The Original Sushi Was Made With This Unexpected Ingredient

Sushi provides us with salty, savory, and slightly sweet bites of deliciousness that please eaters from vegan to omnivore. These carefully crafted morsels often feature a sticky rice, raw fish or seafood, and seaweed but can be as diverse as SPAM or even chocolatey desserts. Like many foods that have evolved over time, sushi had some different looking beginnings that may surprise readers — namely a food and ingredient called funazushi.

This original ingredient, called funazushi, is described as fish that's cured in salt for two years, dried in the sun for a day, and then fermented in cooked rice for another year (via BBC). While it may sound a little unusual, this process is truly an art form and is passed down from generation to generation, such as in the family of Mariko Kitamura and her husband Atsushi, whose family has been making this dish in a small Japanese town since 1619.

Called narezushithis dish is considered fermented sushi and is a traditional food made with freshwater fish used as snacks, atop rice for meals (think sushi bites), and even in medicinal teas.

Fermentation is key to the process of creating original sushi

Because so few artisan makers are left, funazushi is now considered an artisan food — a luxury often served around the New Year's holidays. The tubs used to manage the fermentation process are the result of centuries worth of cultivated microorganisms that provide this truly authentic flavor. If the tubs were emptied, the microorganisms would die out and no replacement would compare. While easy to appreciate this craftsmanship, the flavor of this dish is an acquired taste.

To Western palettes, the fishy smell is complemented by a surprising taste. As one Reddit user explained, "I have [tasted it] and it's awesome. Tastes a lot like Parmigiano-Reggiano, which you wouldn't expect. It's expensive though, the good ones are ¥10,000($90.68)+ for one whole fish" (via Reddit). Alternatively, another Redditor commented, "Today I ate funazushi! Fermented sushi from Lake Biwa in Japan. Had a cheese and yogurt flavor. Delicious!" (via Reddit).

Like many historically crafted dishes, this food isn't for everyone. If you're interested in trying though, you'll get a rich bite of history along with your delicacy.