When you mention sushi, 60% of your friends will grimace and make some snide comment about eating bait. The other 40% probably know the definitions of two or three dozen Japanese words.
Speak to me.
Before you go to the posh sushi bar, learn a little Japanese, so you do not sound like Jethro. The term “sushi bar” is typical American slang. Not everything served at the sushi restaurant is sushi. As a matter of fact, not everything even has sushi in it. So, there.
So…what is sushi?
Vinegared rice. Never saw that coming, did you? Sushi is not fish. It is rice.
Why do they call it “sushi rolls”?
Because the sushi is the biggest ingredient and the glue which holds the everything else together inside the nori. Nori is the Japanese word for kelp.
You got it. The bluish, greenish, blackish, papery strip which holds the roll together is seaweed. And it is good for you. It is packed full of vitamins.
So, what do the Japanese call “sushi rolls”?
Maki is the Japanese name for rolled sushi, nori and vegetables. Maki can include seafood, or not. Some maki is rolled in sesame seeds, but many are rolled in roe. Roe? Yes, fish eggs. Many different species besides besides sturgeon produce very tasty eggs.
The rolls are hard to eat with chop sticks.
For the chop-stick-challenged, temaki is the next best choice. If you were not too keen on the nori in the roll, you may be surprised by this incarnation. Temaki is a large piece of nori, rolled into a cone and filled with sushi and vegetables and sometimes seafood. If you are not fond of nori, just eat what is inside.
Where’s the fish?
If you are looking for sashimi, (above) Japanese for a fillet of seafood, you need to order nigiri, chirashi or sasazushi. Nigiri is a rolled-up ball of sushi, wrapped with nori and topped with wasabi (green Japanese horseradish) and sashimi.
Chirashi is a bowl of sushi topped with vegetables and sashimi. This is the best choice of the chop-stick-impaired and the nori-intolerant.
Sasazushi is another form of nigiri. Instead of wrapping the sushi with nori, the sushi, vegetables and sashimi are wrapped in bamboo leaves. Another good choice for the nori-intolerant.
The American term “sushi bar” does not do the art created by talented sushi chefs justice. Remember, sushi does not mean “raw fish”.
NEXT: Sushi risks
Have you ever tried maki, temaki, sashimi, nigiri, saszushi or chirashi? What did you like or dislike about it?
(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2011
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