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The real secret to sushi isn't fish

One ingredient has been a staple in sushi for over a thousand years — and without it sushi would probably be called sashimi.

Sushi began as a fish preservation method in southeast Asia. In China along the Mekong River, fish would swim into rice paddies during the monsoon season. After they amassed a great number of fish, farmers needed a way to store them for an extended time. They began pickling the fish by salting it, packing it under weights (to help with the fermentation process) with cooked rice, and sealing the fish in a barrel. After some time, the fish would be eaten and the rice thrown away.

It wasn’t until this preservation method made its way to Japan, during the eighth century, that the rice would be eaten with the fish. In the 1960s, Sushi landed in America via the sushi bar Kawafuku in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo. Since then, sushi has been shaped and rolled with copious amounts of food from all over the world, but rice has always been integral.

Watch the video to learn more about how sushi’s practical beginnings helped make the food's mark in cuisine around the world.