If you are new to sushi, you may find yourself quickly overwhelmed. A seemingly endless array of fish, rice, seaweed, and various accompaniments, often listed on the menu in Japanese, can make you feel lost and unsure how to proceed.
Sushi is a popular delicacy in America and throughout the world, and millions of people have successfully learned to navigate the complex choices. With a bit of knowledge and practice, you too can become familiar and confident ordering sushi. Here is a beginner's guide to get you started.
Types of Sushi
Makizushi is the general term for sushi rolls. They usually consist of raw fish, vegetables, rice, and seaweed rolled together and cut into bite-sized pieces. The fish is always placed in the center, but depending on the type of roll, either seaweed or rice may be the outer layer.
Vegetarian Sushi Rolls are available at many places and substitute a vegetable such as cucumber in place of fish.
Nigirizushi is an extremely popular dish which consists of a hand-formed bed of rice topped with a thin piece of fish. It combines the flavorful nature of fresh fish with a beautiful presentation.
Temakizushi is similar to makizushi except that the roll is not cut into pieces. Instead, a piece of nori seaweed is tightly wrapped into a cone shape around a filling.
Inarizushi is made of fried pouches of tofu, called aburaage, stuffed with sushi rice. Aburaage is also used in other dishes, such as miso soup.
Sashimi is not technically a sushi dish but is served in virtually all sushi restaurants. Though we use the word sushi to generally apply to many of the offerings at a sushi bar, if it's just fish without sushi rice, then it's sashimi.
Sushi and Chopsticks
It is important to use chopsticks properly when you eat Sushi. To begin, hold the upper chopstick with the index finger, the middle finger, and the thumb. Put the other chopstick between the bottom of the thumb and the tip of the ring finger. Move the upper chopstick when you pick up food; the bottom chopstick stays still. Practice makes perfect!
Photo: Author's credit
Chopstick Etiquette Don'ts
• Sticking chopsticks directly into a piece of food in order to pick it up.
• Picking up a bowl with the hand that is holding your chopsticks.
• Biting food off of the chopsticks.
• Sticking chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice.
• Using chopsticks to point or gesture with.
• Passing food from your chopsticks to somebody else's chopsticks. This is like "double dipping!"
Sushi and Health Concerns
Seafood, particularly tuna, has made headlines in recent years due to mercury contamination. In addition, raw foods, including raw fish used in most types of sushi carry the risk of parasites. If you have any doubts or concerns, consult your doctor prior to consuming sushi, and remember that cooked items, such as tempura, steamed rice, and edamame (soybeans), remain a safe alternative.
Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert and the author of A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the City & County of San Francisco and the founder of The AML Group (www.AMLGroup.com), certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Cornell University and Microsoft to Nordstrom, KPMG and Stanford Hospital. She has been quoted by The Sunday Times, InStyle Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today and the Los Angeles Times. She has appeared on various radio and television stations, such as ABC, CBS, and Fox News. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on www.Twitter.com/LisaGrotts and www.Facebook.com/LisaGrotts.