A Sushi And Sashimi Guide

Learn the basics of sushi, by reading this sushi guide, including the most popular types. Also included in this guide are a few dos and don'ts of sushi etiquette.

Sushi, meaning "seasoned rice," is often confused with sashimi, which means "sliced raw fish." Sushi originated in the orient as a method of preserving fish. At that time, fish was marinated in salt and then pressed with stone. The fish was removed from under the stone after a few weeks, and then served with seasoned rice. Today's sushi comes in many forms and can be eaten with chopsticks or with the hands, and usually can be found in three basic forms.

Maki-zushi, the best sushi for beginners, are rolls of sushi usually involving fish, rice, and seaweed. The fish may or may not be raw, and the seaweed has been pressed into a thin paper. Maki-zushi may also contain strips of thinly julienne vegetables, such as cucumber or carrot. A regular roll has seaweed in the outside. The middle layer is rice, and the innermost layer is fish and/or vegetables. A reverse roll is similar, except the rice is on the outside and the middle layer is seaweed. Hand rolls are cone-shaped, containing rice and fish rolled in seaweed.

Nigiri-sushi is quite simple and usually familiar to sushi-eaters. It consists of a piece of fish resting on top of a block of rice. The fish is usually raw, and sometimes a strip of seaweed is used to hold the fish and rice together.

Gunkan sushi is a little more exotic than the other two varieties. It tends to use unusual types of sealife, such as urchins or fish eggs. The seafood is wrapped in seaweed and shaped like a boat, and usually rests on a little pile of rice. It is definitely for the more adventurous, and is generally not recommended for sushi beginners.

The rice used to make sushi is different from the Uncle Ben's that can be purchased in American supermarkets. Sushi rice is short grained, although medium grained is sometimes used. It is often covered with talc, and needs to be rinsed before cooking. Most sushi chefs season the rice with vinegar and sugar after it is cooked.

Novice sushi eaters should sit at the bar, where they can watch the food being prepared by the sushi chef. Handling of the chopsticks involves certain rules of etiquette. The chopsticks should never be used for drumming, flipping, or sharing food. If you must pass a piece of sushi from one plate to another, use the opposite ends of the chopsticks that have not touched your mouth.

Most chopsticks come attached together in a paper packet. After sliding off the paper, separate the chopsticks with a snap. Do not rub the sticks together to remove any splintered wood. Doing so implies that the chef is cheap.

Chopsticks should never stab or spear food, nor should they be used to pull plates or bowls toward the edge of the table. Use the internet or watch a friend to learn the proper way to handle chopsticks. All you need is a little practice to become an expert. Most Japanese restaurants provide a ceramic holder for your chopsticks. Use it to hold them whenever they aren't in use.

A waitress may come around and offer you hot, wet cloth from a basket. Use it to wipe your hands, and then place it folded onto the counter or back into the basket. You may order soup or drinks from your waitress. Tea, sake, and beer are considered acceptable beverages when eating sushi. Do not order anything other than sashimi or sushi from your chef. It is considered impolite to do so.

You may ask the chef for his recommendations. Remember to order a variety of sushi. Different flavors complement one another, and this gives the chef an opportunity to show off both his fish and his talents.

Sushi bowls are garnished with papery thin slices of ginger. This is used to cleanse the palate between different types of sushi, and should not be used as a condiment. Wasabi, on the other hand, is considered to be the sushi condiment. It is from the root of a plant that yields one of the strongest spices in Japanese cooking. Use wasabi very sparingly until you become accustomed to the taste.

Some people also season their sushi with soy sauce, which is poured into a little ceramic dish. Americans frequently make the mistake of dipping the rice side of the sushi into the soy sauce. In actuality, the soy sauce is used to flavor the fish. Thus, the fish side of the sushi should be dipped. Particularly at a sushi bar, it is considered acceptable to eat with the hands.

It is generally considered best form to eat sushi in one bite. In Japan, sushi is served is small, bite-sized pieces. In the U.S., the size of sushi pieces tended to be a little larger. Although traditionally improper, most sushi chefs are understanding if the customer needs to cut the sushi into manageable pieces. Do not, however, pick up the sushi, take a bite, and then place the remainder of the piece back on the plate.

© High Speed Ventures 2011