Sushi and Avocado
I eat a lot of sushi, and it just occurred to me how today almost all the variety that are found in supermarkets or sushi places have avocado in them.
Do Japanese people eat avocado, or is this part of the "california roll" thing? And why is it paired up with salmon, tuna, crab and just about everything.
I know it's good, buttery, versatile and all but can we just not do without it?
Avocado in sushi was the idea of a Japanese chef in Los Angeles about 40 years ago who used it as a replacement for toro because it offered a similar "melty" mouth feel. It was subsequently used in California rolls. It's a Japanese invention, but unique to the U.S.
Avocados and any other non-seafood items like aforementioned spam, etc., are really a rarity in sushi in Japan- except for a few solid standards. Sushi is strongly associated with raw seafood there. I mentioned to a sushi chef at a moderately price sushi place in Japan last year that Americans use avocado in sushi and he was absolutely incredulous and made me repeat it back to him. That said, avocado and raw tuna dishes were kind of popular in Japan during the 90's.
Found this pic of a vegetarian kaiseki "nigiri" course of a ryokan/spa hotel place somewhere in Taiwan
Call it local style fusion if you will, but somewhere in the back, first row, looks kind of like an avocado nigiri to me. The kiwi nigiri is pretty but ahem interesting pairing.
But yes, otherwise uncommon.
If you went to Japan, you'd find everything in sushi from top-quality absolutely-fresh delicate fish, down to hot dogs and spam. There's no law restricting sushi to certain traditions or ingredients, though of course you wouldn't find really weird downscale ingredients used in "fine sushi dining" establishments.
Also to be considered is the way the Japanese absorb elements of other cultures (of course they reject others, and don't change their traditions much, but the pop culture borrows avidly - if you think 'pop' sushi is odd, you should see Japanese pizza).
So, would an upscale sushi resto use avocado? I may be wrong, but I think not. On the other hand, 'pop sushi' will use that and much more.
re: wayne keyser
That's funny, in eleven years of living in the Tokyo metropolitan area and eating hundreds of zushi meals in Japan, I never encountered an avacado (nor cream cheese, spam, etc.).
I guess it's because I hung around with very traditional and conservative Japanese and ate very tradtional foods.