Why Sushi is Good for you
Avaliable in every High Street food store, and a lunchtime favourite among office workers, sushi could be providing more than a tasty lunch.
Scientists believe it is one of the reasons why the Japanese are among the most healthy people in the world.
On average, the Japanese diet – raw fish, vegetables and rice – contains only 30pc fat, most of it the healthier polyunsaturated variety, compared with 40pc in Britain.
As a result, their rates of heart disease are among the lowest in the world. Recently, scientists in Japan found that sushi dishes – flavoured parcels of rice with raw fish and vegetables – could even protect smokers against lung cancer.
Professor Toshiro Takezaki, who led the study, says: ‘Japanese people love fresh fish, particularly sushi. We think that is why, even though the Japanese smoke as much as people in the UK, their rate of lung cancer is only two-thirds as high.’
The Cancer Research Campaign believes giving up smoking is the biggest preventive step, but says a high consumption of fresh fish and vegetables would lower the risk.
Here, Good Health gives a user’s guide to the unique health-giving properties of sushi.
On average, each person in Japan consumes around 100 grams of fish every day, in forms such as sushi, tempura and sashimi.
The omega-3 fatty acids in fish are linked to heart protection and improved circulation.
However, fish are host to many parasitic worms, and some must be cooked to make sure all worms and their eggs are killed.
Rice is the staple of the Japanese diet. It is a good source of energy and provides a supply of protein. Long used by naturopaths to treat digestive disorders, it sometimes helps in relieving diarrhoea.
Highly refined white rice has fewer nutrients than brown. But brown rice contains phytic acid, which blocks the absorption of iron and calcium into the body.
This is the green paste, often served with sushi, that is the Japanese equivalent of English mustard.
Thought to cleanse the palate, wasabi could also have health benefits. Scientists in Japan have discovered compounds called isothiocyanates in the paste that can help prevent tooth decay.
Wasabi has also been found to aid cancer prevention and prevent blood clots, if eaten regularly.
The Japanese have been eating sea vegetables for centuries. They use seaweed in large amounts in their diet because of its concentrated mineral content.
Up to a quarter of Japanese food contains seaweed to boost flavour. In sushi, dried sheets are wrapped around rice and vegetables to form a mini-parcel.
It is rich in iodine – vital for a healthy thyroid – copper, calcium iron and magnesium.
A popular flavour-enhancer in sushi dishes, ginger is also taken to mark the end of one type of sushi during a meal before moving on to the next.
The spice is widely known to have therapeutic effects, not least in aiding digestion, and is often prescribed by naturopaths to ward off seasickness.
It is also thought to protect against respiratory illnesses and colds, as well as to ease flatulence and gripe. Chewing on ginger can relieve toothache.
A pilot study showed ginger could relieve the symptoms of Raynaud’s disease, which causes painful numbing of the fingers and toes.
Made from fermented soya beans, soy sauce is widely used in Japanese cooking. However, it has a very high salt content and should be avoided by anyone with high blood pressure or who has been told to have a low-sodium diet.
There are some definite benefits linked to a higher consumption of foods rich in soya.
It’s thought that they protect against cancer, cardiovascular disease, premenstrual syndrome and even osteoporosis. But it’s better to get the soya from milk or tofu.
The hard roe of cod, eaten boiled, is widely used in Japanese sushi dishes.
Although rich in omega-3 fatty acids thought to help protect against heart disease, it is also high in cholesterol, so it shouldn’t be consumed in large amounts.
Caviar – sturgeon roe – is very expensive but is still high in fat. Typically, fish roe contain about 90 calories per 100-gram serving and are a rich source of protein.
There are likely to be only very small servings in the average sushi.
Because it is high in the purines that trigger gout, sufferers should avoid caviar.
Eating sushi is an artful experience, with different tastes and textures in harmonious balance. Ginger is used to cleanse the palate between different rolls, allowing your mouth to be neutralized with the slight spicy heat of ginger. Ginger is the perfect sushi companion, allowing one to fully appreciate every nuance in the dish that is being enjoyed. Ginger is also used as a garnish and as an essential element in sushi-ya presentations.
Ginger is a plant native to Asia which has been used for its culinary and medical property since time immemorial. The plant is pickled, preserving it for use in sushi. The pickled version of the plant is known as “Gari”, and it has been commonly used not only as a delicious palate cleanser and garnish but also in order to quell stomach pains. Sushi lovers have often noted that they feel healthy and whole after a meal, and ginger could be a part of the equation. Of course, it is natural to feel good after a healthy and delicious meal, so it could be that the effects of ginger are overstated. While the medicinal properties of ginger are up for debate, the balance it creates with fresh, delicious sushi is unmistakable.
Ginger is pale yellow or pinkish when used in sushi, and will provide an artful hue for your presentations. This coloring is caused by the pickling process, which is done by marinating sweet young ginger in sushi and vinegar. This creates a naturally tender and sweet ingredient for use in your sushi presentations.
Ginger is best enjoyed in between rolls, as the tastes will be disharmonious when eaten in conjunction with a morsel of sushi. Ginger is the perfect sushi companion because it cleanses the palate and allows for a proper and full enjoyment of the myriad of delicate flavors found in sushi.
While ginger is perfect as an accompaniment to sushi, gari is quite a versatile ingredient. It can also be enjoyed in stir fries, with noodles, or in salads. When eating ginger with sushi, it is only necessary to provide around 10 grams, or a third of an ounce with each presentation. Of course, ginger lovers may decide that more is necessary, and rightly so!
What is nori (seaweed wrap)?
Nori is the dark green, almost black seaweed used to hold toppings in place or to wrap sushi rolls. While most westerners experience Nori only in sushi rolls, Japanese cuisine has many uses for the ingredient. Nori can be added to soups and seafood dishes to add its salty flavor. If you do wish to use Nori in soups, be careful as the seaweed is dried and thus will expand enormously when hydrated. Nori will even absorb water from the air when stored, and should be stored tightly with a desiccant if not used soon after purchasing.
Nutritionally, Nori is high in protein, minerals, vitamins and fiber. One sheet of Nori, which can be used for an entire roll of sushi, will add only 13 calories to the roll. This is thankful as Nori is an essential ingredient in sushi as we know it today. About a third of Nori is protein and a third fiber, making it one of the main reasons sushi is such a healthy meal. While Nori is rarely enjoyed alone in the Western world, the nutritional benefits can be gained by simply toasting Nori with sesame oil or soy sauce and enjoying it as a stand alone snack.
Nori is harvested in a complex but well understood aquatic agricultural practice. The seaweed is farmed in the sea where it grows on large nets suspended on the surface of the sea. These plants grow at a rapid pace, taking only 45 days to be ready for their first commercial harvesting from the time of seeding. In Japan, which is the greatest producer of Nori, over 230 square miles of coastal waters are used to produce a staggering 350,000 tonnes of Nori yearly for the global market. This is a huge business which has ensured that the process is efficient. Nori is actually a red seaweed as it grows, falling under red algae family of porphyra. However, the processing Nori, which includes shredding, drying, and roasting, changes the color to the dark green that we know. Processed Nori will become even darker as it ages.
If you eat sushi, it is impossible for you to be unfamiliar with Nori. While many newcomers to sushi are worried about the concept of eating raw fish and will stick to vegetarian rolls, they may be blissfully unaware of the fact that seaweed is right under their nose!
Abura Bouzu – (ah-boo-rah boh-zoo) or Abura Sokomutsu (ah-boo-rah soh-koh-moo-tsoo) – This is Escolar (Oilfish) and sometimes called Shiro Maguro, although it is not tuna and should not be confused with that fish. Bright white in color and quite fatty, this fish is not always easy to find. Due to the high levels of fatty esters, this particular fish may cause digestive issues with some individuals, and for that reason has been prohibited in Japan since the 1970′s. If your body can tolerate it, the creamy texture and clean taste can be quite appealing.
Aburage – (ah-boo-rah-ah-geh)-Fried tofu pouches usually prepared by cooking in sweet cooking sake, shoyu, and dashi. Used in various dishes, in Miso Shiru and for Inari Zushi.
Aemono – (ah-eh-moh-noh) -Vegetables (sometimes meats) mixed with a dressing or sauce.
Agari – (ah-gah-ree) – A Japanese sushi-bar term for green tea.
Agemono – (ah-geh-moh-noh) – Fried foods — either deep-fat fried or pan-fried.
Ahi – (aaa-hee) – Yellowfin Tuna.
Aji – (ah-jee) – Horse mackerel, Jack Mackerel (less fishy tasting than Spanish mackerel). Purportedly this is not actually a mackerel, but member of the Jack family. It is small – about 6″ in length and they fillet it and serve marinated in vinegar.
Aji-no-moto – (ah-jee-no-moh-toh) – Monosodium glutamate (MSG).
Aka miso – (ah-ka-mee-soh) – Red soy bean paste.
Akagai – (ah-ka-gah-ee) – Pepitona clam, red in colour, not always available.
Akami – (ah-kah-me) – the leaner flesh of tuna from the sides of the fish. If you ask for ‘maguro’ at a restaurant you will get this cut.
Ama Ebi – (ah-mah-eh-bee) – Sweet Shrimp, Red Prawns. Always served raw on nigirizushi. Sometimes served with the deep-fried shells of the shrimp. Eat the shells like you would crayfish.
An – (ahn) – Sweetened puree of cooked red beans. Also called Anko, thought not to be confused with Monkfish, also called Anko, but contextually the difference will be apparent to Japanese speakers.
Anago – (ah-nah-goh) – Salt water eel (a type of conger eel) pre-cooked (boiled) and then grilled before serving, less rich than unagi (fresh water eel).
Ankimo – (ahn-kee-moh) – Monkfish liver, usually served cold after being steamed or poached in sake.
Anko – (ahn-koh)- Monkfish.
Aoyagi – (ah-oh-yah-gee) – Round clam. Also called Hen Clam.
Awabi – (ah-wah-bee) – abalone.
Ayu – (ah-yoo) – Sweetfish. A small member of the trout family indigenous to Japan, usually grilled.
Azuki – (ah-zoo-kee) – Small red beans used to make an. Azuki connotes uncooked form.
Beni shoga – (beh-nee shoh-gah)- Red pickled ginger. Used for Inari Zushi, Futomaki, and Chirashizushi, but not for Nigirizushi.
Bonito – (bo-nee-toh) – See Katsuo (kah-tsoo-oh).
Buri – (boo-ree) – Yellowtail. Hamachi refers to the young yellowtail and Buri are the older ones.
Buri Toro – (boo-ree toh-roh) – Fatty Yellowtail. The belly strip of the yellowtail. Incredibly rich with a nice buttery flavour.
Butaniku – (boo-ta-nee-koo) – Pork. Buta means pig.
California Roll – (maki) A California roll is an american style roll created in California for the American palate. It usually consists of kamaboko (imitation crab meat) and avocado, sometimes including cucumber.
Chikuwa – (chee-koo-wah) – Browned fish cake with a hole running through its length.
Chirashi-zushi – (chee-ra-shee-zoo-shee) – translates as “scattered sushi”, a bowl or box of sushi rice topped with a variety of sashimi.
Chutoro – (choo-toh-roh) – The belly area of the tuna along the side of the fish between the Akami and the Otoro. Often preferred because it is fatty but not as fatty as Otoro.
Daikon – (Dah-ee-kohn) – giant white radish, usually served grated as garnish for sashimi.
Dashi – (dah-shee) – Basic soup and cooking stock usually made from, or from a combination of Iriko (dried Anchovies), Konbu (type of Kelp) and Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes). However any form of stock can be called “dashi”.
Donburi – (dohn-boo-ree) – A large bowl for noodle and rice dishes. Also refers specifically to a rice dish served in such a large bowl with with the main items placed on top of the rice, Examples include Tendon (Tenpura Donburi) and Unadon (Unagi Donburi).
Ebi – (eh-bee) – Shrimp. Not the same as Sweet Shrimp, as Ebi is cooked, while Ami Ebi is served in raw form.
Edamame – (eh-dah-mah-meh) – Young green soybeans served steamed and salted and usually still in the pod.
Fugu – (foo-goo) – Fugu is puffer fish which is a delicacy, though its innards and blood contain extremely poisonous tetrodotoxin. In Japan only licensed fugu chefs are allowed to prepare fugu or puffer fish.
Fuki – (foo-kee) – Fuki is a Japanese butterbur plant which contains a bitter substance called “fukinon” (a kind of ketone compound), but upon blanching fukinon is easily washed out from its petioles (edible parts) and is prepared for an excellent Japanese vegetable dish.
Futo-Maki – (foo-toh-mah-kee) – Big, oversized rolls.
Gari – (gah-ree) – Pickled ginger (the pink or off-white stuff) that comes along with Sushi.
Gobo – (goh-boh) – Long, slender burdock root.
Gohan – (goh-hahn) – Plain boiled rice.
Goma – (goh-mah) – Sesame seeds.
Gunkan-maki – (goon-kahn-mah-kee) – Battleship roll. This is where the maki is rolled to form a container for the liquid or soft neta. Used for oysters, uni, quail eggs, ikura, tobiko, etc.
Gyoza – (gi-yoh-zah) – A filled wanton dumpling that has been either fried or boiled.
Ha-Gatsuo – (ha gat-soo-oh) – Skipjack tuna. This meat is similar to bonito but is a lighter, pinker product.
Hamachi – (hah-mah-chee) – Young Yellowtail tuna, or amberjack, worth asking for if not on menu.
Hamaguri – (hah-mah-goo-ree) – Hard shell Clam. Includes American littlenecks and cherrystones.
Hamo – (hah-moh) – Pike Conger Eel. Indigenous to Japan.
Hanakatsuo – (hah-nah-kah-tsoo-oh) – Dried bonito fish, shaved or flaked. Usually sold in a bag. Also called Katsuobushi (bonito flakes).
Harusame – (hah-roo-sah-meh) – Thin, transparent bean gelatin noodles.
Hashi – (hah-shee) – Chopsticks. Also called O-Hashi.
Hatahata – (hah-tah-hah-tah) – Sandfish. Indigenous to Northern Japan.
Hijiki – (hee-jee-kee) – Black seaweed in tiny threads.
Hikari-mono – (hee-kah-ree-mo-no) – A comprehensive term for all the shiny fish. However usually refers to the shiny oily fish, such as Aji, Iwashi, Sanma, Kohada.
Himo – (hee-moh) – The fringe around the outer part of any clam.
Hirame – (hee-rah-meh) – Generally speaking this name is used for many types of flat fish, specifically fluke or summer flounder. The name for winter flounder is really “karei” (kah-ray), but often restaurants do not discriminate between fluke or summer flounder when one asks for hirame. Some restaurants call halibut “hirame,” however the actual Japanese word for halibut is “ohyo” (oh-yoh).
Hocho – (hoh-choh) – General Japanese term for cooking knives. Can be classified as Traditional Japanese style (Wa-bocho) or Western style (yo-bocho)
Hokkigai – (hohk-kee-gah-ee) – Surf Clam (also called Hokkyokugai). Sort of a thorn-shaped piece, with red coloring on one side.
Hotate-Gai – (hoh-tah-teh-gah-ee) – Scallops.
Ika – (ee-kah) – Squid. As sushi or sashimi the body is eaten raw and the tentacles are usually served parboiled then grilled or toasted.
Ikura – (ee-koo-rah) – salmon roe. (FYI, Ikura means ‘How much?’ in Japanese) The word Ikura is shared with the Russian word “Ikra” meaning salmon roe.
Inada – (ee-nah-dah) – Very young yellowtail.
Inari-Zushi – (ee-nah-ree-zoo-shee) – [see an image] – Aburage stuffed with sushi rice.
Kaibashira – (kah-ee-bah-shee-rah) – large scallops, actually giant clam adductor muscle, though often scallops are served, much like cooked scallops but more tender and sweeter. Kobashiri are small scallops and like kaibashira may or may not come from scallops or other bivalves.
Kajiki – (kah-jee-kee) – Billfish including Swordfish and Marlins. Swordfish specifically is called Me-Kajiki or Kajiki-Maguro.
Kaki – (kah-kee) – Oysters.
Kamaboko – (kah-mah-boh-ko) – Imitation crab meat (also called surimi) usually made from pollack. Generally used in California rolls and other maki, it’s not the same thing as “soft shell crab.”
Kampyo – (kahn-piyoh) – Dried gourd. Unprepared is a light tan color. Prepared it’s a translucent brown. It comes in long strips, shaped like fettuccine.
Kani – (kah-nee) – Crab meat. The real stuff. Always served cooked, much better if cooked fresh but usually cooked and then frozen.
Kanpachi – (kahn-pa-chi) – Greater Amberjack. This is similar to hamachi, but this is actually a different fish (and is not Yellowtail or the Japanese Amberjack).
Karasu Garei – (kah-rah-soo gah-ray) – Literally translated this means “cow flounder” and is the term for Atlantic halibut.
Karei – (kah-reh-ee) – Winter flounder.
Katsuo – (kah-tsoo-oh) – Bonito. It is usually found in sushi bars on the West Coast because it lives in the Pacific Ocean, and doesn’t freeze very well. Sometimes confused with Skipjack Tuna, which is incorrect as Skipjack Tuna is called “ha-gatsuo.”
Katsuobushi – (kah-tsoo-oh boo-shi) – Bonito flakes. Smoked and dried blocks of skipjack tuna (katsuo) that are shaved and uses usually to make dashi, or stock.
Kazunoko – (kah-zoo-noh-koh) – herring roe, usually served marinated in sake, broth, and soy sauce, sometimes served raw, kazunoko konbu.
Kohada – (koh-hah-dah) – Japanese shad (or young punctatus, it’s Latin species name). Kohada is the name when marinated and used as sushi neta. Prior to this the fish is called Konoshiro (ko-no-shee-roh).
Kuro goma – (koo-roh-goh-mah) – Black sesame seeds.
Maguro – (mah-goo-roh) – Tuna, which is sold as different cuts for the consumer, listed below in order of increasing fattiness:
Akami– (ah-kah-me) – the leaner flesh from the sides of the fish. If you ask for ‘maguro’ at a restaurant you will get this cut.
Chu toro (choo-toh-roh) – The belly area of the tuna along the side of the fish between the Akami and the Otoro. Often preferred because it is fatty but not as fatty as Otoro.
O toro (oh-toh-roh) – The fattiest portion of the tuna, found on the underside of the fish.
Toro (toh-roh) is the generic term for the fatty part of the tuna (either chutoro or otoro) versus the ‘akami’ portion of the cut.
Maki-zushi – (mah-kee-zoo-shee) – The rice and seaweed rolls with fish and/or vegetables. Most maki places the nori on the outside, but some, like the California and rainbow rolls, place the rice on the outside.
Makisu – (mah-kee-soo) – Mat made of bamboo strips to create make-zushi.
Masago – (mah-sah-goh) – capelin (smelt) roe, very similar to tobiko but slightly more orange in colour, not as common as tobiko in North America (though often caught here). Capelin, shishamo, is also served grilled (after being lightly salted) whole with the roe in it as an appetizer.
Matoudai – (mah-toh-dai) – John Dory.
Mirin – (mee-rin) – Sweet rice wine for cooking.
Mirugai – (mee-roo-ghai) – Geoduck or horseneck clam, slightly crunchy and sweet.
Miso – (mee-soh) – Soy bean paste.
Moyashi – (moh-yah-shee) – Bean sprouts.
Murasaki – (moo-rah-sah-kee) – meaning “purple” an old “sushi term” for Shoyu.
Namako – (nah-mah-koh) – Sea cucumber. This is much harder to find in North America than in Japan. As a variation, the pickled/cured entrails, konowata (koh-noh-wah-tah), can be found for the more adventurous diners. The liver, anago no kimo (ah-nah-goh noh kee-moh) is served standalone as well.
Nasu – (nah-soo) – Eggplant. Also called Nasubi.
Natto – (naht-toh) – Fermented soy beans. (Not just for breakfast anymore) Very strong smell and taste, also slimy. Most people don’t like it. Order it once, if for no other reason that to see the confused look of the chef.
Negi – (neh-gee) – Green Onion. Scallion. Round onion is called Tama-negi.
Neta – (neh-tah) – The piece of fish that is placed on top of the sushi rice for nigiri.
Nigiri-zushi – (nee-ghee-ree-zoo-shee) – The little fingers of rice topped with wasabi and a filet of raw or cooked fish or shellfish. Generally the most common form of sushi you will see outside of Japan.
Nori – (noh-ree) – Sheets of dried seaweed used in maki.
Ocha – (oh-chah) – Tea.
Odori ebi – (oh-doh-ree-eh-bee) – (‘Dancing shrimp’)- large prawns served still alive.
Ohyo – (oh-hyoh) – Pacific halibut, sometimes incorrectly labeled “dohyo.” Atlantic halibut is called Karasu Garei.
Ono – (oh-noh) Wahoo. As much fun to catch as to eat, ono (Hawaiian for ‘delicious’) has a very white flesh with a delicate consistency, similar to a white hamachi (yellowtail).
Oshi-zushi – (oh-shww-zoo-shee) – Sushi made from rice pressed in a box or mold.
Oshibako – (oh-shee-bah-koh) – Used for pressing the sushi to make Oshi-zushi.
Oshibori – (oh-shee-boh-ree) – The wet towel one cleans one’s hands with before the meal.
Oshinko – (oh-shin-ko) – A general term for the many and varied pickled vegetables that are not uncommon at the table in Japanese dining, and often found at sushi-ya. They include, but are not limited to pickled burdock root, daikon, cabbage carrots, and many others.
Otoro – (oh-toh-roh) – The fattiest portion of the tuna, found on the underside of the fish.
Ponzu – (pohn-zoo) – Sauce made with soy sauce, dashi and Japanese citron, such as Yuzu or Sudachi.
Ramen – (rah-mehn) – ‘Instant’ noodles, created by extrusion and often bought in packets for easy preparation. Chinese style noodles served in broth in a bowl. Traditional Japanese “fast food.” Instant ramen invented in the 1960s and now found worldwide. Today Cup-Ramen which is even easier to make is popular worldwide.
Roe – (Fish eggs) Generally, flying fish, smelt, and salmon roe are available in all sushi restaurants. “Roe” is a generic name. The roes are:
Saba – (sah-bah) – mackerel, almost always served after being salted and marinated for a period ranging from a couple of hours to a few days, so really cooked. In this form it is called Shime-Saba (shee-meh-sah-bah). Raw mackerel (nama-saba) is sometimes served but it must be extremely fresh as it goes off quickly.
Sake – (sah-keh) – Rice wine. Pronounced ‘sah-keh’ not “sah-key.” Served both hot and cold depending on the brand type. Some people love it, some people hate it.
Sake – (sah-keh) – Salmon. To avoid confusion, some people say Sha-ke.
Sansho – (sahn-shoh) – Japanese pepper. A must with most Unagi dishes.
Sashimi – (sah-shee-mee) – Raw fish fillets sans the sushi rice.
Sazae – (sah-zah-eh) – Type of conch, not found in the US.
Shari – (shah-ree) – Sushi Meshi (sushi rice). A sushi bar term.
Shiokara – (shee-oh-kah-rah) – A dish made of the pickled and salted internal organs of various aquatic creatures. It comes in many form such as ‘Ika no Shiokara’ (squid shiokara), shrimp, or fish.
Shirako – (shee-rah-koh) – The milt sac of the male codfish.
Shirataki – (shee-rah-tah-kee) – Translucent rubbery noodles.
Shiro goma – (shee-roh-goh-mah) – White sesame seeds.
Shiro maguro – (shee-roh mah-goo-roh) – (‘White Tuna’) Sometimes called ‘Bincho Maguro’ or ‘Bin-Naga Maguro.’ This is often either Escolar or white albacore tuna. It doesn’t handle as well and can change color (though doesn’t change in taste or quality) so it is not as common as other tunas. It will usually not be on the menu, and if available, must be asked for (or listed as a ‘special’). It is not unusual to find Escolar (oilfish) labeled as shiro maguro, however in quantity, this particular fish can have a laxative effect on some people. Recently, Black Marlin is also being served as ‘white tuna.’
Shiro miso – (shee-roh-mee-soh) – White soy bean paste.
Shiromi – (shee-roh-mee) – This is the general term for any white fish, and if one asks for shiromi the itamae will serve whatever white fish may be in season at the time.
Shiso – (shee-soh) – The leaf of the Perilla plant. Used frequently with in makizushi and with sashimi. The sushi term is actually Ooba (oh-bah).
Shitake – (shee-tah-keh) – A type of Japanese mushroom, usually available dried.
Shoga – (shoh-gah) – Ginger root. Usually grated.
Shoyu – (shoh-yoo) – Japanese soy sauce.
Shumai – (shoo-mai) (another type) is always steamed.
Soba – (soh-bah) – Buckwheat noodles.
Somen – (soh-mehn) – White, threadlike wheat noodles.
Spam – (yes, SPAM!) – a sushi you can get in Hawaii (maybe Japan too), an acquired taste, perhaps.
Su – (soo) – Rice vinegar.
Suimono – (soo-ee-moh-noh) – Clear soup.
Surimi – (soo-ree-mee) – Imitation crab meat (also called kamaboko (kah-mah-boh-koh)) usually made from pollack. Generally used in California rolls and other maki, it’s not the same thing as “soft shell crab.” Although “surimi” is used outside of Japan, most Japanese people use the term Kani-Kama, short for Kani-Kamaboko.
Sushi – (soo-shee)- Technically refers to the sweetened, seasoned rice. The fish is sashimi. Wrap the two together in portions and sell it as sushi, and the name still refers to the rice, not the fish. Sushi is the term for the special rice but it is modified, in Japanese, to zushi when coupled with modifiers that describe the different styles of this most popular dish. In Japan when one says “sushi” they are referring to the whole package, the sushi rice plus the neta. And this holds true for all kinds of sushi. When one wants to say “sushi rice” they say “sushi-meshi.” Also, in Japan when someone suggests going out for sushi, they are referring specifically to nigirizushi.
Suzuki – (soo-zoo-kee) – sea bass (of one species or another, often quite different).
Tai – (tah-ee) – porgy or red snapper (substitutes, though good), real, Japanese, tai is also sometimes available.
Tairagi – (tah-ee-rah-gah-ee) – The razor shell clam.
Tako – (tah-koh) – Octopus, cooked.
Tamago yaki – (tah-mah-goh-yah-kee) – egg omelet, sweet and, hopefully light, a good test of a new sushi restaurant, if its overcooked and chewy, go somewhere else. In Japan it is the trademark of each chef. Often potential customers in Japan will ask for a taste of the Tamago in order to judge the chef’s proficiency.
Tarabagani – (tah-rah-bah-gah-ni) – King Crab (the real thing, as opposed to kanikama, which is the fake crab leg made from surimi).
Tataki – (tah-tah-kee) – Tataki is a Japanese term which may mean seared on the outside only (as in Katsuo) or chopped up and served in its raw form (as in Aji).
Temaki-zushi – (the-mah-kee-zoo-shee) – Hand rolled cones of sushi rice, fish and vegetables wrapped in seaweed. Very similar to maki.
Tempura – (tem-poo-rah) – Seafood or vegetables dipped in batter and deep fried.
Tobiko – (toh-bee-koh) – flying-fish roe, red and crunchy, often served as part of maki-zushi but also as nigiri-zushi commonly with quail egg yolk (uzura no tamago) on top uncooked.
Tofu – (toh-foo) – Soybean curd.
Tori – (toh-ree) – Chicken.
Torigai – (toh-ree-gah-ee) – Japanese cockle, black and white shell fish, better fresh but usually frozen (and chewier as a result).
Toro – (toh-roh) – Fatty Tuna. There are several different types of tuna you can order in a sushi restaurant. It comes in many different grades which are from best to, well, not worst, o-toro, chu-toro, toro, and akami (which has no fat content).
Udon – (oo-dohn) – Wide noodles made from wheat.
Unagi – (oo-nah-gee) – Eel (Freshwater) – grilled, and brushed with a teriyaki-like sauce, richer than salt water eel.
Uni – (oo-nee) – Sea Urchin. If you are lucky you won’t like it, if not you have just developed an expensive habit. The most expensive (start saving now) is red in color, the least is yellow, luckily they taste the same. Lobsters eat sea urchin as a mainstay of their diet.
Usukuchi shoyu – (oo-soo-koo-chee-shoh-yoo) – Light Japanese soy sauce.
Wakame – (wah-kah-meh) – Dried lobe-leaf seaweed in long, dark green strands.
Wasabi – (wah-sah-bee) – Japanese ‘Horseradish.’ This is the small lump of green stuff that looks sort of like clay. Best done in extremely small doses. The actual rhizome is not related to American Horseradish except by name, but unfortunately, the ‘wasabi’ most often served is not real wasabi, but powdered and reconstituted American Horseradish with food coloring. Real wasabi is difficult to find in most restaurants, but is sometimes available upon request (and worth it, even with a surcharge, in my opinion). It is quite different in appearance (slightly more vegetal in color and obviously a ground up lump of rhizome, not powder) as well as taste. Real wasabi has a hotness that does not linger, and compliments and enhances the flavor of sushi rather well.
Yakumi – (yah-koo-mee) – A generic term for condiments.
What is sushi?
Beginning as a method of preserving fish centuries ago, sushi has evolved into an artful, unique dining experience. In its earliest form, dried fish was placed between two pieces of vinegared rice as a way of making it last. The nori (seaweed) was added later as a way to keep one’s fingers from getting sticky.
Technically, the word sushi refers to the rice (the Japanese word su means vinegar, and shi is from meshi, the Japanese word for rice, hence sushi is ‘vinegared rice’), but colloquially, the term is used to describe a finger-size piece of raw fish or shellfish on a bed of rice or simply the consumption of raw fish in the Japanese style (while sushi is not solely a Japanese invention, these days, the Japanese style is considered the de facto serving standard). This can be eaten as is, or is often dipped into shoyu(Japanese soy sauce) and then eaten. Great care is taken in the creation of the dish and the many methods of preparing the food indicate the importance of appearance to the educated consumer. Sushi is a work of art as much as a food, and while it is now available in a western ‘quick and easy’ serving style, the traditional ways are far from lost.
What are the different kinds of sushi?
Sushi comes in many forms, depending on how the item is presented. Some sushi can be eaten with the hands, and some with the chopsticks, and each style of sushi has its own unique shape and composition. The sushi chef (itamae) may plate your sushi in a more formal and straight forward manner, while at other times, an item such as sashimi may be arranged in a beautiful floral pattern, for example. An entire platter of sushi may be a garden of food at your fingertips. While the presentation of a meal may be part of the sushi experience, there are certain standard types of sushi, and they are:
Chirashi Sushi (chirashi-zushi)
|Chirashi sushi is a bowl or box of sushi rice topped with a variety of sashimi. This is often a nice selection as you can choose to eat your fish as sushi or sashimi, and it is often artfully presented. Nothing says “Wow!” like a beautiful bowl of carefully presented seafood.|
Inari Sushi (inari-zushi)
|Inari sushi is aburage (fried pouches of tofu) stuffed with sushi rice. Sometimes the aburage is soaked in mirin (sweet sake) and sometimes not, but either way, you have a nice pocket of ingredients that is easy to eat.|
Maki Sushi (maki-zushi or norimaki)
|Maki sushi (sometimes called norimaki) is when the rice and fish and/or vegetables are rolled up in a seaweed wrapper (nori). The roll is usually cut into six or eight pieces, depending on the thickness of the roll, and some itamae even place the items so carefully, that a picture results on the face of each piece.|
There are also more specific terms for the rolls depending on the style. They are:
|Futomaki – thick rolls, often due to a lot of ingredients.|
|Hosomaki – thin rolls, usually very simple rolls.|
|Uramaki – inside-out rolls, which is a newer style and non-traditional.|
|Shikai Maki – an elegant and very artistic style of maki sushi that is usually made to show off the skills of the itamae as it often includes complex layering of ingredients. This type of roll is becoming more common in the West.|
Nigiri Sushi (nigiri-zushi)
|Nigiri sushi is what one calls the little fingers of rice topped with wasabi and a filet of raw or cooked fish or shellfish. It is generally the most common form of sushi you will see.|
Temaki Sushi (temaki-zushi)
|Temaki sushi is also called a hand-roll. This is a cone of sushi rice, fish and vegetables wrapped in seaweed. It is very similar to maki.|
The fish in sushi can also come in a few different forms and styles, apart from the plain piece of fish. You might see:
- Neta or Tane- the name for the piece of fish (or other item) placed on a piece of nigiri sushi.
- Hikari mono – a piece of fish with the silvery skin left on.
- Sukimi – A chopped up piece of fish sometimes used in maki (rolls) or served as sashimi.
What is sashimi?
Sashimi is raw fish served sliced, but as-is. That means no rice bed or roll, but it is often served alongside daikon and/or shiso. This is my favorite style as you really get the flavor of the fish. Plus, it’s a great way to impress sushi newbies!
Sashimi is often cut in different ways to enhance the appearance of the fish. Hira zukuri is the standard rectangular shape cut. A thinner cut is called Ito zukuri, and is often no more than 1/16 inch thick. The thinnest, called Kaku zukuri is paper-thin and is often presented in a pattern.
What are those other things I see on my plate?
Depending on what you ordered and the whim of the chef, you might see items such as wasabi (the hot green Japanese horseradish-like rhizome), gari (pickled ginger, which comes in both a pink and a light tan color, with the lighter stuff usually indicating better quality). You may also see a large green leaf called shiso, which is often served with sashimi, and a shredded white mass of Japanese radish called daikon, which is also often served with sashimi.
Where can I find sushi grade seafood online?[about to post new link] has the best sushi grade seafood available, in my opinion. Check them out for almost everything you could ever want.
What do all these words mean? (i.e. terminology)
Since the list is rather extensive (and by no means complete), I have devoted an entire page to sushi terminology which also includes a pronunciation guide.
How to use chopsticks
(from Sushi Seattle)
Think of the chopstick as a pair of prongs, the only difference being that there are two separate parts or sticks. One stick is held in stationary position and the other is moved.
1. Take one stick first and hold it in your right hand in the way you would normally hold a pencil. If the stick has a thick and a thin end, hold it so that the thick end is to the top.
2. Keeping the fingers in this position, turn your hand inward until the stick is horizontal to the table and parallel to your body.
3. Relax your fingers slightly and slide the stick to the left until your thumb and forefinger are clamping the stick at about its mid-point. The thumb should not be bent or rigidly straight. All your fingers should be curved slightly inwards with the middle finger in contact with the underside of the stick and the tip of the middle finger pointing towards your body. The third (ring) finger should be in line with the middle finger but its tip should protrude beyond the middle finger towards your body.
4. Now, take the other stick with your left hand and let the thick end rest on the protruding part of the ring finger of your right hand. Slide the stick towards the right, touching the tip of the middle finger and passing under the thumb until the thick end rests at the base joint of your forefinger. This is the stationary position of this stick, and it should be roughly parallel to the first stick.
5. Alternately bend and extend your forefinger and middle finger, letting the first stick PIVOT at the thumb. The thin tip of the moving stick will touch that of the stationary stick when you bend the two fingers. Don’t hold the sticks rigidly. Hardly any pressure or strength is needed to grasp things at the tip of the chopsticks.
Sushi & Health
Sushi (and seafood in general) may be one of the best sources of nutrition available to us. Packed with protein, dense with nutrients, and often low in fat, sushi is an excellent way to enjoy a meal regardless of one’s dietary lifestyle choice. Sushi is an excellent source of lean protein and contains very little heart clogging saturated fat, unlike meat from terrestrial animals, and what fat is available is mostly in the form of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are not only a nutritional requirement for humans, but also a fatty acid that shows promise in remediating many ailments from which we suffer for lack of this essential fatty acid in our modern diet, including cardiovascular disease. The seaweed wrap used in rolls (maki), called nori, is rich with essential vitamins and minerals. Wasabi and ginger both have antibacterial qualities, and ginger is widely regarded as aiding digestion and improving circulation.
Thankfully sushi is not a particularly fattening food, and a low calorie meal is not out of the cards if you have a craving for sushi. While the rice in sushi contains a fair amount of carbohydrates, sushi can be eaten without rice (as sashimi) and in moderation, even a standard sushi item can be a healthy treat without breaking the calorie bank. As with any hand-crafted food, sushi items made by two different sushi chefs may have different proportions of ingredients, and therefore have differing values for calories, fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Restaurants may also add ingredients, such as mayonnaise, to some rolls which will increase their caloric values; so, be mindful to question these things when making your sushi selection.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fish is widely recognized as a healthful food. High in protein and low in fat, countless types of fish are actually staples in many parts of the world. Even those fish that are higher in fat are still healthful and heart friendly, unlike many terrestrial meats that can be high in saturated fats. Most fish is high in the particular types of fats referred to as “Omega-3” fatty acids. These fats are essential to the human diet as we do not synthesize them biologically, and we must either consume the particular Omega-3s that our bodies require, or their precursor fatty acids which the body converts into the fats we use. These “fish oil” variety of these fats are originally manufactured by algae, and eventually are incorporated into the fish as they move up the food chain. The two most widely spoken of are abbreviated as DHA and EPA. These two Omega-3 fatty acids are currently being studied as they are now considered very healthful fats, alongside monounsaturated fats such as olive oil. Omega-3 fatty acids however may be better for you than you realize.
Potential Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to raise the levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) in the blood (the “good” cholesterol). This, in turn, can lower the amount of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) in the blood. In some cases, a person’s LDL can be raised slightly, however with a greater rise in HDL, a person’s ‘ratio’ can improve tremendously, which is an overall positive change to cardiovascular health. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to increase the particle size of the LDL in your blood, which is also considered a positive and healthful change.
- The consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to be beneficial to those with type II diabetes, helping moderate blood sugar levels and epidemiologic studies have shown a lower prevalence of impaired glucose tolerance.
- Studies have also linked the consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids with improved endothelial (blood vessel wall) function, reduced platelet aggregability (blood clotting), and lower blood pressure. These are widely regarded cardioprotective benefits.
- A report in the March 23, 2005 online issue of the Journal of Neuroscience indicates that a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids may ward off Alzheimer’s disease. Studies of Omega-3 consumption have shown a up to a 70% decrease of amyloid protein in the brain, the plaque widely regarded as the cause of Alzheimer’s.
- Also remember that your central nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and all nerve sheaths) is mostly DHA, an Omega-3 fatty acid. The body is constantly in need of repairing and replenishing itself, so the consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids is critical to maintaining proper central nervous system health.
- Since Omega-3 fatty acids are required for proper development (which includes developing babies), pregnant and lactating women are encouraged to eat foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA and EPA. This includes many nuts and seeds, however fish is the richest source of these fatty acids and a great way to incorporate them into your diet. Raw fish is often avoided in western society during pregnancy, so nutritional supplements are sold specifically to target pregnant and lactating women, which are either fish oil or Omega-3 fatty acids taken directly from the algal source, specifically one called Neuromins, and sold as Expecta Lipil, among many others. If you can’t have the fish, you can have the next best thing. But remember, there is still plenty of cooked fish available if you choose.
Today, Omega-3 fatty acids are considered quite beneficial to cardiovascular health and seafood consumption is suggested by doctors the world around. Many people now take Omega-3 supplements, generally called ‘fish oil’ or “Omega 3 Oil,” to incorporate more of these fatty acids into their diet, which is perfectly fine, however we would like to remind our readers that deep, cold water fish are also excellent sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, and tasty too, so keep eating that sushi!
Sushi Health Risks
As with any raw food there is some degree of risk of foodborne pathogens, but with seafood the current hot topic is contaminants. Basically, the answer to the question “is sushi good for you” is a resounding ‘yes’, however anyone eating fish, especially raw should be aware of the potential health concerns. The recent talk is the contaminant such as heavy metals that can be present in some fish, especially the larger predatory fish such as tuna and swordfish. Essentially, the higher up the food chain a fish is, the the more contaminants concentrate. While studies swing wildly one way or another, there clearly is some degree of heavy metal content in the larger predatory fish, but the health questions to focus on are to what degree and how much is bad for you.
Due to the potential for contaminants such as mercury (as well as pathogens) pregnant women are told to avoid the larger, predatory fish, and any raw meat, something that those with weakened immune systems are told avoid as well. However, in moderation, any cooked seafood is not only safe, but a healthful choice due to the beneficial nutritional profile of sea foods in general and the presence of Omega-3 fatty acids, required for proper health. Traces of other contaminants have been reported as well (e.g. PCBs, flame retardants) however studies have not shown the presence of concentrations large enough to hurt someone who eats seafood in moderation. Essentially, by polluting our planet we are soiling our oceans and its denizens as well, a process that reverberates throughout the food chain and finally affecting us. Naturally occurring substances (e.g. mercury in seawater) also contribute to contaminants found in fish as well. Fortunately, a recent report from the Institute of Medicine has concluded that the benefits of eating seafood far outweigh the potential risks, and anyone worried about the potential health concerns would do well to review the article. A recent article by the New York Times highlights the increasing risk of mercury contamination in tuna, and while it was countered by a recent trade group press release, the research was again supported by an article published in Newsweek magazine. As with many foods, eating sushi does in fact carry with it some small risk of pollution related contaminants being consumed, however in moderation, it is a perfectly safe food. But that said, please do remember that there can be other risks.
Aside from contaminants, raw seafood can also be the vector for various pathogens, viral, bacterial, as well as larger parasitic creatures. Proper sanitary conditions must always be met or any raw food could possibly make one sick. Anisakiasis is a particularly nasty and potentially fatal infection caused by microscopic larval worms that live in some marine creatures that can be avoided by thorough cooking, or certain deep freezing techniques, which are required by law in the United States for certain sushi grade items. While rare, it is one of the many risks inherent in all uncooked sea foods. Fortunately incidents of illness from sushi are few and far between. More people are sickened by contaminated produce in the US than by sushi, so at least for now, purveyors of sushi seem to be maintaining proper sanitary practices. And before you ask, tapeworms require a freshwater stage in their life cycle, so as long as you stick to the saltwater fish you should be fine. No one should ever eat freshwater fish raw under any circumstances as the risks of parasitic infection increase dramatically due to the large number of freshwater parasites that exist, the freshwater ecosystem being a much better environment for parasitic creatures.
Fortunately, sushi is as safe as any other food as long as proper handling conditions are met. While certain individuals should take steps to minimize particular risks due to their current condition, for most people, sushi is as safe as it is good for us. That said, it is wise to make sensible decisions as to where you will be eating sushi, and if an establishment looks as though it may not be taking the proper precautions, it is best avoided. Be smart and you should have no problems finding an enjoyable and delicious sushi meal.
The Beginnings of Sushi
Sushi has been around for a surprisingly long period of time, although not in its present form. The history of sushi is an interesting tale of the evolution of a simple dish. What was to become sushi was first mentioned in China in the second century A.D. Originally, sushi arose out of a way of preserving food. Fish was placed in rice and allowed to ferment, which allowed an individual to keep the fish edible for some time. The rice was thrown away and the fish was eaten when needed or wanted.
The method spread throughout China and by the seventh century, had made its way to Japan, where seafood has historically been a staple. The Japanese, however, took the concept further and began to eat the rice with the fish. Originally, the dish was prepared in much the same manner. In the early 17th century, however, Matsumoto Yoshiichi of Edo (now Tokyo) starting seasoning the rice with rice wine vinegar while making his ‘sushi’ for sale. This allowed the dish to be eaten immediately, instead of waiting the months it might normally take to prepare the ‘sushi.’
The Evolution of Sushi
In the early 19th century, a man by the name of Hanaya Yohei conceived a major change in the production and presentation of his sushi. No longer wrapping the fish in rice, he placed a piece of fresh fish on top of an oblong shaped piece of seasoned rice. Today, we call this style ‘nigiri sushi’ (finger sushi) or “edomae sushi” (from Edo, the name of Tokyo at the time) and is now the common way of eating Japanese sushi. At that time, sushi was served from sushi stalls on the street and was meant to be a snack or quick bite to eat on the go. Served from his stall, this was not only the first of the real ‘fast food’ sushi, but quickly became wildly popular. From his home in Edo, this style of serving sushi rapidly spread throughout Japan, aided by the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923, as many people lost their homes and businesses and moved from Tokyo.
After World War Two, the sushi stalls were shut down and moved indoors, to more sanitary conditions. More formal seating was later provided (the first iterations were merely an indoor version of the sushi stalls) and sushi changed from ‘fast food’ to a true dining experience. Sushi spread around the globe, and with the advent of the promotion of seafood, this unusual style of serving fish was quickly adopted by western cultures, always eager for something new, especially something that had grown as sophisticated and unique as sushi.
Sushi, the artful dining experience once uniquely Japanese, has now evolved to another level beyond the traditional Japanese methods. Western influences have given rise to new styles of sushi, such as California rolls and the many elaborate ‘fusion’ creations at upscale sushi restaurants. The history of sushi is a long one, at least 1,800 years in fact, but the current iteration is popular around the world, and rightly so. It is not often that something so singly cultural can not only take the world by storm, but also influence the direction of food in other cultures. Demand for sushi is only increasing and seems to be continuing to evolve. Traditional sushi restaurants sit alongside ‘fusion’ restaurants and both are popular for their own reasons. The history of sushi is still far from over.