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Some Raw Facts About Sushi

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Sushi is arguably Japan’s most popular contribution to the world. The compact, bite-sized portions typically consist of vinegared rice, topped with fresh fish, vegetables, seaweed, or other lightly cooked or raw seafood. Nowadays, people are becoming increasingly health conscious and since sushi is low in all the dreaded c-words – like calories, carbs, and cholesterol – it is becoming one of the most viable options for those who wish to eat nutritious fare without packing on the pounds.

The icing on the cake as regards the nutritional value of sushi is the fact that it is extremely heart-friendly, as it is low in saturated fats. Sushi made with seafood is rich in proteins and omega-3 fatty acids. Seaweed, a regular sushi accompaniment, provides the benefits of iodine, magnesium, calcium, iron, and folic acid. The fresh vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals.

The health benefits of sushi are numerous, but it must be remembered there are umpteen ways to prepare this dish and not all of them are healthy. Fried tempura items and condiments like mayonnaise and cheese can be fattening. Too much sushi can send sodium and mercury levels soaring, and one always assumes the risk of food-borne illnesses as it is often eaten raw. That being said, experts have opined that the health benefits outweigh the risks associated with sushi.

Some believe sushi is a simple dish to prepare, as it does not call for a lot of cooking. But that is not the case. Sushi chefs, or itamae, undergo years of rigorous training under master chefs before they are allowed the honor of creating these exquisite culinary masterpieces. Skilled chefs incorporate special techniques into their craft such as dipping their hands in cold water laced with vinegar in order to keep the fish cool and germ-free. They always work quickly and with concentration in order to provide their customers with a taste treat they will never forget.

There are many types of sushi. Nigiri-zushi is the commonest variety. It is composed of a piece of seafood placed on vinegared rice, seasoned with a touch of horseradish or wasabi, and wrapped in seaweed. Maki-zushi is made with a thin bamboo mat that is used to roll up a cylinder of rice and a morsel of fish or vegetable. Sashimi is an assortment of finely sliced fish accompanied by a number of garnishes. Temaki and chirashi are variations of maki and sashimi respectively. Inari-zushi is made up of rice and vegetables rolled up in fried tofu.

To eat sushi like a true gourmand, one must dip it delicately in a small amount of soy sauce before savoring it. The favored technique is to turn the sushi upside down while dipping in order to season the topping as opposed to the rice. But this calls for a high level of manual dexterity while handling the chopsticks. And it is not advisable for rank beginners.

Connoisseurs eat thinly sliced pickled ginger to cleanse the palate and help differentiate between the subtle tastes and aromas. The meal can be washed down (if one can employ so vulgar a term for a gourmet treat!) with sake, or piping hot green tea.

Sushi can be quite pricey, as only the freshest fish and other produce are used. The price can vary depending on the quality and availability of the catch. For those on a budget, the set meal is the best option, as it offers an assortment of dishes at a more reasonable price. And downing sake by the gallon can also extract a heavy price from the wallet, so the green tea is a more financially feasible option.

This summer, if you are looking to beat the heat and wish to spare yourself the arduous extra hours at the gym, head for the closest Japanese restaurant and give yourself and your taste buds an exotic treat. Irashaimasee ("welcome" in Japanese) to the world of fine dining.

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About Anuja Mouli

  • Sushi can be pretentious. I agree. I’ve called people ‘sushi-eating liberals’ before. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that sushi can also be delicious. What a messy world…our minds are much less messy than reality tends to be. We seem to organize it much more strictly than it warrants.

    Don’t mind me, I have a recent thing I am thinking and writing about concerning the problems inherent in trying to organize reality into clearly delineated, black & white categories.

    (despite the microscopic worms that you prefer cooked rather than just dead Prof. Bliffle)

  • Bliffle

    Sushi is pretentious.

  • zingzing

    and if you don’t douse the shit in soy sauce, your sodium won’t go through the roof.

    only westerners use soy sauce like it’s fuckin ketchup or something.

  • zingzing

    sounds fine to me.

    and you be scared of life, and i’ll enjoy your fear from afar, kind of like a horror movie.


    sorry for your wife, but food poisoning is an unfortunate part of life. but if you go to a non-shitty sushi place, they’ll have a decent chef who knows how to prepare good, healthy sushi.

    there’s no point in being scared of something just because you got sick off it once. it’s not like it was an allergic reaction, just an unfortunate incident. it’s damn near pointless to go through life fearing everything that at one time caused you harm. if that was true, i’d never walk on sidewalks, or down stairs, or use glass bottles, or drive cars, or play baseball… blah, blah.

    get over your fear of sushi. it’ll probably be good for your health.

  • Ruvy

    Too much sushi can send sodium and mercury levels soaring and one always assumes the risk of food-borne illnesses as it is often eaten raw.

    I nursed my wife for two months after she developed hepatitis from a food borne illness, zing. I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone. It permanently damaged her health.

    You see, it ain’t the balls that the food borne illnesses kick and damage – it’s the liver. And you don’t get better by popping a few Liva-snaps in your mouth either. Fortunately, the liver heals itself to a degree. Fortunately, my wife is still alive.

    Tell you what, zing. You have that piece of sushi for me. That way, I’ll have taken the risk vicariously, without the danger of the damage, and you’ll have gotten to enjoy what you like….

  • zingzing

    ruvy, you need to grow some food balls. you can take a little raw fish, it’s easy. sushi is a wonderful thing. i like the sashimi the best. just pure, raw slabs of fish. put a little (little!) soy and wasabi on that stuff, and it totally comes alive. hrm.

  • Ruvy

    Apparently, there are now kosher sushi bars in Jerusalem. But the idea of eating raw fish really bothers this former restaurant manager. I don’t feel like taking my life in my hands just to go to a restaurant….

  • Sushi is my food of choice, however in Michigan there is a true dearth of good restaurants. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and when in California, I usually do.