When the word “sushi” gets mentioned, most of the time it’s only a couple of seconds before misinformation begins to fill the air. Admit it, the words, “I won’t eat raw fish” have passed your lips. I may have even just paraphrased in a much more gentle and tolerant tone than your exclamation. But “sushi” does not mean raw fish nor does it even imply raw fish.
Sushi, or more closely “zushi” as the Japanese pronounce it, means “sour” and the term implies short-grain, white rice, washed many times, mixed with vinegar, sugar, salt, and sometimes sake (Japanese rice wine). Traditionally, the mixing is done with a hangiri, which is a round, flat-bottom wooden tub or barrel, and a wooden paddle
Now, as a dude who began eating sushi 28 years and eight months ago, this is very important to me, and a source of constant frustration. In my experience Chinese cooks don’t seem to get it and it doesn’t matter to me what you put on top of the rice if the rice isn’t prepared right. So when I hear that the sushi at the Asian Buffet isn’t very good or someone doesn’t like sushi because they tried it in Georgetown, I bristle. Of course it’s not very good, it’s not sushi!
Real sushi made with loving care and tradition by a Japanese master is one of the most beautiful creations I have ever experienced. Light, fluffy, slightly sticky, almost sweet yet almost sour, and a million miles away from that stuff at the Asian Buffet! Now, where do we go from here? It is served one of three main ways:
1. Nigirizushi (握り寿司, literally hand-formed sushi) consists of an oblong mound of sushi rice that the chef presses into a small rectangular box between the palms of the hands, usually with a bit of wasabi (green horseradish paste), and a topping draped over it.
2. Makizushi (巻寿司, literally rolled sushi) is a cylindrical piece, formed with the help of a bamboo mat, called a makisu. Makizushi is generally wrapped in nori (seaweed paper).
3. Temaki (手巻, literally hand rolls) is a large cone-shaped piece of nori on the outside and the ingredients spilling out the wide end. A typical temaki is about ten centimeters (4 in) long, and is eaten with fingers because it is too awkward to pick it up with chopsticks.
(None of the photographed examples contain raw fish.)
I wish I could go into more depth because the world of sushi is a truly beautiful one, but I’m blogging here, not writing an article for the New Yorker. I urge you to find an authentic Japanese restaurant and try some sushi. Call first to make sure they’re really Japanese. Two fine establishments in Lexington are Sugano and Tachibana. Go for it! It’s extremely healthy! As my big brother Tim says, “Pay the sushi chef today, or pay the doctor tomorrow!”