A Beginners Guide to Sushi

A Beginners Guide to Sushi Many people think that the word sushi means “raw fish,” but this simply isn’t so. A sushi dish may contain either raw or cooked fish. The word “sushi” actually does not refer to fish at all, but rather to the vinegared rice used in the dish. In Japanese the word for vinegar is “su” while the word for rice is “meshi.” So to say “vinegared rice” the two words are combined together as “sushi.” When made correctly, the sweet vinegar used in the rice, should just contribute a very light flavor to the rice. It should not be bitter, tart, or “vinegary.” Sushi is as much an art form as it is a healthy and delicious food, and there are many ways of preparing it. It takes a lot of time, patience, and practice to perfect ones sushi making skills. For the average person who is just getting interested in sushi, a sushi menu can be quite intimidating. Maki-zushi, nigiri-zushi, and sashimi are just a few of the words you’ll likely discover on a sushi menu. One of the most familiar forms of sushi found in restaurants is the maki-zushi or sushi roll. Here we find fish or seafood and/or vegetables rolled into vinegared rice and wrapped with a tender seaweed sheet called nori. The roll is then cut into slices. When the nori is on the inside of the roll (an inside-out roll) it is referred to as uramaki. Some sushi restaurants also offer futomaki which is a much thicker roll than the standard maki-zushi. Perhaps the most well-known of the maki-zushi rolls is the California roll. The California roll is usually made as a uramaki (inside-out) roll and often contains cucumber, imitation crab meat, and avocado. It is then rolled in toasted sesame seeds, tobiko, or masago. Tobiko is simply flying fish roe (eggs) and has a mild smoky/salty taste and is orange in color. Masago is Capelin roe and has a similar taste and color. Nigiri-zushi or nigiri is made quite differently. It generally consists of an oblong or rectangular mound of rice, topped with a piece of seafood such as salmon, tuna, eel, or octopus. Nigiri is often made with raw fish. Many times the chef will add a small amount of wasabi between the rice and the seafood, and in some cases will wrap it together with a thin strip of nori. Wasabi is known as Japanese horseradish. It has an extremely strong flavor, and is usually light green in color. It only takes a tiny drop of wasabi to flavor sushi. Most sushi connoisseurs prefer not to use wasabi as its strong flavor can keep one from being able to taste the natural flavors of the sushi. Last but not least is sashimi. Sashimi is sliced raw fish. It is neither wrapped in a roll nor served on a bed of rice. It is sometimes served with shiso (a large green leaf) and daikon (shredded Japanese radish). It’s important to note that the sushi served in the Americas and Europe is very different than what is served in Japan and has been adapted over decades to appeal to the Western palate. So next time you’re invited to “go out for sushi” give it a try. You just might like it!