So you've been slaving away in your cubicle all day long... the last few minutes tick by like watching water drip from a faucet in slow motion...
You're boss says something but he sounds kinda muffled. "wua, wua, wua"... is all you hear...
Needless to say, the most productive part of your day has long since passed...
Finally, it hits 5 o'clock. (Yay! Bonzai!) You grab your jacket and race out of the office.
You are tired...
And you are hungry...
And then you realize you need to stop by the grocery store to pick up a few items...
As you make your way through the store, you see something that has become quite commonplace in most major supermarkets or grocery stores in the U.S. nowadays...
A refrigerated sushi display section.
Now, if you're really lucky, it might even be staffed with an oriental looking guy (most likely not Japanese, but instead probably Thai, Korean, Chinese, Mexican or even some odd ball Asian-American mix (that be me)... but it doesn't really matter tho' cause we all look alike, no??) standing behind the counter anxiously waiting to make the only sushi that makes your heart go pitter-pat...
All fresh... and while you wait...
O.M.G! And you just love sushi!...
(Did I mention that you were hungry earlier?)
Well, in case you forgot... you are.
Your stomach growls (sushi!) in a teeny, tiny voice. Your mouth overhears it and then it starts to water too...
Your eyes linger over the Dragon roll... the California roll... the tuna nigiri!... and then? It's shows over...
Without another thought the left side of your brain tells your dominant hand to reach over all of the other sushi and make a grab for your favorite sushi... (the one that you have cravings for and dream about at night) and commands you to put it in your cart...
Shameless impulse buy? Completed...
And Supermarket Sushi? SOLD!...
Any of this sound familiar?
Only sushi lovers know this demonic overtaking of ones conscious self...
And Non-sushi lovers? They don't have a clue... But that leaves more for the rest of us, right? So who cares!
And not to burst this etherial bubble or anything, but have you ever wondered just how safe this supermarket sushi is?
Or maybe where supermarket sushi actually comes from?
Let's put our investigative skills to work and try to find out...
Let's start off laying the groundwork first by identifying who the big players are in this supermarket sushi market, talk about what their specialties are, and how long they have been in business.
More than likely, one of these two will be providing the sushi that you are picking up in your local grocery store too.
The two largest at this time appear to be Fuji Food Products Inc based in San Diego, California and Advanced Fresh Concepts (or AFC) based in Rancho Dominguez, California.
They both provide sushi, but dominate in different ways. Let's take a look...
Fuji Food Products has been around since 1990.
They are a major provider of pre-made supermarket sushi to more than 4,000 major supermarkets in 44 states. Below are the logo's of many of the retail grocery stores they provide for.
Fuji Products looks to mainly specialize and excel in pre-packaged sushi. In other words, it is made in a facility that they own and then it is shipped by refrigerated truck to local grocery stores.
Fuji currently operates 4 central kitchens located in California, Massachusetts, Colorado and Washington.
The supermarket sushi is prepared daily and shipped using their own fleet of 150 refrigerated trucks which currently delivers to more than 4,000 store locations.
In-Store Chef Program (Chef Select)
In 2005, Fuji started the In-Store Chef Program to provide grocery stores the option of providing in store sushi making capability.
This seems to pacify the people that don't trust sushi in grocery stores unless it is made by an in store sushi chef and also those who wanted to have their sushi made fresh in front of them.
To learn more about Fuji Food Products you can visit their website here.
AFC got its start in 1986 when its president Ryuji Ishii started missing the convenience of being able to pick-up packaged sushi on any street corner like he was able to do when he lived in Japan.
While not practical to provide this service on every street corner in the U.S., he decided to give it a try it in local grocery stores and supermarkets.
Initially he introduced it in several Vons locations, a large supermarket chain in Los Angeles. It was well received and today AFC currently has over 3,530 sushi bars in many food service sectors throughout all 50 U.S. states which include supermarkets, colleges, stadiums, and universities.
AFC is able to provide the highest quality and largest variety of sushi to supermarkets and grocery stores by providing each independently owned sushi bar a support program that includes:
1. Intensive training and orientation;
2. Access to the highest quality ingredients available in accordance with AFC's superior standard of food safety;
3. and operation oversight provided by regional managers to ensure customers receive consistent product selection and services expected of AFC.
To learn more about AFC you can visit their website here.
So we now know who the main players are on this supermarket sushi stage. But is the sushi they produce safe for consumption?
Is it at least as good as what you would get in your local sushi restaurant?
Both Fuji Food Products and AFC both seem to take the safety of their food products very seriously.
If you think about it, it makes sense to do so since what they do is so highly visible and scrutinized that not do so would probably be company suicide.
Fuji Food Products facilities are HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) compliant. This plan helps providers of seafood to put control strategies in place to insure that seafood is safe for consumption. Learn more about this on our page sushi grade fish here.
AFC also has HACCP control stategies in place to insure the safety of their products also.
According to Peter Snyder, PhD, president of the food safety consulting group Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management, "We worry about eating raw fish, but we haven't seen problems with it the way we have with E. coli and salmonella in burgers and chicken".
"Convenience sushi isn't really any more dangerous than potato salad, cold cuts, or other prepackaged foods".
Because of their adherence to HACCP guidelines and the resulting inherent consistency of their sushi production due to these controls, you are probably less likely to get sick from supermarket sushi than you are from your local sushi establishment.
This should kind of make some sense because adherence to these controls will vary widely between different sushi restaurant establishments since they are all independently owned and operated.
Fuji Food Products, AFC, and other companies whose main job is to provide good sushi to the masses which is also safe to eat has a reputation to maintain and uphold.
Of course, the best thing you can do as a consumer when shopping is to just use general common sense.
Ah. So how does it taste.
When we get past if it is safe or not, that is the million dollar question isn't it? And of course it is a question that has no one answer.
In my opinion, nothing beats freshly made sushi. Whether it is eaten in a sushi restaurant or is made at home.
And to me one of the worst things that you can do with good sushi rice is refrigerate it. Refrigeration in my opinion ruins it. The rice gets hard and it actually seems to suck the life and flavor right out of it.
Anyway, the very definition of sushi itself is "anything that is served with vinegared sushi rice". So it is the most important basic component in good sushi.
With that said however, that is not really a debatable point because providers of pre-made or pre-packaged sushi really have no choice in this matter; according to regulations it has to be refrigerated (to be and stay safe). It doesn't matter what it does to the rice.
So what can you do about it if you have to get your sushi fix from a supermarket or grocery store?
Well, I have a few suggestions. To get the best tasting sushi possible:
Follow the above guidelines and at least you'll get the best tasting sushi that your supermarket is capable of cranking out.
Now whether their sushi rice is any good or not, only you will be able to decide.
Personally, I don't think that most sushi bars, restaurants and supermarkets make very good sushi rice. The best sushi rice to me is made at home. If you want to try make your own sushi at home, here is my 81 year old Japanese mother's sushi rice recipe.
Follow this recipe to a tee and I think you will be disappointed in most of the sushi you get when you go out.
Anyway. Who doesn't think that their mother's recipe isn't the best? :-)
Sushi sure has changed in the United States in the last couple of decades.
Whereas you use to have to find the obscure Japanese restaurant that also had a sushi bar in it to get your sushi fix, now you only have to hit your local grocery store.
And as we covered earlier, supermarket sushi typically is as safe as, if not safer than the sushi you can get in your local sushi bar.
In closing, if you are just aware and use your own good judgement when picking out and buying your sushi and follow a few guidelines like having your sushi made while you wait and eating it as soon as you get it home then the sushi that you buy in your local supermarket should be able to adequately satisfy your sushi craving while at the same time doing it at a reasonable price too.
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