Would you like to try sushi? With the rise in popularity of sushi in western countries you may be invited by friends to join them at the local sushi bar. While you may be anxious about the prospect of eating anything raw, don’t worry, all you need is a little bit of information to take the anxiety away from the experience and enjoy this wonderful delicacy.
Sushi is a very simple dish, although the making of it is considered an art form. The Itamae (sushi chef) traditionally needs to train for 10 years before being hired to prepare sushi. However, the popularity of sushi has forced the hiring of chefs with only a few years experience.
There are four main types of sushi you can order:
Nigiri sushi: nigiri means “grab”. These are hand pressed balls of rice with raw fish on top and bit of wasabi between the fish and rice.
Sashimi: sliced raw fish (technically not sushi since the term sushi refers to the rice and sashimi is not prepared with any rice).
Maki sushi: maki means “roll”. The maki sushi is rolled with bamboo mats. Traditionally the seaweed is on the outside; rice on the outside is called ‘inside-out’ (ie: California roll).
Temaki is a hand rolled version of Maki. It is cone shaped like an ice cream cone.
Sushi comes in an amazing variety of combinations, however you’ll find these common ingredients or garnishes with nearly every version:
The word sushi actually refers to The rice, also called ‘sticky rice’. Sushi rice is short grained and cooked with a 1:1 ratio of water. Sushi vinegar and sugar is added which makes the rice both sweet and tart.
Wasabi: Japanese horseradish. Often served as a green paste alongside your sushi as an additional condiment; a word of caution – wasabi is VERY hot, so use it sparingly while developing a taste for it.
Gari: Thinly sliced, pickled ginger is also served with sushi. Some use it as a garnish although it is technically to refresh your palette between bites.
Nori: The seaweed sheets used to roll rice for sushi.
Soya Sauce (Shoyu): used as a dipping sauce. The wasabi can also be mixed with the soya sauce for those who enjoy the intense flavor.
Sushi can be made with a single ingredient or several. Single ingredients include avocado, cucumber (kappa), tuna (tekka or maguro) or salmon (sake – but not the rice wine). There are also many modernized combinations designed to please American palettes. These include the California roll made with avocado, crab, and cucumber and the Philadelphia roll made with smoked salmon, cream cheese, and cucumber.
As you can see, despite the unusual presentation you can easily find identifiable and delicious combinations you are sure to enjoy. Despite what you may think, the nori (seaweed) has very little flavor and is nearly undetectable when combined with the flavors of the sushi and the addition of soya sauce or wasabi. In fact, like many other converts, you may just have found yourself a new addiction!