If you’re like me, you might have noticed all the massive posters advertising big sushi rolls for the past couple of weeks. If you are curious about the origin and story behind Ehomaki sushi rolls, the meaning of Ehomaki and the right time and place to eat it, then stay tuned to find out the ehomaki sushi rolls tradition for 2022.
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What is Ehomaki sushi roll?
Ehomaki sushi rolls are different from regular sushi rolls. They are eaten at Setsubun, which signifies the turning point between seasons. There are four setsubun in a year. Since the beginning spring is similar to the celebration of New Years, ehomaki sushi rolls are mainly consumed at the eve of the beginning of spring.
Seven ingredients are included in Ehomaki sushi rolls to symbolise the seven fortunes of the seven gods. You eat a whole ehomaki sushi roll without cutting it into bite-sized pieces. You eat the entire ehomaki sushi roll while facing Ehomaki, the god of fortune, without talking, with your wishes in mind.
When is the day to eat Ehomaki in 2022?
Ehomaki is eaten at Setsubun. For 2022, it is on the third of February.
Originally, Setsubun refers to the division of seasons, which means “the day before the beginning of spring, summer, autumn, and winter.” However, in the olden days, the beginning of the new year was an important milestone, so the day before that was an important day. Therefore, it became more important than other Setsubuns, and Setsubun came to refer to the day before the beginning of spring.
Recently, focusing on the setsubuns other than the day before the beginning of spring in February, there seems to be some offering spring ehomaki in May, summer ehomaki in August, and autumn ehomaki in November.
The origin of Ehomaki
Ehomaki is said to have started after celebrating Setsubun and praying for the prosperity of business in the Hanamachi area of Osaka from the Edo period to the Meiji period.
Apparently, merchants and geisha in Hanamachi prayed for the prosperity of business and ate while enjoying the traditions of Setsubun.
Ehomaki sushi used to be called “Maru Kaburi Sushi” or “Taimaki Sushi”. Both of these names were derived from 七福 Shichifuku, which means “seven lucks” because the Ehomaki sushis were traditionally rolled with 7 ingredients.
It is believed that Ehomaki, which was a small part of the play, spread to the general public because the sushi industry promoted it in the early Showa period. The Kansai custom has spread nationwide because of a new corporate campaign in recent years.
The history of Ehomaki
If you are interested to find out the history and the evolution of the Ehomaki sushi rolls we know today, here is a chronological summary of the events that happened around Ehomaki.
Early Taisho era: There was a theory that in the Hanamachi area of Osaka, seaweed rolls wrapped with new incense were eaten during the Setsubun period
1932: The Osaka Sushi Trading Association said, “Marukaburi on Setsubun Day-this trend is blessed with good luck.” The leaflet at that time called these sushi rolls “Honfuku Sushi”
Around 1973: The Osaka Nori Wholesaler Cooperative said, “On the night of Setsubun, when the whole family silently eats sushi rolls, happiness always comes around.” Department stores in Osaka held “February 3 lucky roll sushi sale”.
1977: The street event “Nori Festival” held by the seaweed industry happened in Dotombori, Osaka, and the “Maki Sushi Eating Competition” incorporating “Setsubun no Maru Kaburi” was held. When this was taken up by the media and became known all over the country, variations of “Nori Festival” started to take place in major cities across the country.
1983: FamilyMart started selling Ehomaki in Osaka and Hyogo.
1989: Seven-Eleven begins selling Ehomaki in Hiroshima. The sale of Ehomaki expanded from the following year and reached nationwide area in 1998.
What is in a Ehomaki sushi roll?
In the past, thick rolls made for cherry blossom viewing and other events were a feast for the common people. Nori was an expensive ingredient that was time-consuming to produce, and so was white rice. The time and effort it takes to make thick sushi rolls add to the festive atmosphere.
The contents of a typical Ehomaki sushi roll are sweetened Kanpyo, shiitake mushrooms, fish meat that has been loosened and coloured with food colouring, and sweetly seasoned cherry blossoms, cucumbers that have been cut into strips, and omelette that has been sliced into long pieces. If you want to make a thick seafood roll, add shrimp, squid, tuna, and salmon roe.
Ehomaki usually consists of seven ingredients, which symbolises the Seven Lucky Gods. Add boiled shrimp and boiled spinach for a beautiful colour.
How to make Ehomaki?
Ehomaki is made by preparing large-sized seaweed and vinegared rice for sushi. Makisu comes in handy when wrapping sushi rolls, where you tighten the sushi roll in thin bamboo sticks with a thread. There are plastic and silicon versions of makisu as well.
Use about 600g of vinegared rice for each thick roll. Make sure to mix in sushi vinegar with your freshly cooked rice. If you don’t have sushi vinegar, you can easily make it by adding 180 ml of vinegar, 5 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Sushi vinegar can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 to 3 months.
Cut the ingredients into strips in advance, and prepare them in a tray or plate. Boil shiitake mushrooms and kanpyo sweetly in advance and then cool them. They can last for several days, so you can prepare the ingredients whenever you have time. You can also buy pre-made ingredients from your local supermarket.
How to eat Setsubun Ehomaki? The direction of Ehomaki in 2022
Ehomaki is the direction in which Toshigami, who controls the good fortune of the year, is located. It’s believed that if you do things in that direction, everything will be good for you in the year.
Ehomaki is recommended to be eaten facing Ehomaki. The ehomaki for Setsubun in 2022 is north-northeast (more specifically, north-northeast and slightly north).
There are a few rules that you should keep in mind when eating ehomaki sushi.
- Prepare one ehomaki sushi roll for each person
Ehomaki sushi rolls symbolise good fortune. Do not cut with a knife so that the edges are not cut or the fortune is not cut off. It is said that a thick roll containing seven kinds of ingredients is especially good because of the Seven Lucky Gods. Apparently, it is believed that ehomaki sushi rolls are demon’s sticks and by eating it all, you get rid of it
- Turn to Ehomaki
In the direction of the Tokujin of the year, eat toward Ehomaki, who is considered to be good at everything
- While making a wish, eat silently to the end
Don’t talk until you’ve finished eating, as you’ll run away from luck if you talk. There are also beliefs that you should eat with your eyes closed and eat with a smile
Where to buy ehomaki
Besides making ehomaki yourself, you can also purchase ehomaki sushi rolls in different places in Japan. Here are four types of places where you can find ehomaki sushi rolls, along with some examples of places you can check out.
Department stores have a high-class feel, and you can typically find unique Ehomaki and traditional Ehomaki sold here. Many of the delicatessen shops in department stores use high-class ingredients to create unique salad Ehomaki, and sushi shops and high-class Japanese restaurants sell seafood Ehomaki. If you are looking for something a little luxurious, check out a department store. Take a peek at the basement of the department store to find a lot of options lined up for you.
Most supermarkets sell Ehomaki. They are usually catered towards families with children and elderly, offering Ehomaki at a reasonable price. There are thin Ehomaki for children using traditional ingredients. If there are ehomaki that aren’t sold by the end of the day, you can usually find ehomaki at a discounted price in supermarkets.
Convenience stores sell all kinds of Ehomaki and they offer reservations in advance and pickup on the day. The displays inside the store are also made to stand out. Some of them are unique, and many of them are fun just to look at. Convenience stores helped to spread the traditions of eating Ehomaki throughout the country and it seems that many people buy it at convenience stores every year.
Japanese restaurant / sushi restaurant
Over the last few years, it seems that the number of Ehomaki sold at Japanese restaurants and sushi restaurants has increased. After all, there are many gorgeous Ehomaki that use plenty of seafood and special ingredients. There tends to be discounts for early reservations and there are services for bulk purchases. If you like seafood, you may want to try Ehomaki at a Japanese restaurant or sushi restaurant.
Are you planning to enjoy Ehomaki sushi rolls this year? Do you think you will be able to follow all the traditions and finish the whole sushi roll without talking? No matter if you’re making one yourself or buying one from a store, hope you get to take the time and appreciate this delicious tradition!
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