- Is Sushi ‘Healthy’? It Depends
- The Best and Worst Sushi Rolls for Weight Loss
- Eat This!
- Not That!
- Your Sushi May Not Be as Healthy as You Think
- So yeah…is sushi healthy?
- Healthy sushi options
- Is Sushi Healthy? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
- How to make your sushi order healthier
- Thank you!
- How to Eat Sushi: the Complete Guide to Japan’s Most Famous Food
- Nigiri, Maki, Oshi – Sushi Varieties
- Sushi Restaurant Types: Conveyor Belt and Over-the-Counter
- How to Eat Sushi: Chopsticks or Fingers?
- How to Eat Sushi: Soy Sauce Dipping Tips
- How to Eat Sushi: Dipping Battleship Sushi
- How to Eat Sushi: Order is Important!
- Basic Sushi Eating Order
- How to Eat Sushi: In One Bite or Two?
- How to Eat Sushi: Japan’s Unofficial Sushi Rules
- Sushi Terms – Speak Like a Sushi Pro
- Sushi Toppings
- The History of Sushi
- How to Eat Sushi
- Sushi Etiquette
- Arriving and being seated
- How to eat sushi: the dining etiquette
- After the meal
- Can Sushi Be Low in Sodium?
- Nutrition Diva’s Sodium in Sushi Cheat Sheet
- 5 Dishes You Should Avoid (and the 5 You Should Order) at Sushi Restaurants
- Sushi Myths & Misconceptions
- The Origins of Edomae Sushi
- Common Misconceptions About Sushi
Is Sushi ‘Healthy’? It Depends
Ah, sushi. It can be delicious, but is it healthy? (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for the… New York Culinary Experience )
Recently the New York Times reported on a survey that asked a sample of nutritionists and the public, is sushi “healthy”? Not surprisingly there was a divergence of opinion, with 75% of nutritionists saying “yes” and 49% of the public saying “no.” Ask me the same question and I would answer, “It depends.” Because asking whether sushi is good for you is like asking whether people are good for you. It really depends on what is inside…and the circumstances.
I can take what you consider the healthiest food (by the way, there is no such thing) and make it exceedingly unhealthy. Think celery is healthy? Let’s deep fry it in animal lard and then add some salt and sugar. Also, what would happen if you ate nothing but pounds and pounds of celery every day for weeks? You’d be missing out on many different nutrients such as vitamins B, C, D and E. Plus eating so much celery would give you much too much fiber, leading to abdominal cramping, bloating and, yes, lots of farting. Farting a lot may make it difficult to keep friends. Not having friends would lead to loneliness. Loneliness may lead to depression. Depression may result in you spending all your days doing nothing but watching TV. Don’t do nothing but watch TV: Eat something besides celery.
In many aspects of life, including nutrition, people tend to think in black and white. No, this is not a racial reference. Rather, in this case, “black and white” means thinking in a simplistic all-or-nothing manner. (Although, people can think about race in such an oversimplified manner as well.) Many people want to know whether a food item is either good or bad for you, rather than hear about subtleties, qualifiers or middle ground. Thus, different food items become like some celebrity couples with drastic changes in status from one year to another. One year chocolate is good for you, another year it is bad.
Let’s take sushi as an example. There are so many different types of sushi, and as chefs continue to experiment, the breadth of the sushi class keeps growing. What exactly is the definition of sushi? A search of the Internet fails to provide a very specific definition. Essentially, sushi is something with rice mixed with vinegar. Although fish is commonly involved, it doesn’t even seem to require fish. Thus, would lard with rice and vinegar be sushi? How about a stick of butter with rice and vinegar?
The bottom line is that sushi can be quite healthy or unhealthy depending on what ingredients are used, how it is prepared and how much you eat. Fresh fish, particularly salmon, trout and tuna, can have plenty of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Depending on the type of fish, fish can also have varying amounts of Vitamin A and D, calcium, and magnesium. Fresh vegetables frequently appearing in sushi can have important vitamins and minerals. Asparagus can provide vitamins A, B2, B6, C, E and K, fiber, numerous minerals such as copper, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and iron, and make your urine smell funky. Cucumbers offer a host of nutrients such as pantothenic acid, potassium, manganese, vitamin C, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin B1. Carrots have beta-carotene, fiber, vitamin K, potassium and antioxidants. Shiitake mushrooms are good sources of selenium, iron, dietary fiber, protein and vitamin C and have anti-oxidants.
The healthiness of sushi depends greatly on how it is prepared and its ingredients. (AP Photo/Shizuo… Kambayashi)
However, calling something sushi does not mean that it is healthy. To make sushi more healthy, make sure you do the following:
- Minimize the use of sauces: Sauce is like makeup, hiding the true appearance and taste of the fish, vegetables and rice, especially when these are not very fresh or high quality. Be suspicious when you see a sushi menu short on sushi without the sauce. Many sauces are heavy on salt, sugar, fat or calories. Be careful about any additional adjectives attached to the name of the sushi. The “spicy” versions of sushi frequently have sauces that are primarily mayonnaise. In some restaurants, “crazy” and “wild” can also mean “spicy.” “Creamy” sushi rolls can have added butter or other types of fat. “Crunchy” rolls often have a fatty batter. In general, I don’t eat anything named “angry,” “vengeful,” “spiteful” or “jealous.”
- Remember deep fried sushi is deep fried: An increasingly common type of sushi is deep-fried sushi. Yes, deep frying can seem synonymous with “make tastier.” But it also can add calories, salt and fat.
- Look at the ingredients: Calling something sushi does not change its ingredients. Bacon on sushi is still bacon. Salt on sushi is still salt. While name changes may help people get roles in Hollywood (e.g., Raquel Welch was born Jo Raquel Tejada), they should not change the health impact of food. Ask the restaurant or chef specifically what is going into a sushi dish. Is the dish just fish and rice and vinegar? What else is added? How much salt? How much sugar?
- Look for lower rice ratios: Sushi rice tastes different because of the added vinegar, salt and sugar. A piece of sushi can range from being largely fish or vegetables to just a tiny piece of fish sitting on a mound of rice (looking like a tiny beanie cap on a giant head). The fish is the expensive part of sushi, so some restaurants will try to stuff you with rice instead.
- Choose the right fish: Fish may have mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), prolybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and other harmful chemicals. The trouble is many of the pollutants that humans dump into the oceans and other bodies of water end up in fish. As Consumer Reports indicates, fish that tend to have the lowest amounts of mercury are the five S’s (salmon, shrimp, scallops, squid and sardines), oysters and tilapia. Fish that tend to be high in mercury include king mackerel, Chilean sea bass, bluefish, halibut, Spanish mackerel (Gulf) and tuna. Also, fish farmers frequently add chemicals to make the fish larger and more attractive, so you may want to inquire whether the fish is farm-raised or wild.
- Determine the cleanliness of the kitchen and the freshness of the fish: No matter how nutrient-rich the sushi may be, you probably don’t want food poisoning or parasites. Not cooking fish does raise the risk that infectious pathogens may remain in the food. Therefore, hygiene and food ingredient quality are particularly important. Common infectious pathogens are hepatitis A, norovirus and Vibrio vulnificus. A high proportion of cooked or sauce-covered sushi on the menu may be a sign that the fish in that restaurant in general is not that fresh. Cooked sushi can still have the infectious pathogens that cause food poisoning.
- Moderate your sushi intake: I can’t think of anything that would be good all the time. Too many puppies, too many compliments, too many spouses and too much sushi can all be unhealthy. You probably don’t want to be eating sushi every day.
In the end, like people, food and nutrition are a lot more complex than simple categorizations allow. Is a person with a baseball bat good? Maybe, if he or she is on a baseball field. But not on the pitcher’s mound. And not in a Taylor Swift concert. Similarly, let’s view food in a more complex manner. Instead, we should be asking what makes a certain food item healthy or unhealthy and under what circumstances. (By the way, sushi can be good on a baseball field and a pitcher’s mound.)
The Best and Worst Sushi Rolls for Weight Loss
Piles of scientific studies continue to show that fish is an incredible source of heart-strengthening, inflammation-reducing, cognition-boosting, life-lengthening nutrients, but the question remains—is sushi a good choice when trying to lose weight?
When it comes to low calorie restaurant ordering and takeout, Japanese cuisine is one of your safest bets—it favors fish, vegetables and greens from both the land and the sea (like algae), fermented foods, and plain steamed rice. In other words, Japanese dishes often consist of a range of simply prepared healthy light ingredients. Sushi is no exception—if ordered in its simplest form, which means when it’s not adorned with glazes, sauces, or breading, it is a great choice for a weight loss diet.
However, some rolls come laced with mayo and cream cheese, and without any real meat, so they offer very little by way of nutrition. Check out our sushi roll nutrition breakdowns below, and find out which sushi rolls you should order for weight loss, and which sushi rolls you should avoid.
Rainbow Roll, one 6-8 piece roll
Nutrition: 476 calories, 16 g fat, 50 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 33 g protein
Ingredients: Nori, rice, avocado, surimi, plus a variety of raw fish arranged on top
Sure, this roll is higher in calories than most, but it’s loaded with substantial portions of raw fish, so most of those calories are the good kind. For a superior Rainbow Roll, ask the sushi chef to make it with real crab. They may charge a bit more, but the flavor punch and extra flab-frying protein make it a worthy upgrade. Looking to slim down? Pair this roll with an order of steamed edamame and call it a day. A second roll would push you far beyond the reasonable amount of calories for a single meal.
Salmon and Avocado Roll, one 6-8 piece roll
Nutrition: 304 calories, 8.5 g fat, 42 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 13 g protein
Ingredients: Nori, rice, salmon, avocado
Sure, it’s high in calories, but nearly all of them come from the one-two punch of healthy fats found in both the salmon and avocado—a fruit that can help lower blood pressure, banish bloat, quell hunger pangs and fry stubborn belly fat.
California Roll, one 6-8 piece roll
Nutrition: 255 calories, 7 g fat, 38 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 9 g protein
Ingredients: Nori, rice, avocado, surimi
The ubiquitous fusion roll is a great beginner’s foray into the world of sushi since there’s no raw fish involved. There are also no real healthy fats, either—aside from the avocado, of course—since the fake crab (made from a variety of processed and compressed fish) has just a fraction of omega-3s as the real stuff. To make this roll more worth your while, ask for real crab instead.
Tuna Roll, one 6-8 piece roll
Nutrition: 184 calories, 2 g fat, 27 g carbs, 3.5 g fiber, 24 g protein
Ingredients: Nori, rice, tuna
More than half of the calories in this simple, classic roll come from protein, making it a great light meal or a snack with substance. Plus, tuna is a primo source of docosahexaenoic acid, an type of omega-3 fat found in oily fish that can down-regulate fat genes in the abdomen, preventing belly fat cells from growing larger. Sounds like a good reason to place an order of the Japanese staple to us!
Avocado Roll, one 6-8 piece roll
Nutrition: 136 calories, 0 g fat, 30 g carbs, 3.5 g fiber, 6 g protein
Ingredients: Nori, rice, avocado
Most of the calories in this vegetarian roll come from the healthy monounsaturated fats in the avocado—one of our favorite fat-frying superfruits. An avocado provides nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients essential for healthy weight management, including satiating fiber and vitamin K, a nutrient that helps regulate sugar metabolism and insulin sensitivity.
Cucumber Roll, one 6-8 piece roll
Nutrition: 476 calories, 16 g fat, 50 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 33 g protein
Ingredients: Nori, rice, cucumber
It’s hard to go wrong with cucumbers and seaweed. Though not a nutritional powerhouse, cucumbers are a low-calorie delivery system for vitamins A and C, fiber and silica, a compound that has been shown to foster healthy skin. Get this roll along with an order of yakitori—skewers of grilled lean meats and veggies—for a complete, nutritious meal.
Shrimp Tempura Roll, one 6-8 piece roll
Nutrition: 508 calories, 21 g fat, 64 g carbs, 4.5 g fiber, 20 g protein
Ingredients: Nori, rice, shrimp, tempura batter, oil for frying
Why take a perfectly good piece of lean shrimp and ruin it with a thick batter and a hot oil bath? The joy of fried food—the crunch—is snuffed out by the moist rice, so this one doesn’t make sense from either a flavor or nutritional perspective. If you want to lose weight and keep artery-clogging fat off your plate, steer clear of this menu item.
Eel and Avocado Roll, one 6-8 piece roll
Nutrition: 372 calories, 17 g fat, 31 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 20 g protein
Ingredients: Nori, rice, avocado, eel
Eel brings a solid helping of omega-3s to the sushi bar, but unfortunately, it’s almost always covered in a gloppy, sugary brown sauce that masks both the nutrition and the delicate natural flavor of this wily sea creature. If you opt for this roll, make it your only one of the night
Philadelphia Roll, one 6-8 piece roll
Nutrition: 290 calories, 12 g fat, 28 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 14 g protein
Ingredients: Nori, rice, salmon, cream cheese, cucumber
The cream cheese blankets the perfectly fine cucumber and omega-3-packed salmon with an unnecessary measure of fat. This roll isn’t your best bet if you’re looking to lose weight, but if you decide to indulge, order it with a miso soup and call it a night. Opting for another fat-laden roll or calorie-packed appetizer isn’t in your best interest.
Spicy Tuna Roll, one 6-8 piece roll
Nutrition: 290 calories, 11 g fat, 26 g carbs, 3.5 g fiber, 24 g protein
Ingredients: Nori, rice, tuna, mayo, chili sauce
In the world of sushi, “spicy” means a spoonful of mayo spiked with an Asian chili sauce. The calorie counts can climb higher than this, depending on how heavy a hand the sushi chef has with the spicy stuff. Either way, you’re better off ordering a plain tuna roll and satisfying your need for heat with a touch of wasabi or asking for the spicy sauce on the side.
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I love – I mean, really love – sushi. I probably eat it 5-6 times a week. It seems healthy – fish, rice, vegetables, soy – but i’m sure there are hidden unhealthy ingredients. What’s the best kind to eat? I never have deep fried tempura – but what do you recommend on a sushi menu?
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Sushi is a very healthy meal! It’s a good source of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids thanks to the fish it’s made with. Sushi is also low in calories – there’s no added fat.
The most common type is nigiri sushi – fingers of sticky rice topped with a small filet of fish or seafood. On average, one piece of sushi nigiri has about 70 calories. A typical order of 6 pieces provides 310 to 420 calories, depending on the type of fish.
Maki sushi are rolls are made with sticky rice, fish and dried seaweed, called nori. Most maki places the nori on the outside, but California rolls place the rice on the outside. On average, one piece of maki roll has 48 calories. A typical order of 6 pieces, or one roll, contains 250 to 370 calories, depending the type of fish and whether or not it’s made with avocado.
Sashimi, raw fish served sliced without rice, has roughly 132 calories for 6 pieces (3 ounces).
When ordering sushi, ask for brown rice instead of white rice. It’s more nutritious and it has a lower glycemic index than white rice.
Some types of sushi are higher in calories: Rolls made with tempura shrimp like Dynamite rolls are higher in fat and calories because the shrimp has been deep fried.
Spider rolls have mayonnaise so they will be higher in fat and calories too. Rolls with avocado are also higher in fat, but keep in mind that avocado contains heart healthy monounsaturated fat.
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One concern is the high amount of mercury found in some species of fish. Women who are planning to become pregnant, who are pregnant, who are breastfeeding and young children should avoid high mercury fish which include tuna, king mackerel, swordfish, shark, tilefish, and orange roughy. Tuna and mackerel are common at sushi restaurants. The concern is that too much mercury may damage a baby’s developing brain and nervous system.
Lastly, go easy on the soy sauce, especially if you have high blood pressure. One tablespoon of regular soy sauce has 900 to 1000 milligrams of sodium – more than half of a day’s worth. Light soy sauce has about 25 per cent less sodium: 600 to 800 milligrams per tablespoon, which is still considerable.
Other healthy items at a Japanese restaurant include edamame (young green soybeans), seaweed salad and green tea.
Send dietitian Leslie Beck your questions at [email protected] She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.
Read more Q&As from Leslie Beck.
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The content provided in The Globe and Mail’s Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Your Sushi May Not Be as Healthy as You Think
Sushi rolls topped with roe and heavy sauces, and dipped in wasabi and soy sauce can be packed with sodium and sugar. eqsk134/Getty Images
Seafood’s got a justified health halo: It’s generally lower in calories than other proteins, with beneficial fatty acids. So it’s easy to assume that sushi is also healthy. Problem is, all the things rolled up with that heart-healthy tuna and salmon roll can add up — in calories, sodium, fat and carbs. In fact, some of the most popular sushi rolls can have half a day’s worth of sodium, turning your sushi night out into a not-so-healthy meal.
First, some food purists might disagree, but sushi has long been a platform for flavors. Sushi’s origins trace back to prehistoric times, when people living in Southeast Asia’s mountain regions packed fish with rice and pressed it down with weight to preserve it. The rice produced lactic acid as it fermented, pickling the fish, which sometimes took up to a year. When it came time to eat, people tossed the rice and ate only the fish. There’s not a lot of efficiency in a system that takes up to 12 months and discards a lot of food.
By the 15th century, Japanese cooks realized if they added even more weight to the rice and fish, they could cut that fermentation time down to a month — this new process was called mama-nare zushi. And in the 17th century, the idea of adding vinegar to the rice helped cut down the processing time (no more fermenting) even more, and it added to the flavor, prompting people to start eating cooked rice with the fish. Eventually, sushi stalls became popular in Japan in the 19th century, with vendors setting out sliced pickled ginger and soy rice. Sushi went from a long process for preserving fish to a fast food served with condiments.
And today in America, sushi has its own unique interpretations: liberal uses of tempura batter to fry otherwise healthy seafood and vegetables for crunch; ingredients like cream cheese and mayo that add creaminess, mouthfeel and fat; and rolls that even swap the seafood for marbled steak and pork belly.
Sodium and Sugars
It’s those sushi rolls that are popular, like spicy tuna with avocado roll, for example, which is typically made with a mix of tuna, sriracha, scallions and mayonnaise. But a spicy tuna roll with eight pieces can have as much as 910 milligrams of sodium (the USDA recommended daily intake is 2,300 milligrams — max) and 12 grams of added sugars. That’s half of the daily sugar limit the American Heart Association recommends for women, and a third of the recommendation for men. (Don’t forget that sushi rice is made with sugar. Most rolls have about 11 to 15 grams of added sugar — that’s easily 3 to 4 teaspoons.) That amount of sodium only increases if you add soy sauce, wasabi (50 milligrams per teaspoon) and pickled ginger (55 milligrams per tablespoon).
“If you’re prone to dunking your sushi in soy sauce, keep in mind that 1 tablespoon of soy sauce has 920 milligrams of sodium,” says Whitney Linsenmeyer, Ph.D., RD, LD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Compare this to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that recommend limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams/day.”
If you’re a fan of California rolls or shrimp tempura rolls, they both can also deliver a whopping amount of sodium and added sugars. Topped with masago (roe), and that’s another 150 milligrams of sodium.
And what about the more elaborate rolls like dragon roll, which typically includes tempura shrimp, eel, avocado, cucumber and rice, drizzled with sweet eel sauce? Well one eight-piece dragon roll tops our list at a whopping 26 grams of fat, 560-plus calories, 46 grams of carbs and more than 1,000 milligrams of sodium.
“Maki and gunkanmaki may have added ingredients such as cream cheese, mayonnaise or fried vegetables that amp up the fat and calories,” Linsenmeyer says.
And for those of you who like to tack on a side of edamame or miso soup to your meal, you might want to rethink that, too. In addition to just one of the rolls we mentioned above, a side of either edamame or miso soup will push you over the total recommended sodium limit for the day; miso soup alone can be up to 1,130 milligrams of sodium, while a serving of edamame could be more than 800 milligrams of sodium.
Traditional Japanese sashimi, like this raw salmon, raw tuna and raw hamachi, is a much healthier option than many rolls or even nigiri. Prasit photo/Getty Images
Of course, not all sushi is bad. “The fish itself is a good source of lean protein or healthy fats, if it’s a fattier fish like salmon or tuna. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fatty fish per week given their omega-3 fatty acids,” Linsenmeyer explains. “Also, rolls are often wrapped using seaweed sheets, which are a good source of iron, calcium and vitamin A.”
The secret to ordering a healthy serving of sushi is to peel back the layers. “There are many different forms of sushi, including nigiri (raw fish over a small ball of rice), maki (a sushi roll), or gunkanmaki (a combination of nigiri and maki),” Linsenmeyer says. “Generally nigiri is the healthiest choice because it has the fewest additional ingredients.”
So if you’re going to order rolls, opt for a California roll with real crabmeat, a tuna roll (instead of spicy tuna) or any sort of fresh vegetable roll. And skip those with heavy sauces. But your best option is to simply order sashimi, which is thinly sliced, high-quality fish served raw and without any rice. You’ll skip the carbs, added sugars (from the rice and sauces) and you can eat more. Just go easy on the soy sauce and wasabi (or skip them entirely). Finally, you can add a seaweed or other vegetable-based salad to round out and balance your entire meal.
You’ve seen the Instagram quotes: You had me at sushi. Soy happy together. Keep calm and eat sushi. Corny, sure, but it’s all good because sushi = fish = totally healthy.
That’s true—for the most part. But certain rolls (ahem: the fried and mayo-laden Kamikaze roll) are closer to French fries in nutrition, says Jessica Perez, R.D.
Not a big deal once in a while—but if you didn’t intend for your seaweed salad to come with a side of saturated fat, disturbing nonetheless.
So yeah…is sushi healthy?
Yes, Perez says…but again, it it really depends on what you order.
Aim for a serving of fatty fish like salmon at least once a week, she says. Fatty fish contains memory-boosting omega-3 fatty acids, so it gets a big thumbs up from most R.D.s.
But there’s a catch: You should be mindful of your intake of fatty fish like tuna and mackerel, which tend to be higher in mercury. Mercury, of course, is linked to birth defects and can be toxic if consumed at high levels—although some of these fears have been overblown.
Perez recommends only having one or two tuna rolls, and getting the rest of your protein from shrimp, eel, or scallops. (For reference, the FDA says women of childbearing age should eat two to three servings per week of low-mercury fish.)
The other downside of sushi: One roll can contain up to one cup of rice, according to Perez. Yeah, that’s a lot.
White rice doesn’t have much fiber, and it can really spike your blood sugar (leading to a crash, and TBH, probably cravings). So you really don’t want to eat more than a cup and a half of rice total all day—and no more than two-thirds a cup at a time, she says. Ask for fiber-rich brown rice when eating out, or swap the white stuff for cauliflower rice or quinoa when you’re making sushi at home. (Also, damn, congrats on being able to DIY it, girl.)
Of course, if you’re immunosuppressed (undergoing chemo, coping with an autoimmune disease, or pregnant) you should steer clear of raw fish altogether. Raw foods carry a slightly higher risk of passing along a bacterial infection, according to Perez. Cooked fish is still on the table, though.
Healthy sushi options
The fewer crunchy and creamy add-ons, the better. Swap the spicy mayo for a side of pickled ginger for a similar zing. It’s lower in fat, plus the health benefits of ginger are real.
Here are some great options to order:
- The California Roll, which includes clean ingredients like avocado, crab, and cucumber.
- The Vegetarian Roll, which can include tofu, avocado, and a variety of fresh vegetables like carrot and bell pepper.
- Sashimi, which is a plain slice of raw fish, or nigiri, which comes with a base of rice (brown is better).
Perez says rolls like these should be avoided (or treated as an occasional indulgence):
- The Dragon Eye, which is fried on the outside.
- The Boston Roll, which contains fried shrimp.
- The Kamikaze Roll, which is loaded with mayo and tempura.
- The Philadelphia Roll, which contains cream cheese (you’re better off getting your calcium from less processed sources!).
- Tempura or panko rolls, which are just fried filler.
“Get a salmon roll, a veggie roll, and California roll, and that’ll be plenty,” Perez says.
The bottom line: There’s room for sushi in your diet—in moderation. Consider limiting rolls that are fried or filled with other high-calorie ingredients.
Marissa Miller Marissa Miller has spent a decade editing and reporting on women’s health issues from an intersectional lens with a focus on peer-reviewed nutrition, fitness trends, mental health, skincare, reproductive rights and beyond.
Is Sushi Healthy? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
Americans eat sushi in venues as varied as high-end restaurants and prepared foods sections of grocery stores — and many believe it’s a nutritious choice. But is sushi healthy?
“Sushi has this halo of being healthy,” says Katherine Zeratsky, a registered dietitian nutritionist and associate professor of nutrition at Mayo Clinic. After all, traditional sushi has all the makings of a health food: it’s stuffed with fresh fish, wrapped in thin sheets of seaweed and presented in neat little rolls. But experts warn not to expect your weekly spicy tuna order to slim your waistline.
One of the biggest problems with sushi is portion control. While it may look compact, sushi can have a lot of calories: a single sushi roll cut into six to nine pieces can contain as many as 500 calories, says Isabel Maples, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (A spicy shrimp roll with condiments has about 550 calories, according to the USDA.) “Our eyes will tell us something, and it may or may not match with what’s happening nutritionally,” adds Zeratsky — and that’s before factoring in additional rolls, appetizers or a cup of sake. “It can add up.”
Most of those calories come from the sticky white rice that holds your roll together. Sushi rice is typically made by adding in vinegar and sugar, and the sugar gives it more calories than steamed rice, Zeratsky says. This sweetened sticky sushi rice also gets patted and packed down considerably during the cooking and assembly process, so you could be consuming half a cup to an entire cup of white rice in just one roll, says Nancy Farrell, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Fredericksburg, Va. “It’s really easy to pop them in your mouth” without realizing just how much rice you’ve eaten.
How to make your sushi order healthier
Still, sushi can absolutely be “part of healthy diet,” notes Zeratsky — as long as you’re careful about how and what you order. “It just depends on how you do it,” she says. Here’s what to look out for.
Choose the right roll
The ingredients tucked inside (and piled on top of) your roll are the biggest deciding factors in whether or not your sushi is healthy. Fish is usually low in calories, high in protein and packed with powerful nutrients like omega-3s. Include steamed and fresh vegetables, which are rich in fiber, and avocados, a heart-healthy fat, says Farrell, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Keep it simple, and your sushi roll will usually be healthier for you. But avoid mayonnaise-based sauces (a main ingredient in most rolls with “spicy” fillings) or battered and fried vegetables (labeled “crunchy” or “tempura”).
Cut down on dips and soy sauce
Dips and sauces can quickly escalate the sodium and fat levels in your sushi dinner. Spicy mayo, for example, is a “very concentrated source” of fat and calories, says Zeratsky. She recommends adding “just a touch to your tongue” to enjoy the flavor, rather than dunking your dinner generously. As for soy sauce, even a tablespoon of a reduced-sodium variety can contain 575 mg of sodium: about 25% of the recommended daily upper limit. If you can’t part with your soy sauce, Maples suggests simply sprinkling a bit over your sushi or dipping delicately to err on the healthy side. Some condiments, on the other hand, are packed full of flavor and nutrients. Ginger, popular in its pickled form to accompany sushi rolls, has anti-inflammatory benefits, notes Maples, while Farrell points to daikon radish as “an amazing source of vitamin C.”
Get quality raw fish
Even if you’re not concerned about sushi’s effect on your waistline, experts say sushi lovers should still be cautious when it comes to eating raw fish. When “eating anything that’s raw, there is some inherent risk” of getting sick from bacteria and parasites, says Zeratsky, so people should make sure their fish is from a reputable restaurant and has been refrigerated properly. (A strong fishy smell is a big red flag that it may not be fresh enough to eat, she says.) Your safest bets are rolls with vegetables or cooked seafood in them, says Maples. And be aware of how long takeout or delivery sushi is left out before you consume it. Raw fish shouldn’t be left out for more than two hours, or longer than one hour if it is 90 degrees or warmer, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In a story that made headlines in early 2018, a man said he contracted a 5-foot long tapeworm after eating raw salmon nearly every day; parasites can survive in raw fish when its internal temperature rises too high or when the fish is improperly frozen.
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Another health concern when it comes to eating sushi is mercury, a metal that occurs naturally in our environment but is heightened by pollution and then absorbed by most seafood and shellfish. Consuming trace amounts of mercury via seafood is safe for most people, but it can stunt early development, so pregnant women and young children are advised to avoid raw seafood and even certain types of cooked fish that have high mercury levels, like ahi tuna, king mackerel and swordfish, Maples says. Most people who eat sushi occasionally need not worry, but if you eat sushi multiple times a week, “one of easiest ways to minimize your risk is to mix up types of sushi you get,” Maples advises, “so that you don’t have same ones over and over.” Another protective measure is to choose seafood “high in omega fatty acids but low in mercury, like salmon or shrimp.”
Upgrade your sushi order
There are plenty of ways to make a sushi dinner a healthy one. Maples chooses brown rice; it’s higher in fiber and fills you up more than starchy white rice, which digests fairly quickly and could leave you hungry just a few hours after a sushi feast. Getting sushi wrapped in cucumber or ordering sashimi, thinly sliced fresh fish served without rice, are other ways to make your sushi order healthier, Zeratsky says. Going for rolls or to sushi restaurants where the proportion of fish to rice is higher is an additional way to get more healthy, filling protein and less of these starchy carbs.
If you just can’t part with your white sushi rice, simply eat less of it. A good way to do so is to pair your sushi with something that has more protein or fiber, such as edamame or a side of vegetables, or to start your meal with a miso soup or salad. And whenever you’re eating out, don’t be afraid to ask your server questions about how a roll is prepared or what’s in it, so you “know what you’re getting and make a better choice,” Zeratsky says.
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How to Eat Sushi: the Complete Guide to Japan’s Most Famous Food
Date published: 20 November 2019
Sushi is likely the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind when thinking about Japanese food. Healthy and delicious, it has become a favorite of many all around the world. As an international success, sushi lovers likely know the difference between nigiri sushi and maki rolls, but when it comes to sushi variations, that is merely the beginning! Have you ever heard of chirashi or oshi sushi? Restaurants themselves come in different categories, such as “over the counter” or “conveyor belt.” All in all, sushi may seem simple – it’s just something raw with rice, right? – but there’s a complex world that does not only require intricate skill and craftsmanship but also a certain amount of knowledge to make the most out of your sushi experience.
In this thorough guide, we’ll cover all the important basics of sushi. From how to eat it to secret etiquette, you’ll be a sushi pro in no time!
Nigiri, Maki, Oshi – Sushi Varieties
When a Japanese friend says “Let’s go eat sushi,” they’re most likely talking about classic nigiri, “hand-pressed sushi” that is neta (topping) on a bank of shari (sushi rice). That is only one of many varieties, however. Let’s take a look at other kinds of sushi:
Oshi-zushi is “pressed sushi” and particularly popular in the Kansai area. It is quite literally vinegared rice and toppings pressed into a box until it has a nice shape, then taken back out and cut into blocks.
Kazari-zushi means “decorative sushi” and could be called a sub-genre of maki-zushi, “sushi rolls.” It’s a popular dish at parties because of how fun and adorable it looks.
Temaki-zushi means “hand-rolled” and looks like little bouquets. It’s made by putting vinegared rice and a topping of your choice on a sheet of nori (dried seaweed) and then rolled by hand. Because it is relatively easy to make, it’s a sushi variety often made and enjoyed at home.
Temaki-zushi (Hand-rolled sushi)
Chirashi-zushi basically is a sushi bowl with the toppings loosely spread on top of the vinegared rice. It’s easily made at home while kaisen don (seafood bowl) is a popular order at sushi restaurants. It is also a staple dish during the Doll’s Festival (Hinamatsuri) on March 3.
Chirashi-zushi Kaisen don (Seafood bowl)
Sushi Restaurant Types: Conveyor Belt and Over-the-Counter
Conveyor Belt Sushi
Sushi restaurants can be divided into two categories. One is or conveyor belt sushi. As the name suggests, guests take whatever sushi creations they desire from a conveyor belt that circles the restaurant. The price is usually decided by the color of the plate and conveyor belt restaurants are known for being affordable and fit for every budget. One plate features two pieces of sushi, and cheap toppings usually cost about 100 yen per plate. However, there are also luxury toppings that may cost over 1,000 yen for a single serving! That’s exactly what makes conveyor belt sushi so flexible – freely choose according to your taste and budget! These restaurants also often have a great selection of kid-friendly dishes, so they’re a perfect choice for families.
Budget: about 1,500 yen ~ 3,000 yen
Color of the plate = price of the sushi
In recent years, a lot of conveyor belt restaurants have started using multilingual touch panels to make ordering even easier. Since they include big pictures, you don’t have to know the name of every fish – just pick what looks delicious to you!
Sometimes, your order will arrive on a quirky tray shaped like a shinkansen bullet train or something similar. This high-speed delivery of fresh sushi makes your gourmet experience even more fun!
The other sushi restaurant type is “over the counter.” Sushi is served literally right over the counter with every order, and these restaurants are popular because they also tend to offer other seafood dishes, Japanese sake, and so on. It’s a different kind of experience – slower than with a conveyor belt, you get to watch the sushi chefs excel at their craft right in front of your eyes. They also often tell you about their seasonal ingredients and the best way to enjoy the sushi they’ve just served you. It’s an interesting experience all around.
Many such restaurants offer sushi sets or courses, allowing you to try a variety of flavors without having to choose yourself. Another nice option is omakase, meaning “I’ll leave it to you,” prompting the chef to create an assortment of their own recommendations. If you don’t like certain ingredients, just tell them and they’ll accommodate. Some shops don’t even have a menu, but even if you don’t know the price, it is said that it’s rude to ask the chef about it at these over-the-counter restaurants. In general, they are seen as fancier and more sophisticated than conveyor belt restaurants, so it’s a good idea to tell the chefs what you plan on spending.
Budget: from 10,000 yen
*If you want to drink alcohol, plan for 15,000 yen and up.
In the past, conveyor belt restaurants carried the image of being cheap but so-so when it comes to taste. That started to change a while ago, however, as some started to focus more on freshness, production area, and so on, to the point where many are just as delicious as over-the-counter restaurants. You’ll notice that their prices are higher compared to other conveyor belt restaurants, but they offer the opportunity to taste high-quality sushi in a laid-back, casual environment.
Budget: around 5,000 yen and up
How to Eat Sushi: Chopsticks or Fingers?
There seem to be a lot of rumors and misconceptions around the “proper” way to eat sushi. First of all, it does not matter whether you use chopsticks or simply eat with your fingers – both are perfectly natural and acceptable.
The important point here is to not make it fall apart as you dip it in the sauce. Sushi rice has a lot of air between the grains to make it nice and fluffy on your tongue. If you soak it with soy sauce too much, the rice will fall apart – that doesn’t only ruin the appearance, but also the intended flavor. It’s better to use your hands if you notice the rice being particularly airy or if you’re not too confident in your chopstick skills. You’re always served a wet towel called oshibori to wipe your hands with so that they’re nice and clean for your sushi experience.
How to Eat Sushi: Soy Sauce Dipping Tips
It’s not just your imagination – dipping sushi in soy sauce is one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to eating the healthy delicacy! The best way to get a decent amount of soy sauce on your nigiri is to turn it sideways and dip the tip of the topping. While it may seem easier to dip the bottom of the nigiri, the rice soaks up too much soy sauce. That doesn’t only make it too salty but might also cause it to fall apart.
Turn the nigiri to the side and dip the topping. Don’t soak the rice in soy sauce.
How to Eat Sushi: Dipping Battleship Sushi
Battleship sushi (Gunkan-maki)
The battleship sushi or gunkan-maki is made by forming rice to an oval shape, wrapping nori around it, and topping it with whatever you like. Because it’s so simple to make, it’s a popular variety to make at home. The classic toppings such as salmon roe or sea urchin easily fall out, however, so turn it just a little bit and dip the seaweed in soy sauce.
Recently, spray type soy sauce has become popular at all kinds of sushi restaurants as well. Feel free to use it and directly spritz a bit of soy sauce on the toppings.
Some sushi toppings are served already seasoned, in which case you don’t need any soy sauce at all. The chefs prepare every piece in a way they deem to be the most delicious, so even if you’re a fan of plenty of soy sauce, give it a try just the way the chef intended. Classic examples of this are boiled conger eel and eel, as they come coated in a special sauce already. The rule of thumb is that soy sauce is unnecessary whenever there’s another sauce on the topping.
How to Eat Sushi: Order is Important!
Unless you’re a connoisseur, you might be surprised to hear that sushi tastes best when eaten in a specific order. Generally, the rule is to start with the light toppings that have a subtle flavor and work your way up to the stronger tasting heavy toppings. Maki rolls are eaten at the end because their refreshing flavor makes for a nice finish. Starting with the strong-tasting or fatty toppings first makes it a lot more difficult to savor the subtler flavors afterward.
And still, sushi began as casual street food sold at stalls, so it’s perfectly alright to eat what you like in whichever order you like – no one’s going to raise an eyebrow at that. Paying attention to the order is for really savoring every single topping as much as possible. It focuses on the skills of the sushi chef, preparing everything to the best of their expert knowledge, and we highly recommend trying this way of eating sushi at least once.
A great way to try this is to go to an “over the counter” sushi restaurant and order omakase, which tells the chef: “I’m leaving it up to you!” That way, you’ll get to enjoy a variety of flavors both subtle and strong even if you’re a sushi beginner.
Here are some other phrases that’ll help you navigate your way to a sublime gourmet experience:
Osusume wa nan desu ka?
→ “What’s your recommendation?”
→ osusume = recommendation
Omakase de onegai shimasu.
→ “I’d like to leave it up to you.”
→ omakase = leaving the selection/preparation to the chef
Moriawase o kudasai.
→ “An assorted plate, please.”
→ moriawase = assortment
Wasabi-nuki ni shite kudasai.
→ “No wasabi, please.” (Tell the chef right as you order.)
→ Wasabi-nuki = without wasabi
Kono neta ni shōyu wa tsukemasu ka?
→ “Is this topping supposed to be eaten with soy sauce?”
→ shōyu = soy sauce
Other sauces and dips:
→ tare = special sauce
→ shio = salt
→ ponzu = citrus vinegar
Basic Sushi Eating Order
First half: light toppings
Red fish (tuna, salmon), sweet sauce toppings (conger eel, eel), shellfish, shrimp, sea urchin, roe.
End with: maki rolls & pickles
Maki rolls and pickled toppings are perfect finishers for your sushi meal.
If you’re someone who prefers something sweet to end a meal, there are toppings for you as well. Fried egg has a subtly sweet taste and is often savored as the very last nigiri.
How to Eat Sushi: In One Bite or Two?
Nowadays, one plate generally offers two pieces of sushi. Up until the 1940s, however, there was only a single piece served that was as big as a onigiri rice ball, impossible to eat in just one bite. While the amount of rice has stayed the same, sushi chefs have split it in two, creating two portions that are supposed to be the size of a single bite – and that’s the best way to eat sushi! Trying to bite one piece in half is not only difficult, it often causes the sushi to fall apart.
How to Eat Sushi: Japan’s Unofficial Sushi Rules
In Japan, sushi is a thoroughly casual food, but even here high-class sushi restaurants are on the rise. While conveyor belt restaurants are still the laid-back places where you won’t have to worry about much, sushi bars and “over the counter” restaurants do have unofficial rules to follow:
・Perfume and smoking are no-gos!
The refreshing aroma of vinegar is an important part of the sushi experience. Strong perfumes and cigarette smoke taint the delicate flavor – and stifle others’ ability to do so as well.
・Extra wasabi is a no-go!
While this may seem weird to you, the amount of wasabi is carefully measured by the sushi chef who adds it between rice and topping. If that’s not enough for you, pick up a bit of wasabi with your chopsticks and put it directly on the sushi. Some people mix it right into the soy sauce until it turns a greenish color – that is definitely too much and the wasabi will cover the topping’s flavor.
If you don’t like wasabi at all, it’s perfectly acceptable to tell the chef to not include any by saying wasabi-nuki as you order.
・Eat sushi as soon as it arrives!
As soon as the chef serves the sushi, start eating! If you leave it on the plate to take pictures or finish that engaging conversation you just started, you won’t be able to savor the sushi at its freshest.
・Conveyor belt: don’t put plates back on the belt!
If you’re at a conveyor belt restaurant and happen to grab something that you don’t like, don’t put the plate back on the belt, even if you haven’t touched it. Similarly, don’t put empty plates back either.
Sushi Terms – Speak Like a Sushi Pro
Sushi is such a unique food, it has its own terms and phrases. Even if you speak basic Japanese, you’ll be surprised at just how different these technical terms are.
Here are some of the most important ones.
Neta (Sushi topping): The word for seed (tane) read backwards.
Gari (Pickled ginger): Eat to cleanse your palate during the sushi meal.
Kappa (“cucumber,” often as kappa-maki): The kappa is a mythical creature that is said to love cucumber.
Toro (Tuna belly): “Toro” is an onomatopoeia for soft and mellow. Tuna belly is rather fatty and especially soft. “Ōtoro” is the fattiest part, “chū-toro” is medium fatty.
Hikari-mono (Silver-skinned fish): “Hikari” means light or shiny, which is exactly what silver-skinned fish are.
Gunkan (“Battleship,” oval-shaped rice with tall seaweed belt and topping): The shape resembles a battleship.
Agari (Tea): The last tea that a geisha serves is called “agari-bana” (rising flower). At sushi restaurants, a meal is also ended with tea.
Murasaki (Soy sauce): “Murasaki” means purple. The imperial court once used the word for a soy sauce-like russet brown. Another reason: in the past, soy sauce was expensive, just like things that were purple.
Namida (Wasabi): “Namida” means tears, which are the result of too much of it.
Geta（”Wooden” tray sushi is served on): Traditional sushi trays are elevated on blocks just like “geta,” traditional wooden sandals.
Order confidently with a list of common sushi toppings:
What kind of toppings are available greatly depends on the location of the sushi restaurant and the current season. Sometimes, a place will have seasonal toppings that aren’t written on the main menu, so it’s always worth to ask about today’s recommendations or special menu.
The fresh catch of the day is often written on a blackboard like this.
The History of Sushi
Now, let’s cleanse our palate with a bit of sushi history! Sushi is over 1,000 years old but what was eaten back then has little to do with what’s on your plate today – unless you go to a specialty restaurant. This “prototype” sushi is nowadays known as funazushi and you’ll still find it in Shiga prefecture. It’s made by fermenting a Japanese fish called nigorobuna with rice and salt for several months (sometimes a whole year), done to preserve the fish for a long time.
The turn came in the 17th century when vinegar started being used for sushi. That’s when oshi-zushi (pressed sushi) became a popular method of preservation without fermentation in the Kansai area.
The now so popular nigiri-zushi was first created in the 19th century in Edo, the old name for Tokyo. Back then, it was known (and in Tokyo still is) as Edomae sushi, because it was made with ingredients that are available in and around Edo. It was a casual, quick food sold at stalls all around the city, catering to the hungry common folk. The size of one nigiri was two to three times the size it is today, resembling a rice ball more than anything else.
You can see this original nigiri sushi and sushi stalls portrayed in many woodblock prints from the era, making clear that it was one the city’s staple foods, alongside soba and tempura.
Even today, a lot of sushi restaurants offer comparatively large tea bowls or cups. It is said that the size of these bowls is a result of the craft of a sushi chef. They have to use both hands to make their delicacy so having to pour tea for a customer – common back then – was bothersome. Larger bowls saved them a lot of trouble.
Sushi is a national food of Japan, closely connected to the country’s history and culture in many ways, available in various shapes and forms. Tasty, healthy, and creative, sushi has conquered the hearts of plenty of gourmets all around the world and continues its international success. The traditional food even starts to evolve globally, with plenty of original creations! The next time you’re in Japan, you should make your way to a sushi restaurant to both savor your favorite toppings and dive into the Japanese sushi tradition, exploring tastes you’ve never had before. Itadakimasu!
*This information is from the time of this article’s publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
How to Eat Sushi
I have spent years studying the nuances of Japanese dining and have learned many of the rules for eating sushi in a traditional restaurant. That said, while there really are no absolute requirements, other than general politeness, there are certain behaviors that may make your dining experience more pleasant, and the staff more attentive and interested in you. Not everyone is going to know every tradition of how to eat sushi, and you are not expected to be an expert. While many of the tips that follow may be obvious to some, I hope that they may offer a bit of insight to those who love sushi, but perhaps only have it occasionally. Learning sushi etiquette is both simple and fun!
Please keep in mind that while large, this is not a canonical list, and therefore should be taken as guidance rather than strict advice. You would also do well to not read this sushi guide and then worry every time you go out to eat sushi. Many Japanese do not follow all the rules to a ‘T’ (or even know them) and I would suggest that polite behavior is enough to make a good meal at any restaurant, sushi-ya or not, especially in North America. Again, I don’t mean to put forth these rules as absolutes, only to offer some insight into the depth of tradition that surrounds sushi dining experience. So please interpret this as for informational purposes and not a directive as to how you should behave when you go our for sushi.
Arriving and being seated
- It is polite in any restaurant to greet the host or hostess, who may greet you with the traditional “irasshaimase” which means “please come in.” You just need to acknowledge their greeting and are not required to say anything back, other than to answer the questions about your evening (seating, etc). Don’t feel like you are impolite if you don’t respond, it’s not essential to sushi etiquette, but no one will ever begrudge you for a smile!
- If you are interested in watching your food preparation or conversation with the itamae (sushi chef), ask to be seated at the sushi bar, otherwise a table is fine (and the bar better left for those who would prefer the interaction).
If you are seated at the sushi bar, only ask the itamae for sushi. Drinks, soup, and other non-sushi (or sashimi) items are handled only by the waiter/waitress.
Ask the itamae what he would recommend, never ‘is that fresh?” as it is insulting to imply that something may not be. If you think it may not be fresh, you shouldn’t be eating there, however a good itamae will steer a diner towards the food he feels will be most satisfying and highlight his skills. Sometimes learning how to eat sushi is just knowing your manners!
Respect the itamae, he is often quite busy. But feel free to engage him in conversation if he is able. This is also a good way to build a rapport with him and you may reap the rewards later as a regular (I really have with one particular itamae at one of my favorite places).
Keep your palate in mind and order accordingly. It is impolite to leave food on your plate after your meal or act as though a particular item is ‘gross’ if you don’t like it.
How to eat sushi: the dining etiquette
- You may be offered a hot, wet towel (called an oshibori) at the beginning of your meal. Use it to wash you hands and try to fold it back neatly the way it was offered to you before returning it.
- Do not rub your chopsticks together. When not in use they should be placed parallel to yourself on the holder (if there is one) or on the shoyu dish. They should also be placed there when finished with your meal.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for an item not on the menu as the sushi-ya may have special or seasonal items that are not listed. It is perfectly acceptable to ask, and often the itamae will appreciate your interest.
- Don’t put wasabi directly in the shoyu dish. Nigiri-zushi (fingers of rice topped with fish or another topping) comes with wasabi placed under the neta (fish) by the itamae, and reflects what he feels is the proper balance of wasabi to fish. Some of us like a little more, and you can always sneak some separately on the fish or with it.
- It is OK to eat nigiri-zushi (sushi) with your hands. Sashimi is only to be eaten with your chopsticks.
- Pick up the nigiri-zushi and dip the fish (neta) into your shoyu, not the rice (which will soak up too much shoyu). The rice is like a sponge, and too much shoyu will overpower the taste of the food and could also lead to the rice falling into your shoyu dish and making soup, which is not a good thing.
- Do not pick up a piece of food from another person’s plate with the end of the chopsticks you put in your mouth. When moving food like this use the end you hold, which is considered the polite way.
- Eat nigiri style sushi in one bite. This is not always easy (or possible) in North America where some sushi-ya make huge pieces, but traditional itamae in Japanese sushi-ya will make the pieces the proper size for this. In North America, try your best and don’t worry if there’s possible way to fit the entire thing in your mouth! It’s not up to you to have proper sushi etiquette if it’s physically impossible.
- Gari (ginger) is considered a palate cleanser and eaten between bites or different types of sushi. It is not meant to be eaten in the same bite as a piece of sushi.
- Slurping noodles is OK, less so for soup, but a bit is fine, at least by Japanese standards.
- In more traditional sushi-ya, if you are not given a spoon for your soup, do not ask for one. You are expected to pick up your bowl to drink the soup, using your chopsticks to direct the solid pieces to your mouth.
- It’s nice to offer a beer or sake to the itamae (but of course not required). He may remember you and treat you well upon subsequent visits.
- Never pass food to another person using chopsticks as this is too close symbolically to the passing of a deceased relative’s bones at a traditional Japanese funeral. Pass a plate instead allowing an individual to take food themselves.
- Also, never stick your chopsticks in your rice and leave them sticking up. This resembles incense sticks and again brings to mind the symbolism of the Japanese funeral and prayers to one’s ancestors.
- Technically one doesn’t drink sake with sushi (or rice in general) only with sashimi or before or after the meal. It is felt that since they are both rice based, they do not complement each other and therefore should not be consumed together. Green tea is a great option with sushi or sashimi.
- With alcoholic beverages, it is considered customary to serve each other (if not alone) instead of pouring one’s own drink. Be attentive of your fellow diner’s glasses and refill them. If you need a refill, drink the remainder of the beverage and hold the glass slightly and politely towards a dining partner.
- It is customary for the most “prestigious” person at the table to pour the drinks. Serving of drinks is very hierarchical in nature. Example: a professor who dines with his students would pour the drinks. Seniors would serve the freshman. If not by prestige, it would be the host of the evening or who made the invite. If you invited someone to dine with you, you become the automatic host.
- Sake is available both chilled and hot, depending the quality and style. Experiment to learn what you like, but generally, higher quality sake is served cold. And some is quite good as well as sophisticated.
- Belching is considered impolite at the Japanese table, unlike some other Asian cultures. This is a no-no for sushi etiquette.
- “Kanpai!” (“empty your cup”) is the traditional Japanese toast you may hear. Do not say “chin chin” as to the Japanese, this is a reference to a certain male body part best left out of proper conversation.
After the meal
- If you sit at the bar, tip the itamae for the food (in western countries there is often a tip jar as the itamae will never touch money since he touches food) and the wait staff for the drinks etc. Otherwise, tip as you normally would.
- It is polite to thank the itamae if you were seated at the sushi bar. If you want to try Japanese, “domo arigato” is a polite Japanese expression for ‘thank you’ and if you want to be more sophisticated (for a westerner), you might try “gochisosama deshita,” which loosely translated means “thank you for the meal.” You can use the less commonly used “oishikatta desu” (it was delicious), however this is rarely used.
- In Japan, tips are included in the bill, but in North America, tip as you see fit.
I hope that his provides some insight into the sophisticated evolution of the sushi dining experience and that you now feel as though you know how to eat sushi. This is not an exhaustive list, but certainly large enough for a general guide. Again, please treat this exposition as a list of guidelines and not as hard and fast rules. I have provided this as a reference and an article of interest, not as something to worry westerners who think they ‘might be doing it wrong.’ Enjoy your meal as you normally would, and have fun. That is really the purpose of going out to eat.
Can Sushi Be Low in Sodium?
Q. I enjoy sushi and, from what I understand, it’s a fairly healthy choice–apart from the sodium. Unfortunately, I’m starting to deal with blood pressure issues. Are there ways that I can still enjoy sushi?
A. You’re right, the sodium in a sushi dinner can add up quickly. It’s not the fish that’s the problem–it’s the accompaniments. My Sodium in Sushi Cheat Sheet lists typical sodium content for some of the more common items. As you can see, even the low sodium soy sauce still packs a whopping 500mg per tablespoon.
Because sushi rice can be fairly high in sodium, consider ordering sashimi (just the fish) instead of nigiri (fish balanced atop rice). If you do order a maki roll, avoid the ones made with salty sauces (such as Unagi eel rolls) or pickled vegetables and go for rolls made with raw fish and vegetables like cucumber and avocado. You might also want to learn to enjoy sushi the way the Japanese do–with little to no soy sauce or extra wasabi. This allows you to fully savor the delicate flavors of the fish and vegetables.
Nutrition Diva’s Sodium in Sushi Cheat Sheet
Sushi with chopsticks image courtesy of
5 Dishes You Should Avoid (and the 5 You Should Order) at Sushi Restaurants
Sushi can be one of the healthiest options when dining out. A mix of omega-3-rich fish, whole grains, and fresh vegetables leave little room for error—right? Wrong. As virtuous as the popular Japanese delicacy can be, sushi can easily turn into a major calorie and sodium bomb.
The official recommendation for seafood consumption from both the 2015 Dietary Guidelines and the American Heart Association is to eat fish at least twice weekly—at least 8 oz. total. As such, sushi is a great way to hit your weekly fish quota when ordered strategically. The key is to stick to lean fish, sub for brown rice, keep sauces sparse, and vegetables plentiful. Here, we help you navigate the sushi menu so you can order a nutrient-rich meal with confidence.
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AVOID:1. Tempura RollsMenu items that say “crispy” or “crunchy” are often code for battered and fried. Usually prepared with shrimp or soft-shell crab, these rolls tend to be high in calories, saturated fat, and sodium—not to mention soggy when not consumed fresh. If you crave the crunch, ask that scallions or cucumbers be added to your roll. 2. Spicy Mayo and Aioli’sCreamy sauces are one of the easiest ways to drive calories and saturated fat through the roof. Not only do these sauces take away from the inherent freshness of the fish, but they’re also one of the least traditional accouterments to sushi. There are plenty of other more nutritious flavor-enhancers available; fresh ginger, wasabi, or even a dash of lower-sodium soy sauce can add big flavor for minimal calories. 3. Cream Cheese RollsIf you ask me, cream cheese belongs on a bagel with lox – not wrapped in rice and seaweed. If you crave the creaminess, request avocado be added to your roll of choice. 4. Soy SauceOne tablespoon of soy sauce boasts a whopping 900mg sodium (almost 40% your daily recommended intake). Most sushi restaurants have lower-sodium soy sauce available upon request, though this should still be used conservatively, as most brands still have around 500mg sodium per tablespoon. 5. Imitation CrabGo fresh or go home (or to Wendy’s, I suppose?). Often used in California rolls or crab salad toppings, imitation crab is a form of processed seafood made of starch and pulverized white fish. Manufacturers often add fillers, flavoring, and color to mimic the taste, texture and color of crabmeat. I’ll pass. ORDER: 1. Soup or SaladTo make sushi more satisfying, start your meal with miso soup, a mixed green salad (ginger dressing on the side, please), or a seaweed salad. Edible seaweeds are rich in fiber, protein, both fat-soluble and B-vitamins, minerals (particularly calcium, iron, copper, magnesium, and iodine), and bioactive phenolic compounds.
2. SashimiSashimi is thinly sliced raw fish (basically sushi sans rice). Ask the sushi chef what’s fresh or what they recommend, or just go for salmon or tuna sashimi — two fail-proof options. 3. Brown RiceSwapping white rice for brown allows you to slip in a few servings of whole grains while boosting the fiber content of your sushi roll. Most restaurants offer brown rice for a slight upcharge (typically $1-$2 per roll). 4. Cucumber or seaweed wrapped rollsAlternatively, ask that your roll be wrapped in cucumber or seaweed to keep both calories and carbohydrates in check. This is also a great hack if you’re looking to enjoy more than one roll, but don’t want to fill up on loads of rice. 5. Salmon or tuna rollsGet the biggest nutritional bang for your buck by selecting sushi that includes salmon and/or tuna. Not only are they both rich in quality protein and essential nutrients — both contain a considerable amount of omega-3 fatty acids. 6. RD favorite roll: Salmon Avocado Roll (with brown rice)Packed with fiber, protein and heart-healthy fats, this one is both satisfying and delicious. Pile on scallions, pickled ginger, and wasabi for extra flavor and crunch, and skip the sodium-loaded sauces. And in lieu of ordering a second roll, pair it with edamame, a seaweed salad, or Japanese vegetables. And maybe some sake.
The staggering sums demonstrate the trademark lavish spending that has characterized Bloomberg’s late-in-life political career: a virtually bottomless wallet that fills in when campaign customs don’t appeal to him. The former New York City mayor’s determination that the traditional Iowa-centric presidential primary calendar doesn’t suit him simply wouldn’t work for another candidate. But it’s perfectly compatible with Bloomberg’s reality — when that reality includes $140 million spent on TV and digital ads, $3.3 million on polling alone, and nearly $1 million to crisscross the country in pursuit of delegates in Super Tuesday states other candidates can’t yet afford to focus on.
Bloomberg now has more than 1,000 people on his campaign payroll. Those employees got iPhone 11s and MacBooks and were put up in furnished Manhattan apartments if they relocated. Now, they enjoy catered meals throughout the long days they’re expected to clock. The campaign’s $750,000 travel tab, which includes the use of a private plane owned by Bloomberg’s eponymous financial news organization, doesn’t include airfare and hotels racked up this month as he zoomed in on California, Texas and Florida.
The campaign spent $10,000 on sushi alone.
And the $188 million that Bloomberg spent at the end of last year — far in excess of the other Democratic candidates — is only how much he spent between his late November entrance into the primary and Dec. 31, when the filing period ended. The ad spending by itself now tops $300 million, and on Sunday Bloomberg is airing a Super Bowl spot showcasing his record fighting the National Rifle Association for a cool $10 million.
In an unusual arrangement, Bloomberg recorded a $14 million expense to his media company that he is drawing down as he pays staffers who have moved to his campaign. Some $50,000 of that covered the cost of his trademark Bloomberg Terminals for a handful of staffers.
His campaign team said it received legal guidance on the setup, though it declined to provide a written copy.
The FEC noted the Bloomberg campaign has nearly $33 million in what it calls debt, which a campaign aide called a “misnomer” since all those invoices for services predating Dec. 31 will have been paid by the next filing.
Bloomberg’s team leaned into their tremendous financial advantage: Forbes now calculates his wealth to be $61.5 billion and he has shown no intention of curtailing his spending anytime soon. In fact, he has promised to keep his campaign apparatus running through the general election even if he isn’t the Democratic nominee so he can fund whomever is.
“Our first month’s filing represents a down payment and commitment in all 50 states to defeat Donald Trump, and it shows we have the resources and plan necessary to take him on,” Sheekey, the campaign manager, said in a prepared statement.
Sushi Myths & Misconceptions
This is our third of three articles focusing on sushi in Japan. Make sure to check out the other articles on Tokyo’s best sushi shops and essential sushi etiquette!
If you’re reading this, chances are you love sushi.
But if you’ve never been to Japan, there’s a fair chance that the sushi you know and love will pale in comparison – and in some cases bear little resemblance – to the sushi you’ll have the pleasure of experiencing here in Japan.
While this won’t surprise sushi connoisseurs or frequent visitors to Japan, for everyone else we have compiled a list of a few of the top myths and misconceptions about sushi in Japan.
Sushi served at the Kyubey sushi shop in Ginza, Tokyo
But to better appreciate what modern-day Japanese-style sushi is (and is not), the best place to begin is with a brief background on Edomae sushi and its origins.
The Origins of Edomae Sushi
Sushi as we know it today is a relatively new phenomenon.
But the history of sushi stretches back a couple of thousand years and is believed to have its origins in Southeast Asia, having developed as a means of preserving fish using fermented rice.
Even within Japan itself sushi has a long history, and only gradually evolved into what we generally recognize as sushi today.
Culinary travelers with an adventurous palate can get a taste of what sushi might have been like by visiting Lake Biwa (just outside Kyoto) and trying the local specialty, funazushi.
While sushi continues to develop, and in a hundred years may be quite different than it is today, a major turning point in its long evolution took place in the great city of Edo – modern-day Tokyo – in the early 19th century.
Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture
In the bustling city of Edo a new style of sushi emerged, which became what we now know as Edomae sushi.
The Edo-based innovators of Edomae sushi placed pieces of fish, and other ingredients from Edo Bay (now Tokyo Bay), atop balls of vinegared rice.
Thus was born quite possibly the most delicious fast food the world has ever seen.
Fortunately for all of us, this new form of sushi – served from Edo food carts – caught on.
As Edo-era sushi sellers did not have the luxury of refrigeration, they came up with innovative and delicious ways to give their products a longer shelf life. So in addition to raw fish, many of the ingredients were simmered or cured in vinegar or soy sauce, or cooked in some way.
Nowadays, sushi featuring raw fish is more popular than ever, but in traditional Edomae sushi it’s very common for the neta (the toppings, i.e., the fish or other ingredient on top of the rice) to be cooked or cured in some way.
Common Misconceptions About Sushi
Which leads us to our first, and perhaps the most common, misconception about sushi…
Sushi Myth #1: Fresher Equals Better
Tuna sashimi served at a sushi restaurant in Tokyo
Many sushi lovers are under the impression that the best sushi in the world is always the freshest. But this simply isn’t the case.
As our friend Rebekah Wilson-Lye puts it, “If you’re eating the freshest sushi in the world, you’re not necessarily eating the greatest sushi in the world.”
While some ingredients – such as uni – are usually best as fresh as possible, others are best after aging or other forms of preparation.
For example, tuna – one of the most popular sushi neta – is typically aged for 3-4 days, and in some sushi-ya (sushi shops) up to 2 weeks.
In general, fish right out of the water doesn’t yet have a considerable amount of flavor. This is particularly true when it comes to white fish, which are extra taut and muscly, with little fat. It takes time for a fish to begin breaking down, and for amino acids to be released.
One way this is done by sushi chefs is by placing a cut of fish between sheets of kombu (kelp) and allowing it to age, to bring out the fish’s umami.
A great sushi chef knows when a fish or ingredient will taste its best, and this can vary greatly from fish to fish, and season to season.
When dining at one of Tokyo’s traditional Edomae sushi establishments, you’re likely to have the chance to enjoy a wide variety of preparations, including neta that have been cured, aged, simmered or par-boiled.
Sushi Myth #2: It’s All About the Fish (Forget the Rice)
Chopsticks and rice served at Maru, an izakaya in Aoyama, Tokyo
If you’ve ever eaten good-quality sushi in Japan, then you already know that the quality of the shari (rice) is just as important as the quality of the neta.
Sushi novices tend to place all the emphasis on the neta, and fail to appreciate what many sushi connoisseurs consider the real treat: the shari.
Far from a mere filler, there is a delicate art involved in preparing shari, with many different techniques. Sushi rice is comprised of meticulously-cooked white rice, mixed with red or white vinegar, sugar and salt.
Every great sushi chef pays extreme attention to each step of the process, from procurement of the finest sushi rice to its perfect preparation.
As Rebekah says, “For many people it’s all about the shari,” and sushi enthusiasts obsess over different chefs’ methods of preparing the perfect sushi rice.
She continues, “If you’re going to spend a lot of money on the tuna, it’s always going to be good. But it’s the chef nailing the seemingly simple – but mindbogglingly detailed – elements, like the rice, that make sushi so much more beautiful than the sum of its parts.”
Sushi Myth #3: Sushi is an Everyday Food
A surprisingly common myth about Japan is that Japanese people, in general, eat sushi very often.
While hardcore sushi enthusiasts do eat sushi often, in general sushi is not an everyday food. One reason for this is simply that Japanese cuisine is extremely varied.
In addition, as Rebekah shares, “The main reason is that – just as for foreigners – sushi-ya are intimidating. They’re formal, traditional spaces.”
So while it is fairly common for Japanese people to grab a quick, casual sushi lunch from a convenience store or supermarket, dining at a sushi “shrine” or “temple” is typically a rare and special occasion for Japanese people, just as for non-Japanese people visiting Japan.
Neighborhood sushi joints are a bit more casual, but anytime you go out for sushi is an experience to be cherished!
Sushi Myth #4: All The Best Sushi Shops Have Michelin Stars
With more Michelin stars than any other city in the world, you might think that Japanese people would wholeheartedly embrace the famed culinary guide.
However, the truth is that the Michelin Guide is quite controversial in Japan, and often Japanese critics and diners are at odds with what Michelin’s inspectors have opined.
While Michelin stars are certainly symbols of quality, some of Tokyo’s best sushi shops don’t have Michelin stars, yet are extremely respected in Japan.
So when trying to decide on a sushi restaurant or two at which to splurge, we recommend you look beyond the Michelin Guide if possible.
As Rebekah notes, “You have to keep in mind that it’s a foreign standard being imposed on a cuisine that does not have the same traditions or judging criteria. Michelin’s criteria include elements like saucing, ambience and wine list as part of the overall assessment, which are not necessarily factors in determining what makes a good sushi-ya – and in some cases don’t even exist.”
Sushi chef at work (photo by Norio.NAKAYAMA CC BY)
Indeed, not all great Tokyo sushi shops are the sleek and stylish establishments you may be imagining. Some of the best sushi-ya have little ambience at all, or may even feel uncomfortable.
So while the Michelin Guide is not a bad place for English speakers to begin, keep in mind that it’s not the end-all-be-all guide it’s often made out to be.
To see a list of the sushi shops in Tokyo most loved by locals – Michelin star or not – we recommend consulting the top sushi shops as chosen by users of Tabelog, a popular restaurant rating website in Japan.
We hope you enjoyed this article about sushi myths and misconceptions! See our full article on the Top Myths About Japan Travel for even more surprising Japan travel tips.
We’d like to give a special thanks to our friend Rebekah Wilson-Lye for her insights into Tokyo’s sushi world. You can connect with Rebekah on Twitter (@IchifortheMichi).
Let’s take a closer look at the different types of sushi in Japan.
The common four types of sushi that every Japanese person knows of include nigiri-zushi, maki-zushi, chirashi-zushi, and inari-zushi. If you add in the local forms of sushi, there are as many types as there are regions. The most famous of these is nigiri-zushi, and it is what most out-of-towners are referring to with the word “sushi”.
This type of sushi consists of placing a fish fillet or another topping on top of special vinegar rice, then pressing it by hand. You may be interested to know that salmon roe and sea urchin gun-kan pieces that are wrapped in seaweed aren’t rolled by hand like this, so some people don’t consider them to be nigiri-zushi. But the vinegar rice in these pieces is rolled by hand so wouldn’t that mean it’s one type of nigiri-zushi?!
Maki-zushi (sushi rolls)
Hoso-maki (skinny rolls)
One of the characteristics of hoso-maki is that the way it is cut and served differs depending on the ingredients inside. For example, Kanpyo-maki is rolled so that the cross-section is round, cut into 4 pieces, and then presented on its side. Tekka-maki and Kappa-maki are rolled into square shapes, cut into 6 pieces, and then served standing on the ends so that the red and green colors are visible. (It has been this way for many years, but the reason is not certain) Let me start by introducing the famous types of skinny rolls.
Kappa-maki (cucumber roll)
Cucumber is cut into long strips and a few of these strips, seasoned with white sesame seeds, are rolled into seaweed.
Tekka-maki (tuna roll)
Most people already know the center of this roll is tuna.
Kampyo Maki (dried gourd roll)
A seaweed roll with sweet, boiled Kanpyo* in the center.
*Kampyo is the white flesh of the bottle gourd, which is cut into long strips, as if peeling it, then cut so it looks like strings, then laid out to dry, perhaps in the sunshine or hot air.
Torotaku-maki (tuna and pickled radish roll)
Chopped pickled radish is combined with sukimi* to form the center of this seaweed roll. The pickled radish has a refreshing flavor and matches perfectly with the thick fat of the tuna.
*Sukimi refers to a thin slice of the fish from which the meat between the muscle and the fat remaining on the back of the skin is cut away.
Anakyu-maki (cucumber and conger eel roll)
Finely sliced conger eel is combined with cucumber, then wrapped in seaweed.
Himokyu-maki (mantle and cucumber)
A seaweed roll with the mantle of the ark shell and cucumber in the center.
Negi-toro-maki (green onion and tuna)
Chopped green onion is combined with tuna sukimi to form the center of this seaweed roll.
＊There is a lot of flesh on the middle bone (spine) and the surrounding area for tuna and the like. This is called “nakaochi”. Scraping the meat from this area surrounding the spine is known as “negitoru”, which is where the word “negitoro” comes from. In other words, the name “negitoro” is not actually from the words onion (negi) and tuna belly (toro).
Takuan-maki (pickled radish)
Chopped pickled radish and a shiso leaf are seasoned with white sesame seed and wrapped in seaweed.
Futo-maki (thick rolls)
These sushi rolls are thicker. In the Kansai region futo-maki are made with 1 and a half sheets of nori seaweed while in the Kanto region only one sheet is used. Also in Kanto the nori is toasted, but it’s not in Kansai. The reason for not toasting is that soft, raw nori that has only been dried is easy to roll vinegar rice in and doesn’t tear easily. The typical futo-maki roll is the Goshu-goshoku (5 types, 5 colors) including shiitake mushrooms, kanpyo, egg omelet, minced fish, and spinach. In Kansai there is more vinegar rice used so it is rolled very thickly, but in Kanto the ingredients and vinegar rice are balanced and the roll is thinner.
Saiku-maki (decorative rolls)
The cross-section of the cut pieces is made to look like flowers, designs, or family crests. Priority is given to the visual aspects more than the taste.
Te-maki (hand rolls)
This is a new, fun way to eat sushi, and it’s certainly the easiest way. One way is to roll it very thin, like Hoso-maki, and another is to roll it wider (flower bouquet te-maki). Any toppings used for Hoso-maki or gunkan-maki (battleship rolls) can be used.
Chirashi-zushi looks the same pretty much everywhere, but the details differ a lot depending on if you’re in Kanto, Kansai, or other regions. Of course it’s never called by the region, like “Kanto Chirashi-zushi.” Chirashi-zushi has the same name everywhere in the country.
The Chirashi-zushi you find in Kanto has a vinegar white rice base with a variety of toppings (seafood, egg omelet, dried gourd shavings, shiitake mushroom, minced fish, pickled ginger, etc.), served in a container, often a square nesting box. “Chirashi” means “scatter” in Japanese and Chirashi-zushi is called this because the ingredients are scattered over the vinegar rice. This is called “Fukiyose (medley) chirashi” or “Nama (raw) Chirashi”. Large cuts of the ingredients are often used, creating a bold dish.
“Bara-chirashi” is white vinegar rice topped with ingredients that have prepared in the Edo-style by marinating in vinegar, boiling, or marinating in soy sauce, egg omelet, sweet and salty boiled shiitake mushrooms, dried gourd shavings, and minced fish, sliced up thinly.
Kanto Chirashi-zushi (fukiyose-chirashi or bara-chirashi) was made from converting nigiri-zushi, so the vinegar rice is made in the same way, with less sugar and kept a bit warm. If you wait too long, it gets cold and hardens. One of the charms of this dish is using the same vinegar rice as the sushi, for a refreshing flavor.
On the other hand, the chirashi-zushi in Kansai is called “Bara-zushi” or “Gomoku-zushi.” The main ingredients are vegetables, mixed in with the vinegar rice, then topped with boiled octopus and shrimp, and grilled conger eel, boiled and chopped green beans, omelet cut into thin strips, chopped seaweed, gari (ginger), or red pickled ginger. It’s normally eaten cold. Therefore, it is made by slowly cooling the vinegar rice.
It seems that most regional variations of chirashi-zushi have their roots in “bara-zushi.” Historically, bara-zushi is much older, and the Kanto version of chirashi-zushi is a rather new way of eating the dish. The raw toppings are also a post-war addition.
Inari-zushi (shari wrapped in bean curd)
Fried bean curd and vinegar rice (or vinegar rice mixed with boiled down carrots, shiitake or similar ingredients). Inari-zushi is made with only two ingredients, and it is that simplicity that allows the chef to devote their ingenuity to the dish, creating a unique flavor. It is said to have first appeared at the end of the Edo period, but the origin is uncertain.
The shape of inari-zushi differs from that resembling a straw bag in the Kanto and Eastern Japan, where rich sweet and salty flavoring is used, and the triangular shape of Western Japan.
Like its namesake Temari-zushi is small and shaped like traditional Japanese toy balls. It is a type of Sosaku-zushi (sushi not restricted by Edo-style rules, allowing for creativity). Some say this type of sushi originated in Tokyo.
Masu-zushi (trout sushi)
Masu-zushi is from Toyama. Vinegar rice is spread on a bamboo leave and vinegared masu salmon (Sakuramasu) is put on top.
Pacific Saury Bo-zushi
A whole saury is sliced down the back, then spread over vinegar rice, then pressed a bit to create a shape. The “Pacific Saury Sugata-zushi” is representative of the Kumano region.
Funa-zushi (crucian carp sushi)
Shiga is known for its delicious Funa-zushi, made from the crucian carp of Lake Biwa. This is one type of Nare-zushi (fermented sushi) that retains the original sushi form.
As you can see, there are various types of sushi throughout Japan, and some are not well-known outside of certain regions. If you have the opportunity to visit any of these regions, be sure to have a taste.
Dishes you may find at sushi restaurants that are, strictly speaking, not sushi
This is a rice bowl, generally served with warm rice (normal, steamed rice), with a variety of seafood sashimi on top. However at sushi restaurants, vinegar rice is used instead of white steamed rice and it’s usually called a Seafood Bowl as well. So, it is difficult to distinguish between the two. Ingredients may include tuna, salmon roe, sea urchin, crab, squid, etc. However, toppings made in the Edo-style are not used.
Sashimi (raw fish)
This is not categorized as sushi. Seafood is cut thinly in the raw form, then eaten with soy sauce and wasabi. It’s also called “otsukuri.”
Next to the sashimi will be a garnish. The white part is daikon radish. The orange part is carrot. The green leaf is a shiso leaf. Others may include wakame seaweed, beni-tade (red polygonum), chrysanthemum, inflorescence of shiso, etc. There are various types of garnish including some that offset the odor of raw fish, some with antibacterial effects that prevent damage to the sashimi, and some types that help digestion. Garnishes that especially provide flavor are called “Yakumi.” For example, wasabi or ginger.
The lack of vinegar rice is not the only difference between sashimi and sushi. With sashimi, the crunchy texture is prioritized, so the fish is eaten as freshly as possible. This is completely different from Edo-style sushi, where the idea is to mature the topping and eat it when the umami element is at its peak. There is not only one kind of sushi.
Incidentally, sashimi has been eaten since long ago, but when fish is just displayed at the shop, it’s not clear what type of fish it is. So at that time, the meat was served pierce with the tail and head of the fish. That’s where the name “sashimi,” which means “pierced meat” came from.