Japanese Culture – “Shari” (舎利) Sushi Rice

Return to all

– June 03, 2020 –

In the Japanese restaurant industry (especially in sushi restaurants) most people call sushi rice “shari”. Originally, the word shari referred to tiny pieces of sacred bones of the Buddha. Late in the 5th century, some shari (bone) pieces were brought into Japan from India and enshrined in several Buddhist temples. The Japanese people thought the small pieces of bone looked similar to grains of rice and so they began calling rice shari.

When sushi was first developed in Japan, sushi chefs used red wine vinegar to prepare sushi rice. Red vinegar is rich in amino acids and the flavor is milder than the white rice vinegar that is used more prominently today. Some sushi chefs still use red vinegar to make sushi ‘shari’ rice. The color looks unusual, but the taste is often better than sushi rice prepared with white rice vinegar for fatty fish like tuna.