The Beginners Guide to Eating Sushi


Eating sushi isn’t that complicated when you are doing it at home, but it can become more complex if you want to do it right and can become more intimidating if you are eating out.

What should beginners know about eating sushi? First off, if you have never eaten sushi before, it is going to taste a lot different from what you expect. It will be quite chewy and the texture will be a bit cold and slippery but in a good way. There can also be certain etiquettes to observe if you are eating at an authentic Japanese restaurant.

The biggest mistake that beginners make when eating sushi is assuming that it will taste like anything they have had before, but it won’t, and behavior can be a major aspect to avoiding embarrassment.

Eating Sushi for Beginners

In order to eat sushi in an appropriate manner, you will need to keep a few things in mind, especially if you are a beginner. First is that you don’t really need to go that far in order to enjoy sushi. Contrary to what a lot of people might expect, this isn’t necessarily a luxury food since you can make it yourself for a much cheaper price than most.

On that note, beginners might find this particular dish to be a little intimidating since it is not exactly standard fare in most places. Fortunately, in order to get a better grasp of the value of sushi, you just need to keep the following things in mind:

·         Super cheap and super healthy

·         Delicious, but an acquired taste




·         Does not need to be raw fish

·         Can involve several simple rules

·         Authenticity is not everything

By keeping those in mind, you will be in a much better position to appreciate the excellent qualities that come with sushi dishes. However, just to make sure that you are actually able to see the value of said dishes, just take a look at tips in the table below.

TipsDetails
Start simpleDon’t go for the most complicated types of sushi right away since this will only result in you becoming discouraged to eat the dish
No raw fish yetRaw fish can be quite a huge step for most people, especially on sushi, so it would be best to avoid that particular experience from the start and go with varieties with more common ingredients
Nigiri or California makiAmong the best types of sushi for you to start with are nigiri or California maki since they are more in line with western palates, which will then allow you to get a good stepping stone
Take your timeDon’t rush in your journey to appreciate sushi because going too fast might lead you to eat a type of sushi that will leave you traumatized
ExperimentIt pays to vary the types of sushi that you get to eat from time to time, but as already said, there is no need to rush it
Learn to make your ownIf at all possible, you may want to start learning how to make your own sushi since this will then allow you to have more control over what you eat
Set some goalsAfter doing some research, you might want to set some goals as to what kinds of sushi you want to eat from where and in what way
Don’t be too rigidAvoid being too strict about the kinds of sushi that you are going to try and try to open your mind to new possibilities like going to Japan for eating sushi

Those should be enough to get you started if you are completely new to eating sushi and enjoying this delicious, traditional Japanese dish. Rest assured that there are going to be plenty more waiting for you once you become more accustomed to it and are then able to take more risks.

Remember that you don’t need to be as knowledgeable or as experienced as veteran food enthusiasts and you should not allow sushi purists to color your perception. Once you become better at eating this dish, you will be able to make your own decisions as to what constitutes good or bad sushi.




Start Simple – It is important that you make sure that when you begin your journey towards appreciating sushi on a deeper level, you start simple. This means going for the least complicated, most familiar sushi dish you can get your hands on. Don’t try eating sushi with dangerous names and look like they could be risky to eat because they might be.

This is something that a lot of folks who say they don’t like sushi fail to understand with their first encounter with the dish. For example, going with sushi with ingredients like eggs, cucumber, and sesame seeds will help you feel more at ease with what you are eating. However, if your first experience involves something like a spicy dynamite roll, you better believe it is going to suck.

Much like with people, food often has only one chance to make a first impression on you and the best you can hope for is that the food does not completely turn you off. Otherwise, you might just develop a prejudice against it that takes quite a bit of time and effort to get over.




The main goal in starting simple when you are a sushi beginner is to make sure that you don’t develop a negative visceral reaction to sushi. You don’t have to completely fall in love with it right away, but you should at least find it tolerable enough to try it again. As already said, sushi can be an acquired taste.

No Raw Fish Yet – It may not seem like it to those who are already used to eating sushi, sashimi, or any of the other varieties of dishes that use raw fish, but it can take some getting used to. There are still a lot of people who have never tried eating uncooked salmon or tuna in their whole lives and suddenly asking them to do so can be quite the challenge.

Fortunately, there are many more varieties of sushi that don’t require raw fish than those that do and you can get started with those. There are many options for vegetarian or even vegan sushi, these days, and you better believe that there are also some gluten-free alternatives as well. With that being the case, you don’t need to go with the sushi that has raw fish or seafood right away.

You can start with those that make use of only vegetables or fruits. You can also go with options that only deal in fried egg rolls or greens. There are even sushi options where the ingredients are mostly preserved or cooked, so you can really go to town with those if you wanted to. If you have never heard of spam sushi before then you should know that there is spam sushi.

With that in mind, you can no longer use the excuse that you can’t eat sushi because you don’t like raw fish. On that note, there are also sushi dishes that actually use cooked sushi, whether they are steamed or grilled, so there aren’t any problems here, now are there?

Nigiri or California Maki – Speaking of the types of sushi that you can eat, there are more than the common nigiri, sushi rolls, and hand rolls that you find at restaurants and the like. Some of them are traditional but a whole lot more are not. Fortunately, you won’t really need to bother with the latter case just yet and you are encouraged to postpone it as long as you can.




For now, since you are still a beginner, you should go with the nigiri and California maki options because they are the safest options. You will have a ton of options of sushi varieties where the ingredients are easy enough to deal with and are also familiar to you. They are also quite easy to eat and would most likely fit your image of sushi already.

This will then help prevent cognitive dissonance once you are about to eat. After all, if you have never heard of a hand roll before and you are asked to eat it, you would naturally hesitate.

Take Your Time – With that said, you are also encouraged to take your time in developing your taste of sushi. Don’t think that just because you were able to eat the tuna nigiri the first time that you are ready for sushi that is made of sea urchin meat. Those two things are not the same and if you are careless about approaching them, you might just end up hating both.

Instead, you can start by mixing things up with regards to the kinds of sushi that you eat. For example, if you had tuna nigiri the first time, how about you try tuna maki sushi next time? You are still dealing with roughly the same types of ingredients and if you are in need of context, you won’t have to reach too far. Just make sure that it won’t be something like a spicy tuna roll, though.

There is nothing wrong with playing it safe when you are eating sushi, especially if you want to last long. After all, there are ingredients like natto beans can also be included in sushi and you really don’t want to eat those if you are not mentally prepared to do so. Believe it or not, there are also certain sushi dishes that make use of fish that was intentionally allowed to rot and smells like dead cat.




Don’t be discouraged if you learn that you still have a long way to go, though. Just think of it as something you can look forward to doing for years and years.

Experimenting – With that said, there are merits when it comes to experimenting a bit when you are already a bit accustomed to eating sushi. For example, I noted that you should not jump to spicy tuna rolls after trying tuna nigiri for the first time. However, if you have already tried the different variants of tuna sushi, you can then mix things up a bit by going with the spicy tuna roll.

One of the biggest advantages of sushi is the sheer number of varieties that you have access to and many of these varieties share similarities with one or two radical differences. As long as you can find those kinds of sushi, you should be fine with your attempts to keep things fresh.

Make Your Own – After you have had the chance to eat sushi outside that was made by other people, you can start making your own. It doesn’t have to be anything too complicated since sushi is really just rice flavored with vinegar and toppings or fillings. This will then give you a better idea of what goes into the process.

After that, you can get some recipes online to increase the quality of the results with more specific measurements. Eventually, you will have a better grasp of exactly what kinds of sushi you are supposed to have in terms of its taste, texture, appearance, and aroma. You will then be able to compare and contrast when you are eating sushi outside.

It can be difficult to judge how good the quality of the sushi is unless you know how to make it yourself. Otherwise, you will only ever be stuck basing your judgments on the standards of others. I can write here all day long about how good sushi tastes, but at the end of the day, you are the one to decide what sushi tastes good and what doesn’t.

If you are truly committed to becoming more familiar with sushi, you need to be able to make it yourself.

Goals – You can approach your journey towards mastering the sushi dining journey at random or you can do it with clear intent. The choice is up to you at that point but it would be infinitely better if you plan things out a bit. For example, you can write down what kinds of sushi you want to try and when you would like to try them.

Organizing your sushi making attempts would make things much smoother, as well, and you can even arrange in what order you are going to try the sushi restaurants in your city. There are so many aspects to eating sushi that can open for you if you just allow yourself to make a plan on how you are going to do it.

Of course, it would be more fun for you to simply eat sushi whenever the fancy strikes you, but this can only get you so far. At worst, this can give you the wrong idea about what sushi is and how you are supposed to eat it. This course of action can also instill bad habits in you that are best avoided when you are at a real Japanese sushi restaurant.

The choice is yours, at the end of the day, but having goals is not as restrictive as you might think. What’s more, just having them does not necessarily mean that you are required to fulfill all of them. They are basically parts of an ideal scenario that you can strive towards and set yourself on.

Flexibility – Speaking of which, it needs to be said that there are too many sushi purists who are too rigid in what they consider to be real sushi and the real way to enjoy sushi. Sure, there are etiquettes involved in eating at sushi restaurants, but you don’t need to completely adhere to everything that the Japanese do.

You should not blow your top just because a particular type of sushi is not exactly what you expected based on your research because different places have their own ways of doing things. When you go to an actual sushi bar, the sushi they serve you won’t be exactly the same as what another sushi bar will. Chefs differ in training and skills, and some places don’t even hire chefs.

There are sushi restaurants where the people making the food only had a few months of training, which is not exactly inadequate but is not ideal either. Real sushi chefs spend years in the business in order to produce high-quality sushi. So don’t be discouraged if the place you go to is not exactly as advertised.

You can always go to Japan if you really want to eat sushi and you can always plan to do just that. However, once you do get there, don’t expect that you will be able to visit all of the restaurants you want. More often than not, you might even end up eating sushi at the train station or the airport.

What to Expect from Sushi?

If you are just starting out in your quest to master the enjoyment of sushi, there are a few things that you should be ready to expect. First is the matter of the taste, which can be quite difficult to explain if you have not tried it yourself. Depending on what type you try, the first thing that you will taste is either the soy sauce, the rice, or the nori.

Regardless of the order, you will proceed to tasting the topping and the fillings, and the condiments. If the sushi was made well, these ingredients should not be overpowering each other and you should be able to clearly tell them apart if you know how they taste. If the sushi has avocado in it, for example, you should be able to taste it without even trying.

With regard to the rice, it should be a bit slippery but not slimy. It should also not be dry, overly cold, or sharp. Those are signs that the sushi has been in the fridge for too long and was not covered properly.

The nori is a bit complicated to explain because it will smell pungent and the taste will be like the sea, which is to be expected. The condiments include Japanese mayo, which is a sweeter, more savory version and wasabi, which can give your mouth and nose a burning sensation. Wasabi is definitely not for everyone, but once you get used to it, it’s pretty great.

Why Eat Sushi?

Having laid out the things that you can do so that you can go from being a beginner in enjoying sushi to being a veteran, you might now be asking just why you should even bother. If you have to go through all of that trouble just to enjoy sushi, you might as well go with fast food. This is certainly a choice that you can make but if you were the kind of person to do that, you would not be interested in sushi.

To begin with, the fact that you want to know how you can approach the enjoyment of sushi means that you find something fascinating about it. This means that you would want to know everything like how it tastes, how to eat it properly, and what it can do for you in your own personal food journey. More than that, sushi is just one of those classy food items that make you seem cultured.

Whatever your reason for wanting to learn more about sushi maybe, the important point is that it is done with the strongest of convictions. Do you want to know sushi in the most fundamental levels or do you want to be just casual about it? If you want the latter, all you really need to know is how to hold a chopstick and to stay away from wasabi.

If you want to actually get to know this dish, what you learn from this guide will be quite useful for you.

Related Questions

Is it OK to Eat Sushi with Your Hands?

It might seem strange to eat sushi with your hands instead of chopsticks but this is actually how you are supposed to eat sushi. In traditional sushi bars or restaurants, dishes like nigiri, maki sushi, and hand rolls are supposed to be eaten with your hands. Sashimi, however, needs chopsticks.

Can You Eat the Black Part of Sushi?

The black part of the sushi is actually called the nori and it is more dark green than it is black. You can certainly eat that because it provides the sushi with a crispy texture, an appealing aroma, and an interesting taste. The nori is also what holds sushi rolls together, so don’t get rid of those.

The Best Sushi to Start With

Sushi can be quite the complicated dish to deal with and if we are talking about the types of sushi that you can, realistically, start with, the simplest ones would have to be your best bet. These are the ones with only two to three ingredients, which will then allow you to tell exactly what is in the dish. This will give you peace of mind.

The goal here is to just introduce you to the world of sushi as something of a gateway sample. It needs to be a small piece that is enough to give you a taste but which you can finish easily. You don’t want to be forced to gobble up nigiri that is the size of those made in the US. Those can get pretty big, after all.

You can also start with sushi where the fillings and the toppings are cooked, at least as far as the meat goes. If you have yet to try sushi, you are not ready to try raw fish. You can leave that for another time when you only have to contend with the fish.

Weird Sushi Dishes to Try

To a lot of people, sushi can already be considered a weird dish, mostly because they are not used to it. However, there are even weirder versions of sushi that simply boggle the mind and can produce unexpected results. For example, there is a type of sushi where the contents are different types of chili or peppers that are beyond spicy.

There is also sushi that is equated to other types of food such as pizza, cake, ice cream, and more. There are even certain desserts that are presented much like sushi would be but are not made of any ingredients even remotely related to sushi. Depending on what you made the sushi out of, you can also eat it as an appetizer, as an entrée, a main course, or as dessert.

It cannot be stressed enough that sushi is an incredibly versatile type of dish and there are so many uses for it, you would die of old age before you can try them all. This is why you will want to start your journey now so that by the time you become an expert, you would have already sampled different types of sushi. The varieties can differ based on region, country, and continent, as well.

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