Sushi Basics

By Candace Nelson - 8:00 AM

I didn't try sushi until I was in college. I didn't even really know about it until then. I thought - raw fish, ew. And I feel like that's what most of my sushi-virgin friends think. But not all sushi is raw! In fact, "sushi" refers to the vinegared, short-grain rice that accompanies the fish. And I would never give a beginner raw slabs. There are easier, beginner rolls - with cooked fish, or vegetables. But I wanted to get some sushi basics down so in case you're not familiar, you can give it a go.


Sushi can be traced back to 4th century BC in Southeast Asia. As a preserved food, the salted fish, fermented with rice, was an important source of protein. It spread throughout China, and in the 8th century, it came to Japan. Sushi became more of a cuisine rather than a way to preserve food. Now sushi can be found all around the world. In America, we tend to have more westernized versions.

  • Sashimi - slices of fish without rice (usually two pieces per order)
  • Nigiri - slices of fish on top of a small pad of rice, may have a piece of seaweed holding the fish to the rice (usually two pieces per order)
  • Maki - rolled sushi, made with dried seaweed (usually six pieces per order). This is what I always thought of when I thought of sushi. A bamboo mat is used to roll the seaweed and rice, making the sushi uniform. They can be hosomaki (thin rolled) or futomaki (fat rolled)
  • Temaki - single, large shaped like an ice cream cone. It is like a Japanese taco, with the cylindrical seaweed filled with rice and fillings.
Places in Morgantown for sushi
  1. Volcano
  2. Yama
  3. Ogawa
  4. Dragonfly
  5. Hibachi
  6. Fujiyama
  7. Chinese buffets
  8. Kroger

    akagai, pepitona clam
    ama ebi,
    raw shrimp
    sea eel
    red clam
    awabi, abalone
    cooked shrimp
    hamachi, yellowtail
    hirame, halibut
    ikura, salmon roe
    tofu pockets
    large scallops
    katsuo, bonito
    kobashira, small scallops
    kohada, Japanese shad
    masago, capelin roe
    mirugai, geoduck clam
    saba, mackerel
    shake, salmon
    shiro maguro,
    sea bass
    tai, red snapper
    egg omelette
    tobiko, flying-fish roe
    torigai, Japanese cockle
    fatty tuna belly
    unagi, freshwater eel
    sea urchin roe

    Sushi rolls are almost always served with these two small sides, as well as soy sauce:
    • Wasabi - Wasabi found in most stores or restaurants contains little or no real wasabi. It's usually horseradish and powdered mustard with green food coloring added. It is very strong.
      • Ginger - Pickled ginger, it's used to clean the palate between bites of sushi. It is pink, also called "gari."

        You probably don't want to jump in with raw fish, so try something cooked, like ebi (cooked shrimp), kani (imitation crab stick) or unagi (broiled freshwater eel brushed with teriyaki). Even better are crunchy shrimp tempura (deep-fried shrimp) or maybe a vegetarian roll (with cucumber, avocado, carrot, etc.)

        The most popular roll is the California roll (cucumber, crab stick and avocado). It's sometimes served "inside out," with the rice on the outside, instead of the seaweed. Sometimes they're coated in sesame seeds, tobiko (flying fish row) or masago (smelt roe). Other popular standards include the rainbow maki (California roll draped with tuna, salmon and yellowtail) and the caterpillar maki (avocado, crab stick, unagi and cucumber).


        "A nice piece of sake is a beautiful orange with streaks of white and will have a luxurious, buttery texture to go along with the unmistakable flavor of salmon. Hamachi is a rich tasting variety that will almost melt in your mouth, while toro is proof that the best flavor comes from the fat." - Mark Lo

        Eat your sushi in one bite if the size permits. Larger pieces may be taken in multiple bites, but finish a piece without putting it back down on your plate. It is not considered good form to place the wasabi or ginger into your dish of soy sauce. Your sauce should remain pure of bits of food or other contaminants. When you dip your nigiri sushi, turn it upside down so that only the fish touches the soy sauce. Dipping the rice side will absorb too much sauce or cause it to fall apart and make a mess, thereby violating the previous rule. - Mark Lo

        Common Rolls

        Food Definition
        Alaska roll a variant of the California roll with raw salmon on the inside, or layered on the outside.
        B.C. roll contains grilled or barbecued salmon skin, cucumber, sweet sauce, sometimes with roe. Also sometimes referred to as salmon skin rolls outside of British Columbia, Canada.
        California roll consists of avocado, kani kama (imitation crab/crab stick) (also can contain real crab in 'premium' varieties), cucumber and tobiko, often made uramaki (with rice on the outside, nori on the inside)
        Dynamite roll includes yellowtail (hamachi) and/or prawn tempura, and fillings such as bean sprouts, carrots, avocado, cucumber, chili and spicy mayonnaise
        Hawaiian roll contains shoyu tuna (canned), tamago, kanpyō, kamaboko, and the distinctive red and green hana ebi (shrimp powder).
        Philadelphia roll consists of raw or smoked salmon, cream cheese (often Philadelphia cream cheese brand), cucumber or avocado, and/or onion.
        Rainbow roll a rainbow roll is a California roll with typically 6-7 types of sashimi (yellowtail, tuna, salmon, snapper, white fish, eel, etc.) and avocado wrapped around it.
        Seattle roll consists of cucumber, avocado, and raw or smoked salmon.
        Spider roll includes fried soft shell crab and other fillings such as cucumber, avocado, daikon sprouts or lettuce, roe, and sometimes spicy mayonnaise.

        I'm not an expert, so what do you have to share? Any added tips or your favorite sushi rolls would be awesome! Let me know in the comments below

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