What does texture have to do with the taste of sushi?!

Texture is a tactile sensation that is felt when food is physically stimulated in the mouth. Tactile sensations are felt by pressure receptors in the skin, tongue, and periodontal ligament of the mouth that are deformed.

The role of the pressure receptors in the mouth is to obtain information to determine if food can be digested and nourished. Digestion is made possible by physically destroying the food, making it smaller, and breaking it down with enzymes. Only when the molecules are small enough can they be absorbed by the small intestine and other organs. Chewing in the mouth is the first step in this process. In the process of chewing, the food becomes smaller and smaller, and the texture changes rapidly.

The Japanese are the ethnic group with the most textural language. According to a survey on the number of terms related to texture, Japanese has about 500 words related to texture. In contrast, Chinese has about 150 words, French about 250, and German and English about 100. The Japanese have created a wide variety of foods with different textures by distinguishing and enjoying the differences among these many words used to describe textures.

Texture and taste are not directly related, since they are sensed by different receptors and are carried as information to the brain by different nerves, but the release of taste substances from hard foods is slower, and thus taste is perceived more slowly. On the other hand, the opposite is true for soft food, which tastes more quickly.

Nigiri sushi is made with an emphasis on texture. The act of aging sushi topping is waiting for the texture to soften in terms of physical changes. The purpose of this is for the sushi topping to adhere to the sushi rice. In conjunction, it is waiting for the production of inosinic acid, an umami substance. Shrimp, squid, and other ingredients not only become softer but also change to a gooey state. In this way, there is an aspect that makes it easier to perceive the taste.

Several techniques are used to mix the sushi ingredients and sushi rice in the mouth. We make sure that one or the other does not move first from the mouth to the back of the throat. If the sushi rice remains in the mouth, it is equivalent to eating sashimi, and the synergistic effect of umami cannot be expected. The way to do this would be to slit the sushi topping as much as necessary. The sushi rice and the sushi topping become as if they are one food. Of course, this also serves to improve the texture by cutting off white streaks and small bones.

Even the same portion of the same sushi item can have different textures depending on the sensitivity of the sushi chef. In other words, the taste changes. It is as if one were to choose a 500-word term for the texture, and then cast a spell on the sushi item. It is fun to guess what the sushi chef wanted to express.


We hope this information will be helpful.

Revision date: February 26, 2024

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