Eating sushi for the first time can be a daunting experience. Despite the excitement of trying something new, many beginners can feel overwhelmed by the number of options and the differences between types of sushi.
What is sushi?
The sushi is a style of Japanese cuisine. Sushi is most often served in rolls with rice, avocado, cream cheese and raw fish. However, sushi cuisine is very varied and there are many options for those who wish to avoid eating raw fish.
If you are eating sushi for the first time, the following terms will help you become familiar with Japanese cuisine. In addition, they may give you an idea of what your first sushi experience will be like.
Freshly brewed green tea. This drink is the ideal companion to a sushi meal, as it cleanses the palate. Traditionally, it is consumed at the end of a meal, as it aids digestion.
Saltwater eel. This delicacy is usually served boiled or fried. The blood of an eel contains toxins that are harmful when eaten raw. This is why eel is always served cooked. Anago should not be confused with unagi, which are freshwater eels with different culinary properties.
Cooked shrimp. One of the most popular items in Japanese cuisine.
Pickled ginger. This traditional sushi supplement is slightly sweet, but there are also spicier varieties. It is usually consumed after eating sushi containing raw fish.
Sashimi quality yellowtail. Its flavour is considered superior to that of white fish, making it a very popular sushi ingredient in Japan.
Cooked crab. The word kani literally means crab in Japanese. However, white fish is often used as a substitute in kani sushi.
Raw tuna. This is one of the most popular ingredients in Japan. Raw fish served in thin slices without rice is called sashimi.
Dried seaweed. Just as lettuce leaves have been a staple of Mediterranean cuisine for 6000 years, the Japanese have made seaweed an integral part of their culinary tradition. Nori helps to hold the rolls together and gives many pieces of sushi their distinctive flavour.
An alcoholic drink, similar to wine. Sake is made by brewing fermented rice juice instead of distilling it. Its alcohol content is about 15%, similar to a strong wine. Traditionally, sake is only drunk during a sushi meal. However, nowadays many sushi lovers have a more relaxed attitude towards it.
Soy sauce. Made from fermented soybeans, it also contains wheat, salt and water. Shoyu adds a special flavour to food, known asumamior the fifth taste. Between sweet and salty, umami is often referred to as the essence of deliciousness in Japanese cuisine.
A minced fish paste that is used to imitate the texture of crab meat. Normally, Alaskan pollock is used to make surimi.
Fried eggs. " Tamago" means egg in Japanese. Tamagoyaki is a traditional Japanese omelette, used in many types of sushi.
Fried seafood, meat or vegetables. Tempura seafood is often breaded before frying, which allows it to acquire its distinctive soft, yet crispy texture. Tempura cooking uses less fat than other frying methods.
The eggs of a flying fish. They are very similar to caviar and are sprinkled or spread by chefs on dishes to make the food look brighter.
Belly fat of bluefin tuna. Toro is very rich in nutrients and is highly sought after in Japanese cuisine.
Freshwater eel. It has a rich, fatty flavour that makes it delicious when grilled. However, it is also used in other ways, such as in a sweet and savoury sauce known as kabayaki.
Raw sea urchin. Often used in the preparation of sushi and sashimi, uni is also a popular ingredient in Japanese salads and pastas.
Japanese horseradish (and the paste of the same name). This ingredient has gained notoriety in the West because of its strong, spicy flavour. The purpose of wasabi is to disrupt the specific flavour of a roll. However, its liberal use may be considered impolite in traditional sushi restaurants.
In many Western sushi restaurants, what is served as wasabi is not the traditional paste, but a mixture of horseradish, mustard and green dye.
What is the right way to eat sushi?
The correct way to eat sushi is with chopsticks. Chopsticks are held by holding one chopstick firmly on the base of your thumb and resting it on your middle finger, while using the other like a pen with your index finger and thumb. With enough practice, eating with chopsticks can be a rewarding and fun experience.
Main types of sushi
There are 5 main types of sushi:
Types of sushi
Maki is seasoned sushi rice wrapped and held together with nori. These are the most common rolls and their simpler preparation gives chefs the opportunity to experiment with different ingredients and roll sizes.
Popular ingredients include raw fish, shellfish, avocado, cream cheese, cucumber and fish roe. While maki is traditionally eaten by hand, it has become common to eat it with chopsticks.
Nigiri is the most traditional type of sushi. It is usually prepared with raw fish as well as rice, and a hint of wasabi. Nigiri is meant to be held with chopsticks and eaten in one bite. Dipping the fish side of a nigiri in soy sauce before eating it will give it a deeper flavour.
Sashimi is raw meat or fish cut into thin slices. This is not sushi per se, as it is not made with rice, but it is a common staple in sushi restaurants. Sushi-grade fish (or sashimi) can be used in the creation of sashimi. This means that a fish is of sufficient quality to be eaten raw. Sashimi is eaten in one bite and held with chopsticks.
Temaki is hand-rolled sushi. The nori in temaki is in the form of a cone, and the temaki can be held and eaten like a sandwich or burrito. This type of sushi is ideal for beginners who have not yet developed the dexterity to use chopsticks comfortably.
Uramaki is very similar to maki with one crucial difference: the nori is inside the roll, rather than on the outside. Uramaki is popular in countries like the United States, where the concept of eating nori is foreign to many. An uramaki is usually topped with sesame seeds or tobiko.
The best sushi rolls to order for beginners
Here are some of the best rolls to try if you have never had sushi before. Many of these rolls have been created to appeal to Western sensibilities.
The California roll is one of the most iconic modern sushi dishes. This uramaki is a great option for those who want to avoid eating raw fish.
A California roll normally contains :
- Crab (or a crab substitute)
This type of sushi is ideal for those who want to experience a roll with flavoured fish. Although salmon tends to be the fish of choice for this roll, it can also contain other types of fish.
The typical ingredients of a Philadelphia roll are :
- Smoked salmon
- Cream cheese
- Sesame seeds
This is an excellent choice for people who want to avoid raw fish or meat. These rolls are created with vegetables and spices. Since many of the basic ingredients of sushi are already vegan, chefs can experiment with non-meat ingredients and produce new, tasty results.
The ingredients commonly used in the preparation of vegetable rolls are :
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Soybean sprouts
This is a great alternative to rolls containing meat. This roll is made from a tasty and nutritious meat substitute known as tempeh, which is made from fermented soybeans. The texture of tempeh rolls is different from other types of sushi, as they tend to have a crunchy feel when bitten.
The ingredients generally include :
- Seasoned Tempeh
- Fried asparagus
Spicy tuna roll
A very popular option for both experienced and novice sushi lovers, this roll adds a spicy touch to the dining experience. Sriracha is usually chosen as the main ingredient, but some sushi chefs opt for different alternatives.
A spicy tuna roll usually includes :
- Spicy tuna
The sushi tasting label
- If you are offered an oshiboriou, or a hot towel, use it to wash your hands. It is respectful to fold it carefully before returning it to the waiter.
- Do not rub your chopsticks together, as this implies that they are of poor quality. When not in use, place them on your dish, parallel to yourself.
- Do not put wasabi on your dish as if it were a condiment like ketchup or mayonnaise. In many casesitamae (sushi chef), has already placed the right amount of wasabi on a roll.
- Sashimi is only eaten with chopsticks. Other types of sushi, such as temaki, can be eaten with chopsticks.
- The polite way to take food from another person's plate is to use the side of the chopsticks that you do not put in your mouth.
- Always try to eat nigiri in one bite. To achieve this, the nigiri should be chewed slowly.
- It is rude to pass food from your plate to another using chopsticks. Allow the other person to take the food from your plate instead.
- It is customary to serve other people's sake and expect others to serve yours.
- In contrast to other Asian cultures, belching is as crude in Japanese culture as in the West.
How to choose a sushi restaurant
The best way to choose a sushi restaurant is to look at the menu to see what to expect. However, when choosing a sushi restaurant, you should also consider the reputation of the establishment, the experience of the chef and check online reviews.
How to order sushi
You can use RestoLoco to find the best sushi restaurants near you. RestoLoco allows you to order directly from a restaurant's menu, giving you the best deals available at no extra cost. It's the only app that allows you to find nearby restaurant menus in one place, either to take away, deliver or book a table.
RestoLoco is an online menu directory, so the prices you find on the menus will often be the same as in the dining rooms. There are no hidden charges. And because we work with local delivery partners, we can negotiate a fixed delivery charge for you. Not to mention that our restaurants offer free gifts and deals!