Hanaya Yohei

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Hanaya Yohei (華屋 与兵衛 or 花屋 與兵衛; 1799–1858) is generally credited as the inventor of today's Tokyo-style (Edomae-zushi; 江戸前寿司) nigiri sushi (hand-formed sushi) at the end of Japan's Edo period.

Sushi at his time was made from freshly captured fish from the nearby Tokyo Bay. This ruled out many of today's popular materials such as salmon roe (ikura; イクラ). Even though Tokyo is a coastal city, food safety was still a concern before the invention of refrigeration. To prevent spoilage, Hanaya either slightly cooked or marinated the fish in soy sauce or vinegar. It was quite reasonable for people to dislike the fatty belly meat of tuna because it would decompose very quickly. Hanaya marinated the lean red meat in soy sauce. Then he served the sliced fish on vinegared rice balls that are large by today's standard. His sushi was totally different from today's "raw fish" stereotype.

Hanaya's cookery was a departure from Japanese eating habits of the time. In the early years, a chef only made sushi part-time. Then, slowly, inexpensive sushi stands (yatai; やたい; 屋台) emerged. After the government outlawed these questionable food stands, sushi restaurants (ryōtei; りょうてい; 料亭) became mainstream. Today, relatively inexpensive conveyor belt sushi (kaiten-zushi; かいてんずし; 回転寿司) has become popular.

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