From Japan to Portugal
Sushi is everywhere today. It’s popularity and accessibility has exploded around the world from London to Lagos.
Sushi can now be eaten on any budget, anywhere.
Sushi restaurants have sprouted up and proliferated worldwide as a result of restauranteurs seeking higher margins and clientele seeking something more exotic.
While in Japan, eating sushi is still considered a luxury.
It’s a common misconception that the Japanese eat sushi everyday. In fact, it continues to be mostly reserved for special occasions and celebrations.
Another interesting fact is that salmon was not eaten as part of sushi in Japan until 1995 after it was introduced under Project Japan by the Norwegians looking to secure a market for their salmon.
The reason was that Pacific salmon was considered too dangerous to eat raw, due to the potential for parasites. Initially it took some years to catch on, but today salmon is one of the most commonly eaten fish, alongside tuna and sea bream, in Japanese sushi.
The most recent international sushi craze is Japanese-Peruvian
As Peru’s ceviche, raw fish cured in citrus juice, is a natural complement to Japanese sushi.
But there is another major sushi scene that started long before sushi became fashionable in the cities of London, New York and on the beaches of Mykonos and Ibiza.
Meet Brazilian Sushi.
Brazil has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan, thanks to a 1907 agreement that sent Japanese workers there looking for job opportunities.
Japanese influence in Brazilian culture is well known abroad in Jiu Jitsu and the use of sake, sakerinha, in Brazil’s national cocktail the caipirinha.
The cultural exchange between Brazil and Japan has given rise to the most creative fusion sushi yet.
Close links between Portugal and Brazil (as well as historical links between Portugal and Japan as the first Europeans to arrive in Japan in 1543), make it a natural destination for some of the best sushi fusion.
In Brazil and Portugal, mangoes, strawberries, passion fruit, kiwi and banana are all common ingredients used in maki rolls. Coming to London from Portugal, I was surprised to find only avocado and cucumbers in the makis of most sushi restaurants.
Sushi Factory in Lisbon, Portugal is an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant offering some of the best fusion sushi in the city. And you’ll have to blink twice at the price, it’s around €13 per person for lunch and €18 for dinner.
Confraria in Lisbon and Cascais is another very popular yet pricier option, among many many others. I suggest you try what’s new to you, such as the Hot Philadelphia, a cream cheese and salmon maki roll deep fried in tempura batter.
Don’t forget, it was the Portuguese that introduced tempura to Japan!
In Japan, however, sushi continues to be much more purist.
Instead of exotic fruits and mayonnaise, rice and seaweed is topped or rolled with a greater variety of fish and seafood, such as squid, abalone, sea urchin and sea cucumber.
If you’d like to try a place that combines all three Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisines, head to Sushi Samba in London.