Basic Sushi Etiquette Lesson Two — The Rest of the Menu
In our last blog, we explored the very basics of the sushi menu. That was designed to get you started with some of the more popular items and some of the simple styles of sushi.
Well, there’s a lot more!
Let’s take a look at some of the other terms you’ll likely see at a sushi bar or restaurant.
Popular Seafood Sushi
Tako — Yes, it is pronounced the way it looks. But trust us, it is not what you think! Tako is cooked octopus and is very popular in most sushi restaurants. Octopus, no matter how it is cooked, tends to be chewy and has a purplish color. Usually you’ll see the suction cups from the tentacles as well, making this one of those items many sushi newbies steer clear from.
Unagi — This is one of those super-popular dishes for those who prefer to not eat raw fish. And if you’ve never had eel before, this is a great place to start. Unagi is first cooked and brushed with a sweet teriyaki sauce and has a much richer flavor than its salt-water cousin, Anago.
Ika — This is another tasty dish that takes some time for many sushi novices to get used to. It is raw squid body with grilled squid tentacles. Like octopus, it is chewy and firm. The crunchy tentacles are presented up.
Ama Ebi — One of the two types of shrimp you’ll likely see on the menu. Ama Ebi is served raw and has a nice, sweet flavor. It is usually served with the shells, which have been deep-fried and are very good to eat.
Ebi — This is the other shrimp style you’ll find, but it is cooked.
Some Things You Should Try — When You Are Ready!
Roe — So you’ve probably heard of caviar, probably tried it once or twice. Roe is essentially the same thing — fish eggs. But while all caviar is roe, not all roe is caviar. Caviar is taken from a fish called a sturgeon and is salted (cured) and then aged. Japanese roe sushi is fresh and lacks the flavor of caviar. Below are three typical types of roe sushi:
Tobiko — Also known as “flying fish roe,” these tiny fish eggs are black in color and very crunchy. They are served in a bite-sized basket made from seaweed and are eaten less for their taste and more for their texture.
Masago — Similar to tobiko, but a little larger and orange in color. It is less expensive than tobiko and lacks the crunchy texture.
Ikura — Of the roe sushi options, this is the most popular as it has the same creamy texture of caviar. It is taken from salmon and is much larger than tobiko and masago. They are orange in color and have a liquid center.
Uni — One of the most popular – and expensive – delicacies you’ll find on the menu. Uni is sea urchin meat that is expertly cut by very skilled Itamae. It ranges in color from red (the most expensive) to yellow (the least expensive). It has a briney flavor and a creamy, buttery texture. It’s worth a try — eventually!
Maki Rolls You’ll See Everywhere
As we discussed previously, rolls are the most popular choice for new sushi patrons. One does not need to be too adventurous to try most of them. And with a better understanding of some of the terms, you can read some of the ingredients right from the name.
But the Americanized version of most rolls — especially their names — leave little to the explanation. Here’s some help:
California Roll — An odd combination that was built for American palates, this is often people’s first roll. Rice, avocado, and imitation crab. What sets it aside from most others is that the rice is on the outside of the seaweed.
Spicy Tuna Roll — Super popular variation of the California Roll. Replace the crab meat with some masago and add a little spicy mayo on top. Certainly not the spiciest item you’ll find in front of you, but as easy experience nonetheless.
Rainbow Roll — Another variant on the California Roll, this one adds a type of raw fish on top. Each roll is topped with either salmon, sea bass, or tuna. Fun to order with friends!
Spider Roll — Don’t worry, no spiders here. Just some battered and deep-fried soft-shell crab, cucumber, avocado, and some spicy mustard.
Dynamite Roll — Very similar to the Spider Roll. This roll is made with deep-fried battered shrimp, avocado, and fresh cucumber and topped with teriyaki sauce.
These rolls are just suggestions. Talk to your itamae, especially if it is not too busy. The menu is just a suggestion! Look at your chef as you would a bartender. They have a number of items back there to use and they are willing to try some new things.
And don’t forget about the Temaki option. It’s much easier for an itamae to make you a single hand roll than an entire eight-piece roll.