Sushi Basics

What is Sushi?
The first thing to know is that the term “sushi” has nothing to do with raw fish. Instead, it refers to the short-grain rice that accompanies the fish. While commonly lumped in with sushi for the sake of convenience, raw fish served without the rice is properly called “sashimi.” In fact, sushi does not have to involve raw fish at all, as many types of sushi are made with cooked or marinated fish, or without any seafood whatsoever.

Common Types of Sushi
It’s handy to know the most common styles of sushi, because the same ingredients can be assembled in different ways. Again, sashimi refers to slices of fish served without rice. Nigiri sushi consists of pieces of fish served atop small rectangles of rice. Both sashimi and nigiri sushi are frequently served à la carte, usually with two pieces per order. Maki is rolled sushi, usually made with nori, sheets of dried seaweed. A standard order of maki often comes sliced into six pieces, while temaki (or hand roll) is a single, large cone-shaped maki.

Common Sushi Sides
Your sushi will typically come with slices of pickled ginger and a dallop of wasabi paste. You’ll also receive a small saucer to hold soy sauce for dipping. The ginger can pack a bit of a wallop and the wasabi is very hot. The ginger is designed to cleanse the pallate and is eaten before sampling a different item.

Alternatives to Raw Fish
If you are squeamish about eating raw fish, try starting with one of the cooked varieties, such as ebi (cooked shrimp).  Other good choices include kani kama (imitation crab stick) and unagi (broiled freshwater eel brushed with a teriyaki-like sauce). Crunchy shrimp tempura and crisp broiled salmon skin are other cooked ingredients that often find their way into maki sushi. Many vegetarian sushi varieties are also readily available (for example, kappa maki, which is made with cucumber, and avocado maki).

Ready for Raw Fish?
Maki is also the way to go when you’re ready to try raw fish. After all, it’s mostly rice.  Start with tuna tataki which is seared tuna that is thinly sliced.  The taste is very mild and not “fishy” tasting.  Then move up to fuller flavored varieties, like sake (salmon), hamachi (yellowtail) and toro (fatty tuna).

Types of Sushi to Avoid for the Beginner
Common sushi varieties beginners might want to steer clear of, mostly because of their odd textures, include uni (sea urchin) and ikura (salmon roe). Once you can eat those, you needn’t be afraid of anything.

Choices for Kids
The tamago (sweet egg) and kani kama (imitation crab stick) are good choices for children. A regular children’s menu is also available at Laishley Crab House with all the usual favorites.

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