More than just a food, sushi has become an art form enjoyed for its taste as well as presentation.
At Benihana, we may be known for hibachi-style cooking, but we also feature a scrumptious sushi bar menu, with delicious fresh items including specialty rolls, which can be enjoyed as a meal or an appetizer.
The following information is just a brief overview of the sushi experience. New ingredients and types of sushi are being introduced every day, so don't be afraid to try something new!
Sushi uses Japanese sticky rice seasoned with a sweet rice vinegar (a mixture of sugar and rice vinegar) as it is cooled and then adorned with raw fish, vegetables, Japanese omelet, or even barbequed eel (anago or unagi).
Some popular forms of sushi include:
Nigiri the most popular form of sushi, with various toppings are placed on top of a bite-sized rice base.
Maki-zushi rolled sushi, made by rolling various fish and vegetable ingredients and rice into a sheet of dried nori by using a bamboo mat called a makisu. The roll is then cut into bite-sized pieces.
Norimaki sushi rolls of rice, seafood, vegetables etc. rolled into nori.
Te-maki “hand roll” style sushi, made by rolling a variety of ingredients into nori, usually smaller than some of the other roll types and shaped like a cone so that it is easy to eat with your hands.
Chirashi-zushi this “scattered sushi” is a colorful sushi casserole typically served at home. Ingredients include cooled, vinegared rice and a variety of ingredients, from cooked and uncooked seafood, vegetables and omelets to pickled ginger and shredded nori. The ingredients are generally tossed with the rice or placed on top as a colorful garnish.
Gunkan-maki sushi in which the nori is wrapped around the rice to create a sort of shallow dish. In this way, toppings such as sea urchin or salmon roe are contained on the top of the rice base and can be enjoyed.
Hako-zushi sushi pressed in a box and cut into bite-size pieces. This type of sushi is most like the origins of sushi in which fish and rice were pressed and fermented in a box for many months before serving. Today, hako-zushi is not fermented but is served fresh.
Inari-zushi deep-fried tofu pockets into which seasoned rice is stuffed.
Nare-zushi the only form of sushi today that is still fermented, however only for a period of a few days.
Sashimi is fresh, sliced raw fish, elegantly presented on a platter with a variety of colorful garnishes such as shredded daikon (giant white radish) and carrots, cucumber, seaweed, basil leaves and sometimes even edible flowers. Sashimi that is sliced thicker (about 1/2″) is typically eaten by dipping it into a mixture of soy sauce and wasabi (horseradish). Finely sliced sashimi is typically eaten dipped into a mixture of ponzu (citrus vinegar) and finely sliced scallions.
There are basically two different ways to eat sushi. One is by picking it up with chopsticks and the other is by using your hand. In both cases it is important to only dip the fish side of the sushi into the sauce since dipping the rice side of the sushi into the sauce usually makes it fall apart. Since sushi is known for its very delicate flavor, it is important not to use too much soy sauce or the taste will be lost. Sashimi on the other hand is only eaten with chopsticks.
Condiments placed on the sushi platter, such as pickled ginger and wasabi, are eaten to refresh the taste buds between eating different types of sushi.
There is hardly a person alive today who is not familiar with Japanese sushi. Even though it has only been over the past 20 years that sushi has gained great popularity in the West, sushi in Japan is a traditional food which dates back over 1,000 years and is believed to have developed in Asia as a way of preserving fish. The fresh, raw fish was pressed between a mixture of rice and salt over a period of several months. As the rice fermented, lactic acid was produced which pickled the fish and kept it from spoiling. It is believed that this way of preserving fish was introduced to Japan from Asia at the same time that rice cultivation was introduced. The first evidence of sushi in Japan dates back to the Lake Biwa area in Shiga Prefecture where it was made from local carp. This sushi, called nare-zushi was fermented for about 2 months.
Traditionally the fish was eaten, however the rice was discarded until about the 15th century in Japan when it was decided that the rice was too precious to waste. This was the beginning of a kind of sushi that is still popular in Osaka called hako-zushi or “boxed sushi”. However, it wasn't until the Edo Period (1603-1868) when sushi as we know it today was first developed. In 1824, Yohei Hanaya started the practice of serving fresh raw slices of seafood on bases of vinegared rice at his food stall located in the popular Ryougoku district of Edo (present day Tokyo).
Over the years, sushi stalls sprung up all over Tokyo, however they were banned after World War II by the Allied Occupation due to sanitary concerns. Gradually, these stalls gave way to the counter type Sushi restaurants that today have come to typify the sushi experience worldwide.
How to “speak” sushi.
Here is a basic vocabulary of the items you may find at a well-stocked sushi bar.
akagai - ark shell
ama ebi - raw shrimp
anago - sea eel
awabi - abalone
bakagai - round clam
buri - adult yellowtail
chutoro - in between fatty and lean tuna
daikon - giant white radish
ebi - cooked shrimp
fugu - blowfish
hamachi - young yellowtail
hamaguri - clam
hirame - fluke
hotategai - scallop
ika - squid
ikura - red salmon roe
kaibashira - sweet center of small scallop
kaiware - sprouts of vegetables such as mustard greens or daikon
kani - crab
kanpyou - seasoned gourd
karei - flatfish
katsuo - bonito fish
kazunoko - herring roe
kohada - gizzard shad
kuruma ebi - prawn
kyuuri - cucumber
maguro - tuna
mekajiki - swordfish
mirugai - horse clam
natto - fermented soy beans
nori - sheets of dried seaweed
oshinko - Japanese pickles
ponzu - citrus vinegar
saba - mackerel
shake - salmon
shako - mantis shrimp
suzuki - sea bass
tai - sea bream
tako - octopus
toro - fatty tuna
torigai - cockle
uni - sea urchin roe
unagi - eel
wasabi - horseradish
yaki tamago - Japanese omelet