Give Sushi a Try
Most people who are not familiar with sushi immediately think of raw fish. While it is true that raw fish may be used, the word "sushi" actually means "vinegared rice." All forms of sushi will be accompanied by this vinegared rice in one form or another. There are several forms of sushi besides the familiar rolled variety, known as maki-zushi. Chirashi-zushi is a bowl of sushi rice topped with a variety of sashimi (raw fish). Inari-zushi is a fried pouch of tofu that is filled with sushi rice. Nigiri-zushi is made with a "finger" of rice topped with a little wasabi (a spicy paste similar to horseradish) and a piece of either raw or cooked fish or shellfish. Finally, temaki-zushi is similar to maki, but it is served in a cone of nori (seaweed) instead of in a roll. It's kind of like a sushi ice cream cone.
Sushi always contains the special vinegared sushi rice. Vegetables like cucumber, avocado, and other veggies may be used. Fresh seafood like salmon, tuna, eel, clam, shrimp, octopus and calamari are commonly used. Some are used both raw and cooked. Many forms of sushi, especially the popular maki style, use seaweed, or nori, to wrap the other ingredients.
If you're new to sushi, start with flavors you are familiar with. Shrimp, salmon, vegetarian... these flavors will feel familiar even though you are eating them in a new way. Start with the maki style sushi. Any unfamiliar ingredients are wrapped inside, and less noticeable than if you have a piece of raw tuna staring you in the face on top of your nigiri. California rolls and vegetarian rolls are also a safe way to begin your sushi journey. Some sushi bars also offer maki with cooked ingredients or will dip them in tempura and fry the entire roll. This can be a safe, tasty way to try sushi for the first time. Study the menu, and if you have any questions, ask your server.
Sometimes, if you sit at the sushi bar and talk with the chef, you can get something really special. If you are new to sushi, explain this to the chef. He may have the perfect solution to introduce you to this wonderful treat. We tried a wonderful sushi dish this way. We sat at the bar, and let the chef know our likes and dislikes. He offered to make us an omakase, or chef's choice. What he created was a little scary for us because it had eel in it, and we had never tried it before. The mere mention of eel usually sent us looking elsewhere. We took the chance. It was incredible!
Many forms of sushi will taste like fish since that is usually a main ingredient. Nori gives an ocean taste that some may consider a little fishy. The rice serves to balance the other flavors. Even the raw fish can be mild, depending on the fish you choose. Salmon, halibut, tuna and several others are very mild. When eating a sushi roll, the entire piece should be eaten at once. Larger forms like temaki and chirashi are eaten with chopsticks. You can add a little more wasabi if you wish and cleanse your palate with ginger in between bites.