“Uh, excuse me? I may be a sushi beginner, but I know this green stuff at the bottom of my plate isn’t sushi. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s lettuce. Besides that, what are these spicy slices of white stuff? They’re making my tongue all tingly… And that’s got to be some of the spicest avocado I ever tried…”
Whoa. Slow down. You’re right – it is lettuce. You don’t have to eat it; now, gently remove the spicy avocado from the icy cold grip of your chopsticks, take a step backwards, and three deep breaths. You’ll thank us later. We’ll start with the “spicy avocado,” which is actually called wasabi. It probably looks a little like this, yes?
Wasabi is commonly referred to as Japanese mustard, but to be more precise, it’s the grated root of Japanese horseradish, prepared as a paste. The form you see most often on sushi platters (along with the other stuff) is most likely the prepared paste, which includes a mixture of the horseradish, mustard, and food coloring. Sushi eaters use wasabi to give their soy sauce a noticable kick to the nostrils; just use your chopsticks to dip a tiny bit into your soy sauce dish, and mix.
Ginger is the other white, or faintly pink substance on your plate, sliced into very thin sheets. In Japanese, it’s called gari, and the thin slice has been marinated in vinegar and sugar, then are often artifically colored pink. Without the artificial coloring, gari is a light yellow color. Gari is used to cleanse the palette between pieces of sushi, and it’s especially important for a sushi beginner to partake in this practice; it’ll make it easier to distinguish between the different flavors of the fish.
The thin strips of white you see on the plate is shredded daikon, or radish. It’s used as a garnish on many sushi dishes, because it looks pretty, but like any other vegetable, can be pickled, stewed, or eaten raw.
That covers the more exotic items you’ll find a sushi or sashimi platter. Depending on the sushi chef, you might find a variety of other treats, like carrots cut into the shape of cranes and flowers, or lemon wedges shaped into boats. But we trust even a sushi beginner will be able to figure these things out. If not, come into Shogun, and just ask – we’ll be glad to help.
Donna, a true sushi beginner, sat at Shogun’s sushi bar and declared, “the whole ‘raw fish’ thing made her nervous.” One tuna sushi, one salmon sushi, a Delmar Roll, and one hour later, she gushed, “Thanks for making me try new things.” Next time you’re in Delmar or Albany, stop into Shogun Sushi and Sake Bar. We’d love to do the same for you.