People are freaking out about Whole Foods' 'sushi sandwich' - but it's a rip-off of a Japanese dish that's been around for decades

sushi sandwich

Ewan Munro

Sushi sandwiches at Sapporo Ichiban in London

  • Whole Foods is testing "sushi sandwiches." 
  • While some taste testers were skeptical, the sandwiches are based on the Japanese dish onigirazu. 
  • Onigirazu was invented in 1991 and has gained popularity in recent years as aesthetically-pleasing Instagram bait. 

Whole Foods' new menu item is inspiring some raised eyebrows. 

Grocery stores around the Washington, DC area have started selling "sushi sandwiches," The Washingtonian reported on Friday.

"Some are halved in rectangles, while others are (correctly) cut in triangles like a club sandwich," reporter Jessica Sidman wrote. "They come with your typical roll fillings: spicy tuna and avocado, shrimp tempura, California-style avocado and fake crab, and veggie."

Sidman slammed the sushi sandwich as difficult to eat, and its prepackaged nature left her feeling queasy. 

While some may roll their eyes at the latest sushi creation after seeing such things as sushi doughnuts and burritos dominate menus, sushi sandwiches have been around for a couple of decades.

The sandwiches are a variation on onigirazu, a dish that was actually formally invented by in a manga series. In 1991, Tochi Ueyama featured the sandwiches in his long-running manga "Cooking Papa," dubbing them onigirazu, a twist on onigiri rice balls. 

"I saw my wife throwing the dish together in a rush when our kid was small, and I drew them in manga and named them onigirazu," Ueyama told The Japan Times in 2015.

Onigirazu's popularity has skyrocketed in recent years, in large part because of its aesthetic appeal. 

Now, sushi sandwich-seekers can buy onigirazu in far-flung cities, including New York and London. There are also countless recipes online, promising a quick and easy take on sushi. 

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