Don’t know your sashimi from your hosomaki? Jon Claro, head chef at Bath’s newest Japanese restaurant Robun, shares his beginner’s guide to sushi
Japanese food is sushi, right?
That’s just the tip of the tuna, so to speak, although it’s probably the food most British people associate with Japan. Sushi is a traditional Japanese dish which features marinated (typically using vinegar) rice paired with another ingredient: usually raw fish and seafood, although meat, vegetables and fruit (like avocado) are also used.
Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Don’t be fooled; there’s more to it than that – even in a beginner’s guide. Robun’s à la carte menu features the following staples:
This is a type of sushi roll. Hosoi means thin or slim in Japanese, so hosomaki is translated as a thin roll.
This is type of fish that’s commonly used in sushi. The species is Japanese amberjack or yellowtail – and is also known as buri (they’re all the same thing). You’ll find it served as either sushi nigiri (on rice) or as sashimi (raw, sliced fish that’s served on its own). It’s also used as a topping for maki rolls.
Tataki refers to a Japanese method of preparing meat or fish. Robun’s wagyu tataki is beef marinated in sea salt, ground black pepper and sesame oil, which is left at room temperature for 30 minutes, before being pan-seared and thinly sliced.
Sashimi is sliced fresh fish. Commonly used varieties include: salmon, akami tuna (a meaty cut of tuna), chutoro tuna (a fatty cut of tuna), sea bass, sea bream and hamachi (see above).
This refers to thinly sliced fish, such as tuna or salmon, which is moulded with sushi rice.
This means a selection or assortment. A sashimi moriawase would be a selection of raw fish.
Uramaki (or makizushi in traditional Japanese cuisine) is a conventional sushi roll. The literal meaning is inside-out roll: the rice is wrapped around the other ingredients.
An inside-out roll topped with slices of fish or something like thinly sliced avocado.
Other Japanese culinary terms you might come across on a sushi menu:
A Japanese restaurant term for a meal consisting of dishes selected by the chef.
A Japanese starter of small dishes (a bit like tapas).
The Japanese word for side dishes.
Now you’ve got the bare-bones, you need to know how to eat it. After all, everyone knows Japanese culture is hot on etiquette. Jon answers our questions:
Should chopsticks always be used to eat sushi or is it acceptable to eat some dishes with your hands?
Following Japanese etiquette, sushi should be eaten with chopsticks, unless you are given permission not to do so.
Soy sauce and wasabi – what goes with what?
Traditionally nigiri is served with soy sauce and raw fish is served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.
Should I try and get the whole piece of sushi in my mouth in one go, or is it okay to take a couple of bites?
Sushi, sashimi and maki dishes are usually created to be chopstick friendly and to be eaten in one bite.
Should you eat sushi with wasabi and ginger when provided?
In my personal opinion, yes. To taste all the umami flavours, you need to have the correct balance of flavours from the wasabi, ginger and sushi.
Why is sake often paired with sushi?
Japanese sake is enjoyed hot or cold with sushi and other Japanese meals to eliminate any odour of fish. Both fish and sake have rich umami ingredients which complement one another.
Would you recommend sushi to those that are veggie, vegan or gluten free?
Yes. At Robun we always do our best to please diners with special requirements.
Which Robun dish would you recommend for a sushi newbie?
The Robun sushi sashimi set: it’s an omakase (chef’s choice of dishes) featuring different types of fish, sashimi and nigiri, expertly prepared by our experienced sushi chef.