This afternoon, while nibbling on my sushi, a question suddenly arose in my head; what is this black wrapping around the rice and filling? It tastes very different from other foods I have tasted till now.
I am quite new to sushi, but recently I have been eating sushi quite a number of times and have developed this curiosity about knowing what is traditionally wrapped around sushi.
What is sushi traditionally wrapped in? Sushi is traditionally wrapped in a briny-tasting seaweed sheet made from laver, which is also known as nori. They are usually black or dark green in color.
If you are curious about the traditional sushi wrap, keep reading and you will learn more about how it is made, why it is used, and whether there are any alternatives to the traditional sushi wrap.
How Did Traditional Sushi Wrapping Begin?
In Korea, Kim refers to edible seaweed, and the production of it in the provinces of Gyeongsang and Jeolla was documented in books dating back to the 15th century, such as Gyeongsang-do Jiriji and Sinjeung Dongguk Yeoji Seungnam.
However, since the Joseon era (1392–1897), citizens have been wrapping cooked rice in Kim, known as Bokssam.
The name kimbap first appeared in a 1935 Korean newspaper article, but norimaki was also used interchangeably. So, it looks like two countries that are close to each other and have similar terrains came up with the dishes on their own.
People in Japan have been fermenting fish in rice for more than a century. Then they started eating the fish with rice in a more sophisticated way.
However, it’s been proven that Koreans have been wrapping rice in seaweed and giving it a name long before the Japanese did.
Around the same time, both began rolling fillings in rice and seaweed, and they most likely learned about each other through trade and business.
However, the roots of both kimbap and norimaki became unclear and buried in enmity caused by the two countries’ politics.
LEARN MORE: What Is the Black Sauce on Sushi?
Nori as a Traditional Sushi Wrap
Traditionally, the black, thin sheet that we see as a wrap around the rice and filling of sushi is a sheet of seaweed, also known as Nori or Kim in Korea.
Nori is made from a type of seaweed called laver. Laver is a type of algae. It grows in the cold waters of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. It is dark green or black in color and has a paper-like texture.
Nori sheets are harvested by diving into the ocean and cutting off large pieces of algae from rocks or kelp beds. The seaweed is then washed, and dried in the sun, or air-dried.
The flavor of nori is salty and a little bit briny, similar to the ocean. It has a slightly nutty taste and is often described as tasting like seaweed.
Some nori sheets are roasted before they are sold. Roasting nori gives it a toasty flavor and a slightly crisp texture. It also makes the seaweed more pliable, so it is easier to wrap around sushi without breaking.
Nori that has not been roasted will have a milder flavor and a softer texture. It is still edible, but some people prefer the roasted variety.
LEARN MORE: What Is Hokkigai Sushi?
Why Is Nori Used as a Traditional Sushi Wrap?
Nori is used as a traditional sushi wrap for the following reasons:
- It has a very distinct flavor and adds something special to the sushi. The flavor of nori is salty and slightly briny, which goes well with the rice and fish in sushi.
- Nori also has a slightly nutty taste that pairs well with the other ingredients in sushi.
- Nori is very thin and pliable, so it can be wrapped tightly around the rice and fillings without breaking.
- The main reason why nori is used to wrap sushi is that it has a flavor that pairs well with rice and fish. It also has a slightly salty taste that complements the other flavors in sushi.
- Nori also has a number of health benefits. It is a good source of vitamins and minerals, such as iodine, iron, and calcium.
- Nori is also low in calories and fat.
Overall, nori is a healthy and delicious option for wrapping sushi.
LEARN MORE: What Is Shinko Sushi?
Does Every Type of Sushi Use Nori as Its Traditional Wrap?
There are many different types of sushi, and each type has its own traditional method of making. For example, maki sushi is traditionally wrapped in nori, while other types of sushi are usually not wrapped in anything, but served in different ways.
Maki sushi, or the usual sushi roll that we are all familiar with, is the one that uses something to wrap the rice and filling, traditionally Nori sheets, or seaweed sheets.
Alternatives to Nori Sheets
Although nori is the traditional and most popular wrap for sushi, there are a number of other options that can be used. They are:
- Soy Paper: Soy paper is made from soybeans and is similar in texture to nori. It is slightly thinner than nori and has a milder flavor.
- Rice paper: It is made from rice flour and tapioca starch. It is thin and pliable, similar to nori. Rice paper does not have much flavor on its own, but it absorbs the flavors of the other ingredients in sushi.
- Cucumber slices: They can also be used as a wrap for sushi. Cucumbers are thin and have a mild flavor that goes well with most types of sushi fillings.
- Lettuce Leaves: Some people also like to use lettuce leaves as a wrap for their sushi. Lettuce is crunchy and has a slightly bitter taste that can offset the sweetness of some sushi fillings.
- Paper-thin Omelet: It is a popular wrap for sushi in Japan. The omelet is made by beating an egg and cooking it until it forms a thin sheet. It is then wrapped around the sushi filling.
- Another option is to use dried bonito shavings as a sushi wrap. Bonito is a type of fish that is dried and shaved into thin flakes. The flakes have a smoky, salty flavor that goes well with most sushi fillings.
The options for wrapping sushi are endless, and people can get creative with their combinations. But, for the most part, sushi is traditionally wrapped in nori sheets.
Why Do Some People Wrap Their Sushi in Other Items?
For some people, they choose to use different items as a wrap for their sushi for the following reasons:
- They have allergies to Nori.
- They dislike the taste of nori.
- The alternatives do not have a seaweed taste.
- They are easier to find than nori sheets.
- They are cheaper than nori sheets.
LEARN MORE: What Is the Orange Sauce on Sushi?
Conclusion: What Is Sushi Traditionally Wrapped in?
After some research, I was able to find the answer to the question: what is sushi traditionally wrapped in? and found out that it is Nori sheets, or seaweed sheets, that are used to wrap sushi.
There may be many alternatives, but nori is the oldest and most common wrap for sushi.