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Sushi bars and restaurants are everywhere now, from Albuquerque to Albany and Walla Walla to West Palm Beach. Hopefully, you’ve discovered some near where you live and have entered the addictive world of sushi gourmandom.
If you haven’t, by all means pe in when you reach Hawaii. And don’t be put off with those “Yish! Raw fish!” remarks you may have heard from others who haven’t got their feet wet yet. Your first time will be an event you’ll never forget, and it surely will not be your last time.
Consider a California Roll as your first taste. It’s made with crab or surimi (imitation crab), avocado, cucumber and mayonnaise wrapped in rice, nori (seaweed or algae), and sesame seeds. This is one of the most popular sushi rolls. There isn’t any raw fish and, even if you aren’t familiar with Japanese cuisine, you aren’t likely to find it in the least way offensive.
Another good entré into sushi is tamago – an omelet made with chicken eggs, tuna stock, shoyu (soy sauce), and sugar or mirin (a Japanese cooking wine). It’s made a little like the way a French crepe is made. The first “crepe” is rolled up to one end of a special rectangular tamago pan and becomes the base for the next crepe. The second one, when cooked, is rolled inside to the other end of the pan. When the rolling process is repeated, the result is a thick log. (Tamago is often called a “thousand-layer omelet” because several layers are all rolled together.) The log is chilled, cut into sushi-sized pieces and served on top of a ball of vinegar rice. It’s mild flavor is delicious.
Just about all the rice used in sushi is su, or vinegar rice. A very specific amount of vinegar (sometimes with a little sugar) is expertly added to only the highest quality of rice.
Okay, let’s get to the fish. Fish is, after all, the most important ingredient of sushi aside from rice. It is essential that the fish is FRESH, and that’s something you never have to worry about in Hawaii. Just about any local fish you will be served in the islands will have been just caught, delivered to the auctions and purchased by the restaurant that very morning. Hawaii’s tuna – Albacore, Bigeye (or ahi), Skipjack (or aku) and Yellowfin – has a pleasant, delicate flavor (If it smells or tastes like “fish,” it ain’t fresh). It’s used for sashimi (bite-sized pieces of raw fish often served with shoyu and wasabi) as well as the more richly-textured sushi. The tuna used in sushi where you live is probably from Hawaii. In Hawaii, of course, you know it hasn’t been frozen.
When you visit a sushi bar in Hawaii, try to sit right in front of the sushi chef. Introduce yourself and mention that you are a novice at eating sushi and you would appreciate any help and input that he can provide. He will become your friend.
There is plenty of cooked sushi to try in order to familiarize yourself with the concept. There’s ebi, which is cooked shrimp; kani, which is cooked crab; anago and unagi, which are cooked eels; and tako, which is cooked octopus (think calamari).
Once you’ve become comfortable with the sushi concept, you can begin to eat from the raw side of the smorgasbord. The selections that are easiest to introduce yourself to are negi-toro maki, (raw tuna and onions, sort of like beef tartar); or a spicy-tuna maki, (tuna, mayonnaise, and flying fish eggs, with a southeast-Asian based hot sauce called sriracha, made in central California, and used for the better buffalo wings).
There are all kinds of etiquette rules sushi nuts follow. Don’t worry about them until … well, until you become a sushi nut yourself. Think that won’t happen? Ha!
Any Hawaii-Aloha agent can guide you when it comes to planning your dining experiences here in Hawaii. They’ve tasted it all! Pick an agent from our Web site (hawaii-aloha.com), or call 1-800-843-8771.