Facts

Salmon Sushi Isn’t Japanese. It’s Norwegian.

A survey conducted by the sushi take-out chain Kyotaru back in 2019 stated that the most preferred sushi topping in Japan is Lean Tuna, Medium Fatty Tuna, and Salmon. No doubt, Salmon is one of the most preferred toppings at sushi bars all over the world.

What if we tell you, it wasn’t the Japanese who came up with the idea of Salmon sushi. It was instead the Norwegians behind this delectable dish.

Confused? Skeptical? Well, its actually 100% true. Salmon sushi is actually the result of one of the most elaborate and meticulously executed marketing campaigns in history. It was called “Project Japan,” and yes, the Norwegians were the ones behind it.

How It All Happened

Salmon Sushi
Cuts Of Salmon

Salmon entered the sushi culture only in 1995. Till then, sushi used to be made of fish like sea bream and Tuna. The Japanese used to consume Salmon, but never in the raw form. The reason behind this being that, pacific salmon in parasitic.

On the other side of the world, during the 60s & 70s, Norway made huge advancements in fishing. Salmon was one of the significant varieties of fish being cultivated. They eventually got so good at it that they were producing more than what they could consume. So, there was a small market and a whole lot of fish!. Norway produced Atlantic Salmon. This variety is parasite-free and is also quite bigger than Pacific Salmon.

In the 1990s, Japan grew a profound love for seafood, but due to overfishing, Japan wasn’t self-sufficient. Norway saw this as an opportunity primarily since sushi-grade fish was being sold at a rate which was 5 times more than the market price. They appointed the genius,  Bjorn Eirik Olsen, to inject Norwegian Salmon into the Japanese sushi. They called it “Project Japan.” He was responsible for market research.

Bringing It To Japan

Norwegia Roll Salmon Sushi

However, this task wasn’t as easy as it sounded. It is difficult to change a tradition that is over a hundred years old. Whoever Olsen tried to introduce the product to, people would simply say no, stating that they don’t consume raw Salmon in their country. Some (including several prominent chefs at the time) even said that the meat cannot be accepted because of its color (which wasn’t red enough) or its peculiar smell. Olson tried several methods to prove to the Japanese how their Salmon was actually safer, fattier, and tastier than the Pacific Salmon. However, all of his efforts went in vain. The Japanese were still skeptical of this strange variant of something which they’ve been consuming for so long.  It was finally, in 1992, when a Japanese company Nichirei took up the offer to buy 5000 metric tonnes of Salmon from Norway for next to nothing.

Soon after it entered the market, celebrity chefs started endorsing the product on prominent Japanese cooking shows emphasizing how tasty the product actually was. There was no going back for Norwegian Salmon from there. Soon, every single sushi bar started selling the Norwegian delight. Soon, it became one of the most favored parts of Japanese cuisine all over the world!

A marketing campaign that would change an entire country’s eating habit seems a little far-fetched, but that is precisely what Olsen did. As proof, we have one of the most mouth-watering dishes in the world!

Thanks, Norway!

Written By,

Nived Nair

Student, NIFTEM

Also, to check out similar articles check out our post on why eating palak paneer is not a good option.

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