Eating sushi may have originated in Japan but now it is popular all over the world. But sometimes, ordering for the first time in a while at a sushi restaurant can be confusing. In this blog post, we will provide you with a simple sushi guide to help conquer your fear of sushi restaurants! We’ll cover everything from the different types of sushi to how to order at a restaurant. So whether you’re a first-time sushi eater or an experienced connoisseur who just needs a refresher on the key differences between tobiko vs masago read on!
If you haven’t just finished rewatching Jiro Dreams of Sushi you might be a little intimidated by the sushi menu. But don’t worry, we’ll help you decipher all those terms sushi chefs use because it’s never fun to be confused by the menu especially when it’s written in English!
Sushi is anything made with vinegared rice. That’s why rice is such a focus of every sushi apprentice in the movies! The rice is the basic building block of the entire dish so getting it just right is essential to progressing as a sushi chef.
You may have tried ceviche, which is translucent like sushi, but is actually cooked with acid, so it’s different than sushi in that respect although they are often confused.
Nori refers to the edible seaweed sheets used to wrap sushi into edible rolls with the rice base.
Sashimi is thinly sliced raw fish. It is usually ordered as an appetizer or main course and served with soy sauce and wasabi. The lengths many Japanese fishermen and sushi chefs go to to ensure they get the highest quality fresh fish makes sashimi the star of the sushi show, even though it is the vinegar rice which actually makes it ‘sushi’! Despite the mystique of the getting the perfect bluefin tuna getting vegetarian sushi is still possible, check out this article if you need to learn more about vegetarian sushi ideas.
Nigiri is perhaps the most popular type of sushi. It’s simply sushi rice topped with fish or other seafood. The fish is usually raw but sometimes it can be seared, grilled, or fried. The example above is plain nigiri topped with fresh salmon.
Unlike nigiris, maki is sushi that’s made into a roll shape and stuffed with a variety of ingredients. The maki rolls can have the nori seaweed rolls on the outside or have the rice outside. If the Nori is on the outside, like below, it might be called norimaki.
Shoyou sauce is a soy-based sauce used in sushi. It’s usually darker in color and has a slightly sweeter taste than regular soy sauce.
Ponzu sauce is a watery citrus-based sauce often combined with soy sauce. Sometimes ‘ponzu’ can simply refer to the mixture of ponzu sauce and soy sauce. It can be used separately as a dip on the side or as a marinade in several Asian cuisines.
Panko bread crumbs are used to add that nice satisfying crunch to sushi rolls. The crumbs, which are really more like flakes, are sometimes sprinkled on top of sushi rolls for texture and appearance.
The Japanese term for battered and deep fried foods. Tempura platters are often served as appetizers but tempura shrimp can also be found in sushi rolls. While not as healthy as regular raw sushi, tempura is better for those who don’t like raw fish.
Wasabi is a green paste made from a special Japanese horseradish. It’s often served with sushi and sashimi as a spicy condiment. However, 99% of commercial kitchens use horseradish colored with green food coloring to replace real wasabi according to The Washington Post.
Tamago, short for tamagoyaki, is an omelette made by layering fried eggs into thin slices with a batter made of a little sugar and soy sauce. Tamago is often served as a sushi appetizer and has a slightly sweet taste due to the sugar
Roe which refers to fish eggs and other types of eggs from marine animals is a delicacy commonly added to sushi. Not all roe is the same though, there are a few types you should know of so you aren’t surprised if that’s not something you’re into.
Salmon roe which relatively large, almost 1 mm in diameter, and reddish-orange.
Tobiko is the Japanese word for flying fish roe. It is slightly salty with a crunchy texture. Tobiko eggs will be smaller than Ikura (salmon roe) and larger than Masago (capellin roe). Green tobiko is made by adding wasabi, which also usually makes it much spicer so be warned. Black tobiko is made by adding squid ink as a dye to change the decorative nature of the roe.
Masago is the smallest of the commonly used roe types but tastes similar to the others with a mild smoky distinct flavor. Both tobiko and masago are versions of smelt roe that is very similar to capelin roe, another type of fish also found near Japan, as well as the north Pacific and north Atlantic waters and arctic oceans.
Roe is usually a red orange color but some additives may be used to color the roe for a twist on the natural roe, for example squid ink can be used to make it black and wasabi can be used to make it green and spicy!
I hope this guide gives you the confidence to go into any Japanese restaurant! Sushi is definitely a unique delicacy that’s also a lot of fun to eat. There’s so much variety in the methods sushi restaurants take make sushi and other dishes that it’d be a shame to miss out because you’re afraid of exploring! Let me know if you run into any terms you don’t know!