The Word Works

Consuming Japan


Why is Egg Souffle an Ingredient in Sushi?

Published By: John on 10/06/06
Categories: Hit Products

image No, it’s not a piece of yellow styrofoam. It’s tamagoyaki(sweetened egg souffle) about to be sliced into strips and used, like fish or shellfish, as an ingredient in sushi. But why? And where did it come from?

“It isn’t fish or shellfish. How come it’s used in sushi?” That’s the question her kindergartner son put to a Chiba housewife, who then posed it to the author of Monjiro, a Q&A column that appeared in the October 6, 2006, morning edition of the Asahi shimbun.

Kids love the sweet taste, so was it created for kids? The answer is no. The history of tamagoyaki goes back at least to the Edo period, appearing in collections of popular customs from the early 19th century. On Sushi shop signboards from this period, tamagoyaki appears at the top of their lists of sushi ingredients. Sushi itself appears before the advent of modern refrigeration and was made of salted or pickled seafood. At this stage in sushi’s history, eggs were still a relatively rare and expensive ingredient, sometimes cooked into thin omelets used to wrap the vinegared rice from which sushi takes its name. We don’t know who first had the idea of using tamagoyakistrips as toppings or exactly why it became so popular. The sweetness may have been a nice change from the salty or sour taste of other ingredients, making tamagoyakia good way to cleanse the palette between other courses. Another hypothesis notes how the eggs’ bright yellow color contrasts with the red, gleaming white or almost-black green of other popular sushi ingredients. Which is right? Who knows?


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