to choice for the health conscious.

However, it is worth noting eating too much of sushi – and anything – can be bad for us. Sushi is often eaten with wasabi and sushi rice is usually seasoned with vinegar, making sushi a highly acidic meal that can upset sensitive stomachs. Studies have also shown seaweed, ever a key ingredient in sushi, contains high levels of iodine that can cause thyroid problems.

3)      Tasty

Bite into sushi and you’re almost guaranteed to experience an explosion of distinctive flavours tickling your palate. Tangy vinegar-tinged rice, sweet mayonnaise, nutty sesame seeds, sweet-and-sour teriyaki sauce are just a few of them bound to hit your tastebuds when you eat sushi – sometimes one at a time, sometimes all at once.

4)      Variety

Sushi comes in astounding assortments. Inari, nigiri and maki are some of the traditional kinds of sushi around. Then there are the “Westernised sushi” handrolls greeting you from behind refrigerated sushi display cases when you walk into sushi shops in Melbourne – teriyaki chicken, California and spicy tuna rolls to name a few.

Gourmet sushi or hybridised, fusion sushi exists on the more expensive end of the dining spectrum. For instance, soft shell crab and dragon roll sushi are often some of the more modern (Westernised) variations of sushi – they’re tricky to find in Melbourne and much pricier and more unusual in taste than your average California roll. Spoilt for sushi choice, oh yes we are.

5)      Exotic food

For many of us who aren’t Japanese, sushi wasn’t a cuisine we grew up eating and is essentially foreign food to us. Eating food from different cultural groups never gets boring. It’s always nice to mix up what we typically eat with something adventurous, teasing our palates with something new.

6)      Status symbol

Sushi doesn’t come cheap, at least in Australia. A sushi handroll or a nigiri costs around $2.50 here. Eating roughly four rolls or pieces usually makes one feel like they had a decent meal, and this tends to drain the wallet about $10. Then there are the sushi trains that I personally think rip you off with their small portions. Funnily enough, there are barely complaints about sushi prices Down Under – Australians are willing to spend on sushi. We must look classy and exotic dining on sushi. It’s a treat. So many days of the week.

Do you like eating sushi and why? What’s your favourite sushi?

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41 thoughts on “Why Is Sushi So Popular?

    • Five years ago I wouldn’t touch sushi with a ten foot pole. But after eating raw salmon sushi more and more, I like sushi! I can’t stand anything spicy though. I’m not as strong as you – one tiny bit of wasabi, I need to drink lots and lots of water 🙂

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  1. I love sushi! I always feel fresh afterwards, not like that greasy feeling that I have after Maccas of KFC.

    One more explanation for why you see so many sushi shops is that sushi is like pizza and coffee in that it has a huge profit margin. KFC may make perhaps 50 cents on a $3.50 snack box (perhaps) but a sushi shop may be making about $3 on a $3.50 sushi roll. Obviously, profit margins go down if really fresh fish is used and to be honest, some sushi is pretty feral because the raw fish is not always fresh. (Incidentally, I find Japanese are critical of Australian sushi for not being fresh and for changing the recipe.)

    The exotic idea is one worth exploring further. It occupies my thoughts just now because I was walking through Coles and wondering to myself why “ethnic” food is so expensive. For example, you can buy a Turkish loaf in Aldi for about $2 but in Coles it is $4. Meanwhile, a tank loaf that is about half the size is $2. This annoys me because I generally eat food defined as ethnic (Turkish bread.) I suspect Coles is using a pricing policy so that ethnic cuisine is positioned as gourmet and high prices while other food is positioned as bogan, low priced and average.

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    • From a business perspective, I think you hit the nail on the head. Rice is relatively cheap if you buy in bulk, and a lot of the time sushi makers/rollers in Australia tend to pack as much rice as possible into a serving of sushi. I’ve heard around that Australian sushi tends to be more “creamier” (more mayo) than sushi in Japan. As for the raw fish not being fresh, there is always the possibility this is so. On a number of occasions, I’ve bought sushi rolls, bit into them and to my horror discover the rice is hard – not overcooked, but probably day-or-two old. But it’s definitely something I will choose over Maccas or KFC, and sushi doesn’t give me reflux easily compared to the other two.

      True that. Turkish bread, and pita bread, are always much more expensive than a regular loaf of bread at Coles or Woolies. I find normal bread here expensive anyway. I tend to go for the half loaves – $3 is just a bit much in my opinion. I would buy the ethnic bread but no one else at home eats it.

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  2. Sushi is okay for me but nothing extraordinary. I used to eat it every once in a while but since i got two years back food poisoning from it (my only so far) I try to avoid sushi with fish fillings. Besides at least here in Finland it is insanely expensive compared to the amount you get.
    I am always amazed how many sushi restaurants appeared in the past decade all around Europe. In some cities these restaurant popped up like mushrooms after a late summer rainy day.

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    • It seems that sushi is quite pricey everywhere. I got food poisoning from sushi recently on New Year’s Eve. I had one soft shell crab sushi and one crispy salmon skin one and didn’t feel too good for the rest of the afternoon. Luckily I was well enough to see the NYE fireworks that night 🙂 Never had sushi since then…yet. It seems that for every street-side cafe you see these days, there is one sushi restaurant in your face. They have definitely become staples in food courts in shopping malls in Australia. So many similarities around the world.

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  3. I love the Aussie sushi more than NZ sushi. In Perth (I am sure other parts of Australia too) you get a decent sized roll of sushi (maybe approximately 3 inches) for around $3.50 (if I remembered correctly). When cut in standard sushi pieces, it is around 3 pieces. Here in NZ, we only get small sushi pieces and a pack of around 8 will sell for around $10. I am not so keen to buy them now that I make my own. That’s a lot more interesting and fun too. 🙂

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    • I have to err with you slightly on tuna and sushi. I’ve had tuna sushi where the mashed tuna tastes incredibly salty and preserved. I tend to prefer my tuna not-so-flavoured, I suppose. x

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      • Oh I’m with you, I prefer them with a fresh, non-preserved taste. To tell you the truth I don’t have that much sushi here in Barcelona because even though I love it, I still haven’t found a place that I think serves it really well (without breaking the bank). Besides, a have a Japanese friend that sometimes makes it for us 🙂

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    • Yes, I completely forgot about that – sushi is a fresh kind of food (if you don’t refrigerate it overnight, that is). I love it when I can taste the freshness of raw salmon in sushi! Not a huge fan of the processed tuna in some sushi hand rolls, though.

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  4. Good questions and thought. I like it because it is healthy, and I love the simple, pure flavors of salmon/tuna/white-fish/scallops…I could go on & on 🙂

    恭喜发财!

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    • Scallop sushi??? I have never tried that but it sounds delicious! I reckon in Asian there is a wider variety of sushi than here in Australia, which I hope to try some day. Happy Lunar New Year to you! 🙂

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        • To be honest, numerous times I have been guilty of peeling off raw salmon off sake nigiris and eating them by themselves sans rice. Like you, I like sashimi. But sometimes eating a plate of it, say ten slices, I don’t feel full at all 🙂

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  5. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Juxtaposition | mariestephensgardening

  6. In America, sushi is sort of cheap compared to what you get. I never eat displayed sushi. It has to be made fresh right in front of me. It tastes better that way. Also, I feel like sushi is a trend. People around here go for sushi like they would for coffee. It brings people closer together, giving them a hobby of sorts.

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    • You certainly have good taste in sushi, Dalton. Personally I think sushi made fresh right in front of me definitely tastes way better than the display ones – a few weeks ago I bought one of them display ones as I was on a rushed lunch and the rice was hard.

      “sushi is a trend”. Interesting way to put it. In recent years healthy eating and detox diets have been popular, so maybe that’s why sushi has become a popular choice of food all over the world these days.

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  7. Love sushi if you go to a sushi shop expensive we go to a couple Asian buffet that have sushi also we shop at a Japanese shop in California still expensive but cheaper than a sushi shop

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  8. I love Sushi too😀 I wanted to try Sushi since long and fortunately one day at a restaurant we got complimentary sushi as it was ladies night😀
    That was the first and the only time I have tried Sushi.
    Reading ur post, I feel like sampling all the varieties that is available there 😊

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