Sushi: The Japanese fast food
It has a chic, upscale image, but sushi has always been fast food. 100 of years ago, sushi was served in large pieces (3 times bigger than now) in shops catering to travelers. It was fresh and intended to be eaten quickly; customers would eat with their hands and wipe them on the store’s noren curtain. Perspicacious travelers were then looking for the store with the dirtiest noren, knowing that it was probably serving the best sushi.
In the 19th-century Tokyo, called Edo at the time, street vendors started to serve sushi as we know it today, small chunk of rice with fish on the top. The people loved the fast food, tasty snack, and soon sushi carts expanded to other cities. That’s how Edomae sushi was born. Edomae- “edo”, the name for Tokyo, and “mae”, meaning front, referring to the fish caught in Tokyo Bay.
Dirty noren are no longer a mark of good sushi, but, fresh, local fish served for quick consumption still remain.