Although there is much Japanese food in San Jose, you shouldn’t be ashamed if your visit to Kyoto Palace is your first experience with sushi. When you take a look at a menu, you may be surprised to find many familiar ingredients paired with the more exotic offerings. Use the guide below to help you order your first delicious sushi meal.
If your only experience with Japanese food so far has been Hibachi-grilled food at a teppanyaki steakhouse, you’ll want to start your sushi education with rolls. These feature rice and other ingredients such as vegetables and seafood rolled up in a wrapper of mild seaweed. A classic California roll features cooked crab, avocado, and cucumber, for example. For a more adventurous selection, choose a spicy roll featuring tuna, scallops, and other raw seafood.
The most traditional form of sushi found at Japanese restaurants is nigiri, which consists of small hand-formed balls of rice topped with thin slices of savory foods. Though many nigiri feature raw fish, such as yellowtail, salmon, and the more exotic squid and octopus, there are also nigiri that feature cooked fish such as unagi (freshwater eel) and even delicate Japanese egg omelet (tamago).
As you learned above, not all sushi contains raw fish. Sashimi, however, is a dish that consists exclusively of slices of raw fish, with no rice. Though some sushi beginners are unsure if they will like this traditional Japanese delicacy, fish such as salmon and tuna actually have a very mild and subtle flavor that you can really taste when they are served this way.
No matter which type of sushi you are eating, avoid drenching the pieces in excessive soy sauce or wasabi. When eating rolls or sashimi, grasp each piece carefully with chopsticks so that it doesn’t fall apart. As long as they are clean, you can use your hands to eat nigiri, lightly dipping the fish side down in soy sauce. Between bites of different rolls or types of fish, use your chopsticks to take a small bite of the pickled ginger on the plate as a palate cleanser.