Hello Japan! January: Trying Out Sushi

Hello Japan!Hello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. It is organized by Tanabata of In Spring it is the Dawn.  Each month there will be a new task which relates to some aspect of life in Japan.

This is the first time I’m taking part. Like many, I’m fascinated by how different and similar Japan is to my own Western culture (Western Europe, that is). This month’s task is to try something Japanese that you haven’t before.

Thinking about books and food, my favorite topics, I discarded the book idea and arrived at sushi. You might be thinking, a particular kind of sushi that she hasn’t tried yet? No, any kind of sushi: I’ve never had sushi before. I know, that is strange but it just hasn’t happened.

And because I didn’t want to buy all kinds of ingredients that I might never use again, I decided not to make sushi myself (is it difficult? I don’t really know). I went to the supermarket and bought a single helping of sushi. Beforehand, I was a bit apprehensive of trying it, but when I saw the box, I realised it wasn’t all that scary. It’s just food!

Sushi BoxSushi: What was in the box?

Now, as you can guess, I’m not a sushi expert, so let me explain what I found in the box in my layman’s terms. First of all, I liked the look of it, especially the rice with sesame seeds. It looked nice and special.

Sushi Kouki According to the box, this was “Sushi Kouki” and it contained “Decorated rice with tuna, prawn, surimi and tofu”.

Top left was a green paste, which obviously was wasabi. Yes, I’ve had Japanese snacks with wasabi before. You can’t miss it: it’s VERY strong. It burns your tongue and then bites into the back of your mouth. But this paste was also very fresh, had a pleasant taste.

Bottom left: some small yellowish slices. They smelled of ginger and that’s what they were. In that compartment there was also a small bottle of Kikoman Soy sauce. This was nice and sweet, but at the same time salty. Just right.

So, there you have 3 condiments to go with one lunch. I might normally have one, if any!

WasabiSushi Box open

The three pieces on the middle-left were rolls with rice and a black outside, presumably seaweed. The inside varied, but there wasn’t much of it (most was rice).

The first one seemed to be courgette with vinegar. Very nice! It taste sweet and sour. The seaweed didn’t have much taste. I had expected it to be overpowering but really I didn’t notice it at all. [When I read the package later on, it turned out the courgette was in fact cucumber. Ah, I was close!]

The second one was filled with tuna fish and spring onion. This was made into a paste with mayonnaise. Nice, but I like the first one better. That was lucky, because the third one was exactly like the first.

The middle right-hand side contained a ball of white sticky rice that was topped with a prawn. As I am not so keen on shelfish, I put it aside and tried the rice. It was nice and sweet. There was also a rectangle of white rice with yellow bits and sesame seeds. I had no idea what the yellow was. It was nice, but I liked the white rice just as much.

More SushiGreen Cheese

On the right, there were 2 pieces of sushi, one with sesame on the outside and one with black seaweed.

The one with sesame bits had a surimi stick on the inside and something that looked like green tofu. Well, it looked like green cheese, really. I have the nagging feeling that surimi is also something shellfish-y but I sometimes buy a surimi sandwich and I love it. So no problems there.

The surimi didn’t have a strong taste (in my sandwiches it’s more tasty) and the green tofu stuff was almost without a taste and melted in my mouth and was gone before I knew it. [When I later looked at the package I realized this was avocado. Now, who would have guessed that?].

The other piece was wrapped in black (seaweed, I keep guessing) and contained surimi, tofu (yes, this time it was really tofu) and courgette (which was of course, cucumber). I loved the tofu, could have eaten tofu the size of two pieces of sushi easily. But all I got was a tiny bit.

Sushi: My conclusions

I liked it! It didn’t contain any strange tastes. I realized afterwards that I had encountered all these flavors before. Besides, I’m never that scared to try something new, so I don’t know what I had been worried about, really!

It didn’t seem very filling. When I check the package, it was 230 Cal which I think is a bit meagre for a lunch.

It contained a lot of rice and very few other ingredients. But when I think about it, my sandwiches are mainly bread so that’s not much different.

I’m not sure that I would go to the trouble of making this myself, but sushi is definitely something I’d love to eat again. And I would really like to know how to make that white rice so lovely sweet-tasting! [The ingredients for the rice were vinegar, sugar, salt and mirin, so I think that’s the answer. Now, what is mirin?]

This is my long-winded report of my first sushi experience. Hopefully it is interesting for other sushi-newbies and amusing for those in the know.

How about you? Have you eaten sushi before?

And what did you think of it?

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at bookhelpline.com. In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

41 Responses to Hello Japan! January: Trying Out Sushi

  1. Cindy says:

    I eat sushi at least once a week and absolutely love it, but have to say that I prefer sashimi.

  2. cbjames says:

    I am a big sushi fan. I do live in the San Francsico Bay Area where it’s very easy to get good sushi.

    Since you liked what you bought at the market, I suggest trying a good sushi restaurant. It will cost you a bit more, most likely, but it’s also much better. Some places charge by the plate after the meal. Be careful. Those plates can stack up fast.

    You can order it by the piece, most places have pictures of everything on the menu, but be sure to ask about any house or daily specials. A good sushi chef will have his own creations. These are usually visually striking and delicious.


    • leeswammes says:

      Yes I would love to go to a sushi restaurant, James. It’s just a matter of where and when, knowing my husband won’t come along.

      In one big shopping mall I was (Likeside, London?) they had a sushi restaurant in the big hall, with moving belts full of plates of food. It was a great sight!

  3. diana mack says:

    had it once, spat it out and made my way to the nearest mcdonald’s!

    • leeswammes says:

      Ha ha, Diana. It doesn’t seem to agree with you. Personally, McDonalds is a place where I only go when my kids practically beg me, and since they’re now too old for Happy Meals, it doesn’t happen too often. 🙂

  4. My husband and I ate sushi only once, when we were in New York in 1989. We didn’t know anything about it but really loved it, that is until my husband tasted the green substance that was on his plate. I didn’t know what was happening, when he started to sweat heavily and his face turned bright red. He never touched wasabi since then.

    • leeswammes says:

      Oh Nadine, your poor husband! I think wasabi should be tried only in VERY small measures. I left most of what I got, only had a small bit of it. Luckily, I expected that was what it was, so I didn’t take a spoon full.

      Would you eat sushi again? Is it your husband who refuses? 🙂

  5. Uniflame says:

    I can teach you more about sushi, since I know how to make it myself. The black stuff is indeed seaweed more commonly called Nori. And surimi is imitation crab, so not really a shell fish but I don’t know exactly what it is made of.

    I would love to tell you more but I am very tired and I will go to bed now 🙂 But as an absolute sushi fan, I can teach you more if you would like that 🙂

    • leeswammes says:

      Hey, Uniflame. How nice to hear you’re such a sushi fan. I’m not ready to start making it myself, I think. But thanks for the offer. I’d love to know how to make that sweet rice, though, but I probably can find out about that myself.

    • We call it “seafood stick” and it contains who knows what – Wikipedia gives some ideas!

      I love sushi … we eat it quite a bit, either as you bought here, or as nori covered rolls. Lovely lunch snack (particularly for we wheat-intolerant people).

      I don’t like the ones with mayonnaise – preferring my fillings plain.

      • Leeswammes says:

        Thanks for directing me to wikipedia, whisperinggums! There I found “It is typically made from white-fleshed fish (such as pollock or hake) that has been pulverized to a paste and attains a rubbery texture when cooked”. So, there we go, not shellfish after all.

  6. Rachel says:

    I don’t really like fish… I rarely eat it and when I do, I tend to prefer something that doesn’t taste too ‘fishy’ if that makes sense?

    But ocassionally I get a craving for it. (probably because my body needs it)… so i’ll buy sushi. Normally I will get about half way through a pack like this before I can’t stand it anymore 😉 ahahaha

    • leeswammes says:

      Oh Rachel, you’re a little bit hopeless as far as sushi is concerned. At least you try it every now and then, that’s good. The sushi I had only had a bit of tuna in, and that wasn’t all that fishy.

    • Ah, but not all sushi has fish. You can get vegetarian ones – and chicken, or beef ones. At least you can here (down under).

      • Rachel says:

        Oh yeah, I have tried the chicken ones. It’s the seaweed that I don’t like.. despite this, I still went to a sushi train 😉 call me weird.

      • Leeswammes says:

        Rachel, I found the seaweed totally tasteless, as in: without any discernible taste. At least, the black (nori) one.

  7. Novroz says:

    I love sushi!!
    Too bad, it’s not a cheap food here, so I can’t eat sushi as much as I want to

    • leeswammes says:

      It’s not cheap here either, Novroz. The sushi pack I had is about 1.5 times the price of a pre-packed sandwich. Most people here eat sandwiches for lunch. I don’t think many eat sushi!

  8. Glad to be of service. As a sometime Wikipedian I like to refer people to it when I think it’s useful?

  9. Alex says:

    I’m impressed! Always thought sushi was extremely difficult to cook.

    I’m going to Japan in April and look forward to eating the real deal 🙂

  10. tanabata says:

    Thanks for taking part in the Hello Japan! mini-challenge this month! I absolutely loved reading about your very first experience with sushi. I’m so used to many Japanese things now that I forget what it was like at the beginning. You’ll definitely have to try sushi at a proper sushi restaurant sometime, as supermarket sushi is never as good.
    BTW, did you find your answer about mirin? It’s basically a sweet rice wine that is used in lots of Japanese dishes. It’s one of the ingredients used to make teriyaki sauce, or sukiyaki, for example.

  11. Yes, we know now that wasabi must be eaten in very, very small quantities. It is not so much that my husband refuses to eat Japanese, it is more that we never had the urge to try it again. 🙂

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  13. Young1 says:

    I have sushi on a regular basis and love visiting sushi bars to make the most of the freshly made sushi and fresh fish such as tuna and salmon – you should try going into one – i don’t go to Yo! Sushi as it is overpriced but i think there is one called Satori which is reasonable and extremely pleasant.

    If i am not in the position to enjoy such a luxury Marks & Spencers does the job and much better than most other shops!

    Glad to hear you enjoyed it! As for the calorific value it is amazing that it is so low!

    I am looking forward to what is next and shall be looking into taking part myself!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Thanks for your suggestions, Young1. Unfortunately, I don’t live in the UK. Well, that’s not a matter of unfortunate-ness, I actually chose to leave. I’m living in the Netherlands now, but I lived in the UK for 15 years (and before that, I was also in the Netherlands).

      We don’t seem to have many sushi bars. I think some bigger railway stations have sushi bars, but otherwise, I’m not sure. I *will* find one and try it out.

      By the way, I love Marks & Spencers’ food!

  14. Chinoiseries says:

    I had no idea you’d never had sushi before, like tanabata said, after a while sushi and sashimi become so natural, that it is very refreshing to read your beginner’s experience 🙂 Surimi is usually made of fishmeat, made to look like crabmeat.
    Interesting that there was courgette inside, usually it’s cucumber. Next time, try a sushi place which also offers warm dishes (like terayaki meat, teppanyaki or noodle bowls), instead of forking out a lot of money for this tiny box :s

    • Leeswammes says:

      Chinoiseries – yes I hoped it would be entertaining for more experienced sushi eaters.

      It wasn’t courgette (zucchini), but that’s what I thought. It was cucumber (I do mention that somewhere). I didn’t know sushi could be warm as well. Sounds like a nice idea. Thanks for your comment.

  15. Marie says:

    I love sushi! We have takeout from a restaurant about once a month. It’s great. When we first tried it a few years ago, I wasn’t that adventerous. Now, I’m open to almost anything.

    I’ve also tried making my own at home with mixed results. It’s so much easier just to order it and pick it up.

  16. I love sushi. Vegetarian only, and the supermarket stuff isn’t great compared with what you can get from a restaurant, but when it’s good it’s good.

  17. JoV says:

    I absolutely adore Sushi. my favourite is the Salmon Sashimi and that’s the only one that really whet my appetite. Smack with that green wasabi, I would say it tasted heaven!

    I’m glad you finally have a go at it. It will be sad if say you haven’t tried sushi for another 10 years, think of what you would have missed! 🙂

  18. Sorry I didn’t get to comment sooner (read your post on my phone and as I tend to drop into spam I don’t bother anymore).

    I’m glad to hear you liked the AH sushi! Myself, I would never buy the supermarket stuff (don’t even really like the sushi TinyTokyo sells on the train station) but from now on you will just go uphill 😉 As I understand it sushi loses taste when refrigerated and that’s why fresh sushi is soooooo much better.

    My favourite restaurant in Utrecht is Kyushu, a tiny restaurant in the Voorstraat — you’ll pass it on your way to De Bakkerswinkel next Tuesday! Compulsory buys: avocado maki, kuki wakame (not wakame salad, unless you want lettuce with it) and edamame. There’s another branch of the same owner in the Nachtegaalstraat, called Maneki Neko.

  19. SushiTail says:

    If you want to have real sushi, you want to visit Japan. You will have a new level of sushi experience.

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