Sushi is a Japanese dish consisting of cooked vinegared rice which is commonly topped with other ingredients, such as fish or other seafood, or put into rolls. Sliced raw fish by itself is called sashimi, as distinct from sushi. Fresh sushi or sashimi should have a clean, delicate, light taste and should have no fishy smell.
I recommend starting with something easy like makizushi and then working up to things like maguro (tuna), sake (salmon) and ebi (shrimp). I enjoy my sushi with a little wasabi and soy sauce and like to have some pickled ginger to cleanse the palate after each sushi.
Types of Sushi
The common ingredient across all the different kinds of sushi is sushi rice.
Nigirizushi consists of a bed of sushi rice, usually with a bit of wasabi, and a topping draped over it. Toppings are typically fish such as salmon (sake), tuna (maguro) and prawns (ebi). Certain toppings are bound to the rice with a thin strip of nori, most commonly octopus (tako), eel (unagi), squid (ika) and sweet egg (tamago). This type of sushi is usually served in pairs.
Makizushi is a rolled sushi made with the help of a bamboo mat, called a makisu. Makizushi is generally wrapped in nori, but can also be wrapped in a thin omelette, soy paper, or cucumber.
Inarizushi is a pouch of fried tofu filled with usually just sushi rice.
Western Style Sushi
The increasing popularity of sushi around the world has resulted in variations of sushi typically found in the West but rarely if at all in Japan. These creations are made to suit the Western palate and were fuelled by the invention of the California roll.
Sushi is made with white short grain Japanese rice, which has a consistency that differs from long-grain rice. The essential quality is its stickiness or glutinousness. This rice is mixed with a dressing of rice vinegar, sugar, salt and occasionally kombu and sake. It has to be cooled to room temperature before being used for a filling in sushi. Traditionally, the mixing is done with a hangiri, which is a round, flat-bottom wooden tub or barrel, and a wooden paddle (shamoji).
Nori is the black seaweed wrappers used in sushi. Nori is a type of algae, traditionally cultivated in the harbours of Japan. Today nori is farmed, processed, toasted, packaged and sold in standard size sheets.
Toppings and Fillings
Fish eaten raw must be fresher and of a higher quality than fish which is cooked. Professional sushi chefs are trained to recognise important attributes, including smell, colour, firmness, and freedom from parasites that may go undetected in commercial inspections.
Commonly used fish are tuna (maguro), yellowtail (hamachi), snapper (kurodai), mackerel (saba), and salmon (sake). The most valued sushi ingredient is toro, which is the fatty cut of the fish. Other seafood used include squid (ika), eel (anago and unagi), octopus (tako), shrimp (ebi), salmon roe (ikura), sea urchin (uni) and crab (kani).
Sushi is commonly eaten with condiments. Sushi may be dipped in soy sauce and may be flavoured with wasabi. Gari, sweet pickled ginger is eaten with sushi to both cleanse the palate and aid in digestion. In Japan, Green Tea (ocha) is invariably served together with sushi.
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