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Japanese food: small rice squares usually topped raw fish

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Acquired taste, but you will get hooked!

  • Aug 21, 2008
  • by
Liking sushi is probably an acquired taste, but it doesn't take long. Once you get past raw fish phobia, you will love it.  Something aboutthe deadly combination of perfectly prepared seasoned rice, fresh fish,stinging wasabi (Japanese horse radish), and some soy sauce gets youtotally hooked.

Honestly, I don't understand the mental block people have with rawfish.  Rare steak dripping with blood seems to pose much greaterpsychological challenge than almost pretty looking sushi.  Good sushichefs not only prepare tasty sushi, but display great craftsmanship inpresentation.

And contrary to the common belief, good sushi is not fishy at all.  Ithink cooked fish (maybe because they are not as fresh) has more fishodor.  Having said that, mackerel sushi is still challenging to me.  Ilove pretty much all, except for mackerel and giant clam.  Giant clamis not fishy, but it does have a strong flavor.

If you are interested in trying, here are a few of my recommendations.
  1. To make sure your trial experience is good, pick agood restaurant.  Sushi chefs supposedly pick their own fish.  Cheapplaces will get left overs, which are probably still good to eat, butnot as tasty, hence ruining your first trial experience.  I don't meanthat you have to go to really fancy place.  I prefer to go to a placewhere I can actaully find Japanese patrons.  I'm sure they know whatgood sushi is...  There are many restaurants in California run bynon-Japanese sushi chefs.  Although a lot of them do a good job I'msure, it is probably better to go to a place where the chef isJapanese.  I heard that it takes years to become a sushi chef if it'sto be done properly.  Even learning to make rice alone takes years... 
  2. Sit at the sushi bar.  I think part of eating sushi isalso the entertainment value of watching your sushi get prepare toorder and also interacting with the sushi chefs.  Some are prettycomedic and very chatty.  They are like bartenders.  (I don't know ifthis is typical or American thing, actually.)  Also, they can recommendfresh catch of the day, or discourage some of your sushi choices basedon the freshness of the supply.
  3. Order as you go.  I've seen people order the entirelist of sushi all at once.  It's much better to order one at a time andsee what you are in the mood for next.  You might find someone next youorder something interesting.
  4. If you are not comfortable with chopsticks, using yourfingers is perfectly fine.  I've actually heard that you are supposedto pick up sushi with your fingers, not chopsticks.

As for sushi choice:
  1. The safest (hence, to me it's almost tasteless) is ahituna.  I have never had tuna that is fishy.  If you want to shell outmore, fatty tuna (toro) will just melt in your mouth.
  2. Salmon is ok as you get started.  Yellow tail isbetter choice for slightly fattier taste than tuna, but if therestaurant doesn't get fresh fish, it can taste fishy.
  3. Albacore tuna is good.  Usually this is pretty fresh. I'm guess it's because this is "cheaper" grade?  This is usually toppedwith onion and garlic bits and ponju sauce, which is sweet and tangysoy sauce variation. 
  4. Halibut and scallops are pretty safe too.  Good halibut should have more chewy texture.  Scallops have sweet taste.
  5. A lot of people like eel.  It's served cooked.  It's rich in taste and sweet sauce blends well, but not one of my favorite.

If you are up for more challenging stuff:
  1. Sea urchin.  You want the fresh stuff for this.  Somepeople don't like the texture, a little slimy.  But it's creamy andsweet in taste.  Yumm...
  2. Sweet shrimp.  This is usually live before it isprepared.  If you are an animal lover, this might be too much totake...  The head is prepared separately, either deep fried or in misosoup.  You will get the whole head (warning just in case you mightfreak out).  The fried one taste like chips and miso soup is reallydelicious too.  The body is prepared into sushi, with some lemon juiceon the top.  It has sweet taste.
  3. Natto handroll.  Not my cup of tea, but my husbandloves this.  This is fermented soybean, which has a really slimy andsticky texture and kind of stinky.  I can't comment on the taste sinceI couldn't quite get over the texture and I'm not big on beans... Even only some Japanes like this.  Definitely an acquired taste...

Go try it.  I say try it at least twice.  You will love it!
sushi plate fried shrimp head

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April 21, 2010
I really enjoyed your recommendations. I'd love to hear more about different fish you enjoy, as I am always trying to branch out of tuna-salmon-yellowtail
October 03, 2009
yummm now I'm seriously craving sushi. I think my favorite food (not favorite sushi - favorite food EVER) is squid sashimi! It's so sweet and buttery. Ugh is it time for dinner yet?!
March 31, 2009
I love sushi and like you guys on the West Coast, Florida is a great place to get it b/c the fish is usually very fresh because we are so close to the ocean! If I could afford it- I woul eat sushi EVERYDAY!!!!!
December 18, 2008
I'm loving your quick, yet thorough, guide to sushi :)
December 10, 2008
Wow, so detailed! And I love your advice and recommendations. Thank you!
August 23, 2008
Thanks for your comments. Love to try a new place.
August 22, 2008
By the way, I discovered a new sushi place recently. A little pricey for what you get but fish is fresh and as a bonus, they have great dessert. It's a cute spot - we should go sometime.
August 22, 2008
I may be biased since I pretty much feel the way you do about sushi, but this is an awesome review! It's a great comprehensive guide for first-timers, especially those who are curious and willing to try new things but don't know where to begin.
More Sushi reviews
review by . February 25, 2010
posted in Go Japan
Sushi for breakfast
The only place I've heard about having sushi for breakfast is at Tsukiji Fish Market, an area near to Ginza in Tokyo.   And have I had sushi for breakfast? Yep, at around 5.30 am, I do believe!      This is an experience anyone who has the love of sushi must definitely try when in Tokyo. There are lots to see and do in Tokyo so one might not be able to wake up so early (4 am! unless you stay up the whole night ;-)) to venture for sushi!      …
review by . May 29, 2009
Inspired by devora's guide to eating Dim Sum, my review will consist of the how-to's and in's and out's of eating sushi.    Disclaimer:  I am not Japanese.  So, I might not be 100% correct in all of the cultural nuances and etiquette when it comes to sushi.  But, I have been a sushi chef for about a year during my college years.  I've also had my share of sushi and have converted many "cooked sushi lovers" to die-hard raw fish eaters.   Sit at the …
Quick Tip by . March 18, 2011
So delicious! I love it. Just be sure to get it fresh.
Quick Tip by . June 08, 2010
I only like the all-veggie and shrimp ones becuase raw fish freaks me out!
Quick Tip by . June 02, 2010
Oh nasty.
Quick Tip by . May 22, 2010
Scared to death to eat Sushi
Quick Tip by . March 26, 2010
A must have with Sushi is pickled ginger. No gluten involved there!! ;)
Quick Tip by . March 15, 2010
Yummy sushi! A great alternative to soy sauce is lemon juice and wasabi. Brings out a wonderful flavor in the fish.
Quick Tip by . March 12, 2010
Sushi is great but avoid the Soy sauce which is frequently derived from soy beans and wheat, so will contain gluten
Quick Tip by . March 06, 2010
posted in The Rice Table
Oh how I love sushi! It's filling, but still healthy. I need to learn how to make the rolls! My faves: spicy tuna rolls, yellowtail & eel!
About the reviewer
Jennifer ()
Ranked #113
On my spare time, I love to see and experience new things; hence traveling and eating are one of my favorite things to do. I like abstract art (love Mark Rothko's works), classical music, interior design, … more
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About this food


In Japanese cuisine, sushi is vinegar rice, usually topped with other ingredients, including fish dishes.

Sliced raw fish alone is called sashimi, as distinct from sushi. Combined with hand-formed clumps of rice it is called nigirizushi ; sushi items served rolled inside or around nori (dried and pressed layer sheets of seaweed or algae) is makizushi, toppings stuffed into a small pouch of fried tofu is inarizushi; and toppings served scattered over a bowl of sushi rice called chirashi-zushi.

Sushi Glossary

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