Across the country, and the world for that matter, sushi is trending. What once was a food few were brave enough to even try is now incredibly popular everywhere. Because of this, it seems sushi restaurants and bars are popping up everywhere—even in areas that didn't know sushi existed before. However, because many people don't know much—or anything—about this Japanese delicacy, it can be hard to know what to order. Here, sushi chef and restaurant business professional Matthew Delsignore shares all you need to know before ordering sushi.
What Is Sushi?
To start out with the basics, sushi is a traditional Japanese dish that typically consists of sticky rice, a mixture of sushi rice, vinegar, and sugar; a seaweed wrap, called "nori"; fish, both raw and cooked; and vegetables, such as cucumber, radish, and avocado.
Occasionally, some restaurants will serve a sweet, dessert version of sushi, which is typically made up of sticky rice, that uses rice, coconut milk, and sugar; and fruits, like mango and strawberries.
When you are served sushi, you will likely see a ball of green paste and a pile of opaque strips. Those are your wasabi and pickled ginger. Don't use too much wasabi at once; it is a very spicy condiment, so just a tiny dab will do. The pickled ginger is used to cleanse the palate between rolls.
Types of Sushi
Many people tend to just group sushi rolls into one category when, in reality, there is a variety of sushi. Here are the main three rolls you'll come across.
For most people, the maki roll is the image that appears in their mind when they think of sushi.
It is the rolled version of sushi, where the filling, which consists of rice, vegetables, and/or fish, is encased in nori. The sibling of maki rolls, uramaki rolls, is almost identical, but the rice is on the outside of the roll.
These rolls come in a variety of options, and often places will have their own unique recipes that are named after the restaurant or local area.
Some popular types of maki and uramaki rolls you can find nearly anywhere are the spicy tuna roll, dragon roll, California roll, eel and avocado roll, and Philadelphia roll. If you're new to sushi, sticking to cooked and mild-tasting raw rolls, like the California and salmon, might be the best way to try sushi for the first time.
Many people order sashimi thinking it will come out looking like a maki roll, only to find out that it's just fish.
Sashimi is typically raw, thin slices of fish that are either already seasoned by the chef with soy sauce, or you must lightly dip it in some yourself.
Another source of confusion when ordering sashimi is the names since many sushi restaurants list the sashimi in the menu using the Japanese words for them. For instance, tuna is referred to as "ahi," salmon is called "sake," and "kani" is crab meat.
Nigiri is just one piece of sushi per order and is a small ball of rice topped with a piece of fish.
Just like sashimi, the names can be somewhat confusing because they're often written in Japanese. Fortunately, you can find numerous guides online to help pick the right one.
To eat nigiri, you pick it up, flip it upside down, and dip it in the soy sauce with the fish side, as to not soak it in soy sauce.
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