Let’s begin by being honest. Most of us meat-and-potato-eating  westerners are terrified of sushi. I mean, it’s RAW fish. Fish swim around. They’re slimy. They smell, and on occasion they have huge, shark-week-worthy teeth. And that, my friends, is downright scary. Now with that out of the way, I must ask you to forget everything we just agreed on and open your mind to a world of incredible flavor, brilliant colors and beautiful designs: sushi.

Recently, a friend of mine revealed that she was a sushi virgin. As a sushi lover, I immediately offered to help rectify this situation. What follows is the newbie’s guide to sushi-success.

Start With Cooked Fish
Sushi = raw fish, right? Wrong. Cooked fish is available on every sushi menu. Beginners should look for…

Shrimp – (Ebi) is boiled and never raw.

Freshwater Eel – (Unagi or Anago) is pre-boiled and freshly grilled prior to serving.

Crab – (Kamboko or Surimi) is cooked and fashioned into a crab-cake like mixture.

Tempura – (Japanese fried food) any tempura-style fish or vegetable will be battered, fried and delicious. Tempura is also a popular appetizer.

California Rolls – combine avocado, cucumber and the equivalent of a crab cake. They’re simple, cooked and totally non-intimidating.

Go With What You Know
Find your perfect sushi flavor with ingredients you know and like.

Vegetables – Lots of rolls contain avocado, cucumbers, ginger, asparagus, etc. Find a roll with veggies you enjoy and try it.

Sauces – Sushi is meant to be a flavor experience. Part of that experience comes from the sauces. Look for ingredients you like in your non-sushi life and they will enhance every bite. Wasabi-Mayo is a common ingredient that spice-lovers will enjoy. The restaurant we visited had a roll with “pineapple-mango-cilantro-tequila sauce.” See what I mean? Find flavors that sound delicious and roll with it.

Fish is Fish – Picking the right raw fish is the same as picking the right cooked fish. If you like grilled salmon, try a roll with smoked or raw salmon. If you prefer a tuna steak, find an option with Ahi or Maguro. Can’t get enough crab? You get the picture.

Be Confident

Use these common terms and facts to confidently coast through your sushi experience.

Maki – (the sushi roll) is what likely comes to mind when you picture sushi.(Generally) it’s a tightly rolled and layered combination of seaweed, vegetables and fish wrapped in rice.

Sashimi – is raw fish. Delicious, but not recommended for first-timers. (If you’re feeling adventurous, start with a mild fish like salmon.)

Most rolls include 6-8 pieces. A party of two can usually fill up with 3-4 rolls.

Wasabi, that mound of green stuff on your tray, is SPICY. Unless you’re looking to clear your sinuses, mix a small amount with your soy sauce rather than spreading it directly on the roll.

Each piece of sushi should be eaten in one bite to experience the full flavor of the roll. It’s also less messy – trying to take it in two bites often causes the piece to collapse. Relax – Remember, you’re in control of what you eat. So sit back, order a delicious drink (the Coconut Lemongrass and Apple Pear Martinis we had were AMAZING!) and enjoy this new experience!


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