3 Common Misconceptions About Sushi
Sushi has spread from its native Japan to the rest of the world and has become a well-loved and hip genre of food that many can't get enough of. Some reluctant eaters turn up their noses at the foreign flavors and raw ingredients, while others consider themselves connoisseurs of the Asian tradition. Still, something about the food seems to have been lost in the translation from East to West and some of the things people believe are essential for good sushi aren't as crucial as you might think.
1. If You Don't Like Fish, You Won't Like Sushi
"I don't really like fish." How many times have you heard someone use that as an excuse as to why they don't like sushi? True, if you don't like seafood then you are missing out on most of what the genre has to offer, but there's still plenty to explore. Because sushi isn't really about the fish, it's about the rice.
A roll of sushi doesn't have to include fish or seaweed, although it often does. In fact, the word "sushi" refers to the vinegared rice that's ubiquitous in all rolls. Chefs of the trade must first learn to master rice before they move on to other ingredients. Many restaurants offer items other than rolls on their sushi menus (like sashimi or plain raw fish). Still, those menu items are not the same.
Sweetened egg with vinegared rice (tamago) or a selection of tasty vegetables rolled up with vinegared rice are other forms of delectable sushi that are perfectly safe for those that can't stand that "fishy" taste.
So if you just can't stand sushi, that's fine, but a better explanation would be "I'm not a fan of rice." If you want to know more about the dish's independence from fish, check out this Snopes article debunking the misconception.
2. All Sushi Is Raw
If you are going to have fish on your sushi, then it has to be raw, right? That's the most authentic, the most flavorful, the best. Isn't it?
That may be your opinion but many chefs and lovers of the food genre will disagree. Plenty of cooked seafood ingredients can be found at the hippest of sushi joints.
While sashimi (raw fish) is delicious, cooked fish or eel (unagi) is tasty, too. Egg, shrimp, tuna, or eel are all cooked ingredients that you'll find on a chef's specials list. Raw fish may be a delicacy, but it isn't the end-all-be-all of good rolls...because it's all about good rice and not the other stuff. Not liking sashimi (raw fish) doesn't mean you can't appreciate a nice sushi roll.
3. Fresh Sushi Is Always Best
So here's the thing about sushi: It was invented as a way to preserve fish. That's right, preserve, as in save for later, as in not fresh. Even with the marvels of modern refrigeration, the fish you're eating on or in your rolls today probably wasn't caught this morning.
So often I've heard people say they don't trust seafood restaurants in an inland area, that the fish they've had on the coast is the best because it's "fresh." Even the best sushi restaurants brag about how their fish is flown in daily or locally caught to appease this perception that fresh is best.
But the truth is that your favorite fish has probably been frozen and is over a day old. The FDA requires that all fish be frozen before served raw to eliminate foodborne illnesses, so in the US it's highly unlikely that your seafood was swimming around earlier today. Tuna is the one exception to the law because it has very clean flesh but still, it probably took few days before it got to your plate.
The fresher seafood is, the more minimal its flavor. For optimal flavor, chefs will often use slightly older fish. Some even pickle their ingredients so that the flavor will be even stronger.
So before you turn down a sushi bar in Kansas, read some reviews. Their daily supply of flown-in fish is likely just as fresh as the hottest sushi restaurant on the coast.