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Japanese Cuisine

Roll Out The Sushi: Japanese Cuisine Offers a World of Exciting Flavors
Essence by Jonell Nash

Sushi, once an exotic eat, seems to be everywhere these days. The bite-size bundles of delicately vinegared rice along with fish and/or vegetables all wrapped in seaweed are a superb blend of tastes and textures. The wild surge in its popularity is also linked to its gorgeous looks and its healthfulness. A surprising discovery is how easily you can learn to roll your own sushi and to make other Japanese dishes at home. Boredom with the same ole thing will fly out the window when you put these fresh flavors and striking combinations on your dinner or party table.


"Eat raw fish? You're crazy? That was how Maranda Moses' girlfriends responded last summer when she suggested eating at a sushi bar. But they eventually agreed, and now sushi has become their favorite indulgence. "And that same bar is now our regular hangout," says Moses, a freelance writer in Montreal.

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Here's a menu translator of the four categories of sushi:

Maki is the common paper-thin layer of toasted seaweed topped with rice and stuffed with thin pieces of raw or cooked fish, shellfish, egg or vegetables and shaped into a roll. The rolls are cut into slices.

Temaki is similar to maki but is cone-shaped, uncut and eaten by hand.

Nigiri is best known; it consists of a piece of fish or seafood placed on an oblong-shaped finger of vinegared rice that's seasoned with a dab of horseradish. The fish is generally raw, however, shellfish are sometimes cooked.

Sashimi is an assortment of sliced raw fish, such as tuna served on a platter with garnishes.

All are eaten with distinct condiments, including gari (pickled sliced ginger), wasabi (Japanese horseradish) and shoyu (soy sauce).


Here are hints for good manners from a global-marketing specialist, Kathryn D. Leary, who trains executives in cross-cultural etiquette.


* Dip nigiri sushi into soy sauce on the fish side only. It's a mistake (and considered bad manners) to dip the rice side.

* Eat a piece of sushi in just one bite.

* Set the tips of your chopsticks on the chopstick rest when not in use.

* Mix a little wasabi into the soy sauce for dipping. (Be careful not to eat wasabi by itself.)

* Remember, when drinking sake, that you should always fill everyone else's cup first, then your own.


* Spear your food with chopsticks.

* Pile ginger on the sushi. Gari, the pickled-ginger slices that accompany sushi, are for cleansing your palate between bites. Eating and cleansing at the same time undermines the purpose.

* Pass food directly from your chopsticks to someone else's chopsticks; pass the tray.


Easy on the heart and waistline, the emphasis in Japanese cooking is on seafood, rice and vegetables, rather than high-cholesterol red meat and dairy foods. It's not incidental that many of the classic ingredients like tofu, bean sprouts, buckwheat noodles and seaweed are commonly found in health-food stores.


Asian groceries and markets appear in neighborhoods all over the nation. The sights, sounds and smells transport you to other lands where you can find tasty ingredients for dinner at great prices.

1. Ginger--This knobby root is juiced, minced, grated or sliced to add aroma and spicy bite to dishes. It's also pickled to make gari, the sushi garnish.

2. Shiso leaves--This serrated, deep green, heart-shaped herb tastes of cinnamon and ginger. The leaves are often sold in small stacks tied with string; add to soups or deep-fry in tempura.

3. Radish sprouts--Select sprouts with buds attached for a peppery accent to salads or as a garnish.

4. Mung-bean sprouts--Toss whole into dishes to add a light, crunchy texture. Limit cooking time to less than a minute.

5. Wakame--This deep-green leafy kelp comes in fresh and dried forms. Add it to miso soup and vinegared salads for chewy texture and sea-brine flavor.

6. Bok choy--Also called Chinese cabbage, it's tender, cooks quickly and is good when stir-fried or chopped and added to soups.

7. Soba noodles--Made from buckwheat, these somewhat chewy noodles have a nutty flavor. Add them to soups and stir-fries; top with shrimp or tofu.

8. Nori--This processed seaweed looks like thin sheets of rough black paper and is the common wrap for sushi.

9. Sushi rice--The stubby plump grains are mixed with sugar and rice vinegar to form the base of all types of sushi.

10. Asian eggplant--This mild-flavored seedless version goes with an array of meat, egg, curry and grilled dishes, or deep-fry it in tempura.

11. Lotus root--When cut, this mildly sweet root of the lotus flower resembles Swiss cheese. Add to salads, stir-fry or deep-fry in tempura.