A beginner`s guide to sushi

Head image via wikipedia

Sushi is undoubtedly the most famous of all Japanese foods. Now available in almost every country around the world, it would be unusual to find someone who hasn`t heard of (or tried) sushi during their life!
Maguro sushi

Via genta sushi

So for visitors to Japan, going out to eat sushi is on the must-do list. Here are some helpful hints to make your experience even better.

Sushi train or sushi bar?
Sushi train/conveyor belt sushi (or kaiten sushi) is the more affordable option, with many restaurants selling sushi for only 100yen (plus tax) per plate. Other sushi train restaurants serve sushi on different colored plates, with each color representing a different price, usually ranging between 100yen and 600yen per plate.

Sushi bars are a great option for a special occasion  and if you don't mind paying more, you definitely won't regret your choice!

Roll or nigiri?
Sushi is usually presented in one of two ways; rice and another ingredient rolled up with dried seaweed (maki), or a slice of (usually raw) fish on top of a small oblong-shaped ball of vinegared rice (nigiri).

If you have never eaten sushi before or are hesitant about eating raw fish, you might like to try seasoned rice in fried tofu pouches (inari zushi), or a sushi roll (maki) with vegetables like cucumber, corn or okra inside.
Inari sushi

Via genta sushi

Some nigiri sushi is made with cooked fish too! Try eel (unagi), grilled octopus (tako) or squid (ika), california rolls (maki) - with cucumber, egg and cooked imitation crab meat (kamaboko). Most shrimp (ebi) except sweet shrimp (ama ebi) is cooked too.

If you prefer your fish without rice, order sashimi (raw fish). There will be numerous choices but if you're willing to try a few, opt for sashimi moriawase (selection of raw fish)!
Selection of raw fish - sashimi moriawase

Via gurunavi

Ready to order?

Here are the names of some of the most common types of sushi, with their Japanese translation.

anago - saltwater eel
unagi - freshwater eel
ikura - salmon roe
mentaiko - cod roe
kazunoko - herring roe
kani - crab
kamaboko - imitation crab (surimi)
hotate - scallop
tamagoyaki - slices of  fried egg-roll
tako - octopus
ika - squid
masu - trout
maguro - tuna
toro - fatty tuna belly
hamachi - young yellowtail
buri - adult yellowtail
aji - japanese jack mackerel
saba - mackerel
tai - seabream snapper
iwashi - sardine
shirasu - baby anchovy or sardines
ebi - cooked shrimp
ama ebi - raw sweet shrimp
namako - sea cucumber
torigai - cockle
hamaguri - type of clam
akagai - arc shell
awabi - abalone
katsuo - bonito / skipjack tuna
hirame - fluke (type of flounder)
engawa - fin of flounder
sake - salmon
kappa maki - cucumber roll
tekka maki - tuna roll
futo maki - a thick roll with many ingredients like mushroom, egg, cucumber
natto maki - fermented soybean roll
yuba maki - sushi rolls wrapped in yuba (tofu skin)
ura maki - sushi rolls with the rice layer on the outside
inari zushi - seasoned rice in fried tofu pouches
sakura niku - raw horse meat
gyu niku - beef

Or you could always ask for `osusume` the chef`s recommendation.

Eating out with kids?
Lots of sushi restaurants (particularly the cheaper sushi-train styles), now offer kids` menus as well as menu items like udon noodles, fried chicken, tempura and french fries which kids may prefer. Look out for お子様メニュー (okosama menu) for kids menu options.
Kappa sushi

Via genta sushi

`itadakimasu` - lets eat!

*note : the green powder with a tiny spoon (located near the soy sauce on your table) is powdered green tea. Scoop some into the provided cup/mug and push the round button under the tap to start the hot water flow. Some restaurants provide tea bags instead of powder.

*note : if you can't find chopsticks (ohashi) or toothpicks (tsumayouji), check inside a wooden box on your table.

*note : most sushi has a small dab of wasabi inside! Ask for `wasabi nashi/nuki` for NO wasabi.

*note : you don't have to dip every piece of sushi into soy sauce. Try some without it!

*note : many `how-to` blogs suggest eating sushi with your fingers. That is fine, but using chopsticks is ok too! But NEVER eat sashimi with your fingers!! And...try to eat one nigiri in one bite. If it doesn't fit, try not to put a half eaten nigiri back on the plate.

*note : if you are going to a high-end sushi restaurant, go easy on the perfume/cologne. Strong scents can overpower the fresh fish.

Fran xx

Fran Japani