Is this a country-fair style affront to Japanese cuisine, or a delicious idea we should have thought of sooner? Our reporter Meg finds out.

While sushi is popular across Japan, different parts of the country have their own favorite local varieties. For example, Toyama Prefecture, situated on the northern coast of the main island of Honshu, is known for masuzushi.

Masuzushi is a type of oshizushi, or “pressed sushi.” For masuzushi, slices of trout (masu in Japanese) are pressed atop a bed of firmly compacted vinegared white rice, resulting in a denser morsel than the standard nigiri style of sushi.

▼ Masuzushi

So when our Japanese-language reporter Meg was driving through Toyama Prefecture on her way back to Tokyo, she decided to stop at the Arisoumi Service Area and get some masuzushi for lunch.

But as she pulled off the expressway and into the parking lot, she noticed a very unusual flag in the food vendor area.

▼ “Toyama’s new famous delicacy: fried masuzushi

Despite the flag’s claim of fame, this was the first time Meg had ever heard of fried masuzushi, or fried sushi of any kind, really. Technically, though, it is possible to fry sushi, since the word “sushi” actually refers to the vinegared rice, not the fish.

Meg’s knee-jerk reaction, though, was that deep-fried sushi sounds like the sort of crazy thing you’d find at an American county fair. Something you’d eat just to say you tried it, not because it actually tastes good.

But the longer she looked at the photo of the fried sushi on the menu (and also at the price, which was just 300 yen [US$2.70]), the more intrigued she became. After all, hadn’t she herself recently discovered that popping leftover sushi in the microwave for 30 seconds made it taste better? And so she took the plunge and ordered a piece of fried masuzushi.

Stepping back into her car to escape the December chill, and also for some privacy in case it tasted so bad she wanted to spit it out, Meg held the fried sushi in both hands and took a bite.

Instantly, she realized she’d been worrying for nothing. The fried masuzushi tasted great. The outer layer was crunchy and moist, and complimented, rather than obscured, the flavor of the fish and rice.

As a matter of fact, the seemingly incompatible ingredients went together so well that Meg had to stop and think about why her taste buds weren’t rejecting this unique meal. Fried fish isn’t unusual in Japan, so that part made sense, but why did the vinegared rice work in this handheld, deep-fried creation?

And then it dawned on her. The subtle, intrinsic sweetness of rice has similarities to the flavor of bread, and the sour notes of the vinegar used to make sushi resembles the tang of tarter sauce. As an overall dining experience, eating fried masuzushi is sort of like eating a fried fish sandwich, like a McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish, for example.

Meg concluded her happy taste test notes with, “Whoever thought of this is a genius”. So while the idea of fried sushi may sound weird, in this case it’s definitely a culinary craziness worth trying.

Service area information
Arisoumi Service Area (bound for Shiga, Gifu, Tokyo) / 有磯海SA(上り)Address: Toyama-ken, Namerikawa-shi, Kuriyamaji, Matsugakubo 2913-10
Take out corner open 7 a.m.-9 p.m. (fried masuzushi availability hours may vary)

Photos ©SoraNews24
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