Sushi for Beginners: All You Need to Know About Sushi

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Sushi, a world-wide phenomena is not a stranger to most of us. This delicious staple piece of Japanese cuisine has conquered the hearts and souls of many, especially thanks to the variety it has, not to even mention the great taste combinations.

Over the past years, there have been made literally hundreds of different versions of this classic dish and sometimes it can be even hard to pinpoint which sushi roll has traditional roots and which ones are derived from Western versions. No matter the versions and no matter if you prefer to go for the original or would like to taste some variations, it’s delicious in all ways.

In this article, we are giving some light on some of the questions you might have if you haven’t done a deep dive into the world of sushi yet. This topic is so massive that surely we can’t cover everything in one piece, but you can bet these little tips and pointers help to introduce you this extraordinary treat for your taste buds. Let’s get to it!

On a vegan diet but still want to make some tasty sushi? If so, I recommend Keep It Vegan’s guide to plant-based sushi.

Where does sushi come from?

The original sushi originates from Southeast Asia where it made its’ way to Japan in the 8th century. This sushi included salted fish that was wrapped in fermented rice – nowadays we know this sushi as nare-zushi. The purpose of the fermented rice was to preserve the fish for a very long time and surprisingly, the rice was thrown away – only fish was eaten. Later the fish was eaten together with rice, making this sushi the commonly known nare-zushi.

The modern version of sushi was created somewhere between the end of 18th century and the beginning of 19th century, by Hanaya Yohei. This type of sushi, called nigiri-zushi or edomae sushi, is known today world-wide: it was eaten with vinegared rice and you could eat the dish with your hands, making it quick and convenient.

Which sushi is good for you? Health benefits and types of sushi

sushi types

The most significant factor that describes sushi is the fact that basically any food made with vinegared sushi rice is a sushi. The term “sushi” actually literally means “it’s sour” and even more notable is the fact that sushi doesn’t have to include fish. Though the first ever sushi was made with rice, modern sushi can be completely vegetarian, include mushrooms, cucumber, avocado and so on.

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These are the most common sushi types:

  • Makizushi – a.k.a “rolled sushi” is a type of sushi where all the ingredients are wrapped in seaweed (Nori). Makizushi comes in different varieties, ranging from thin roll (called hosomaki) to thick roll (futomaki).
  • Nigirizushi – Nigiri sushi, as we previously mentioned, is the most widely known modern type of sushi. It means “hand pressed sushi” and in this case the rice is formed by hand, pressing it to a ball. The Nigiri sushi is served with a bit of wasabi and some toppings on the ball. These toppings can be for example salmon, tuna or some other seafoods.
  • Chirashizushi – This sushi is actually served in a bowl with rice and some toppings like vegetables or raw fish. It’s one of the most popular dishes simply because it’s so easy to make and can be pretty cheap, according to the selection of topics. The term itself means literally “scattered sushi” and it’s pretty clear why.
  • Inarizushi – Inarizushi is a type of sushi where the vinegared rice is inside of a pouch of fried tofu. The tofu is usually deep-fried and sometimes the pouch can be made of thing omelette instead.
  • Narezushi – This is a traditional fermented sushi. The most extraordinary fact is that the sushi can be eaten 6 months after the start of fermentation and it will stay eatable for half a year after that!
  • Oshizushi – This sushi means literally “pressed sushi” – the ingredients are pressed into a squared wooden mold. In this type of sushi, the fish is always cooked.

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Which sushi is bad for you? Health benefits and surprising dangers of sushi

At the same time of being so popular, there are numerous questions and worries about whether sushi is always good for you and whether or not it’s healthy. There are some dangers that might leave you thinking twice when ordering sushi:

Calories

Depending on the type of sushi, it can contain extreme amount of calories. One sushi roll can contain a cup of rice and only the rice will give you over 200 calories. Let’s be honest, who would ever eat just one roll?! Though the fish itself has low calorie count, all the other ingredients like sauces and other extras can make these rolls quite crazy when it comes to calories.

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If you are counting your calories and would like to enjoy sushi so it wouldn’t go over your daily calorie intake, choose sushi that doesn’t have any sauces, is made with brown rice and includes veggies. Avoid ANY rolls that are “creamy” and include a lot of sauce.

Mercury

Many of the fish types used for making sushi have high mercury content – like tuna, swordfish and mackerel for example. When consuming in high quantities, it’s not unlikely at all to get a mercury poisoning! For avoiding that, opt for sushi with salmon or shrimp.

Parasites

Though there are many variations of sushi that don’t include raw fish, there are still some that do. Choosing that can mean you threaten yourself with consuming bacteria and parasites together with the raw fish! That’s the main reason why you need to be extremely careful when you are choosing the restaurant.

Food additives

Modern sushi is no stranger to having additives to get us crave more of this delicious dish. Sushi can include food coloring, preservatives, potassium sorbate and loads of sugar. When choosing sushi from the store, make sure to read the labels carefully and understand what additives your favorite dish contains since it can be accompanied by some surprising components.

How to make sushi roll at home? The basics

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Making sushi at home is not just fun – you will have the complete control over the ingredients and the health benefits. If your goal is not to just make a nice delicious dinner, you don’t need to be taunted by the fact professional chefs practice tens of years to perfect the art of sushi. As we’ve mentioned above, sushi has many different varieties and it’s easy to prepare this dish at home as well!

Preparing the rice

The key to making sushi at home is getting that perfect sticky rice. For that, you will need rice (in ideal, sushi rice), rice vinegar, salt and sugar. Food & Wine has a great recipe for making sushi rice at home: you can check it out here.

Choose your fillings and prepare them

Choose the ingredients you like: salmon, veggies, mushrooms, whatever you like and prepare them. Chop the veggies and prepare the fish. Keep in mind that the pieces should be relatively small in order for the sushi to roll nicely. Strips are especially great as they distribute evenly.

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Time to roll! 

Once all the ingredients are prepared, it’s time to form the roll. For that you will need a bamboo mat (well, a towel might do as well) and nori sheets. Spread the rice evenly as a thin layer on the nori and arrange your fillings on top of that. Start rolling the mat up gently. Once the roll is nicely sealed, you can compress it so the shape would look nice.

And that’s it!

For some guidance, you can check out this video that explains really nicely the whole process on how to make sushi rolls at home.

Homemade sushi vs restaurant/store bought sushi

The answer to this is unfortunately vague: it depends on your taste. When it comes to money, then depending on your region, there might not be a great difference between making sushi at home or eating out. The benefit of buying sushi, especially from a restaurant, is clear: it’s professionally made, you don’t have to go through the trouble (even though making basic sushi is not that complex) and you can just enjoy the food. Though usually home made meals can be a lot cheaper, then that’s not the case with sushi usually.

However, if you are concerned of your health, then it is wise to either dine in a restaurant with great reputation or make the dish at home as you will have a complete control over what you will eat. Processed foods are never the healthiest solution and that goes for sushi as well as it can contain unhealthy additives, not to even mention the calorie intake.

Hungry already? Here’s why you should try sushi right away

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Sushi is one of the most popular “fast foods” simply as it’s delicious, fun and can be very healthy. If you are craving for sushi, then I suggest to try a service called Caviar – it’s a food delivery service that delivers sushi from all kinds of different restaurants, all around the country. That way you don’t even have to go out and can have the delicious dish delivered right to your door.