Sushi 101 - What Is Sushi And How Do You Eat It?

Missoula's Best Seafood Restaurant 2019

Sushi comes in a wide array of shapes and sizes. Since sushi menus often do not describe their rolls in detail or translate certain Japanese words, including here at SakeTome, it can create a confusing and vulnerable situation for the casual diner. The goal of this article is to acquaint Missoula with some basic Japanese culture and language, so that when you step through the doors of SakeTome you’ll know what to order, how to order it, and how to eat!

The History of Sushi in America

The earliest written mention of sushi in English can be found in A Japanese Interior (1893), a book by Alice Mabel Bacon, the American foreign advisor to the Japanese government. She described sushi as "a roll of cold rice with fish, sea-weed, or some other flavoring". Although sushi has been a staple in Japan for over a thousand years, it first appeared in America in 1966, in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo. It wasn’t until the 1970’s, however, that sushi took on an American flair, first with the California roll in Little Tokyo, then with an explosion of creative styles and names as sushi spread eastward into the 1980’s. More on the history of sushi.

Types of Sushi

Types Description Notes
Nigiri A topping, usually fish, served on top of sushi rice. Not all nigiri is raw, though this dish is best for people who want to appreciate the flavor of the fish, shellfish, or other toppings.
Sashimi Individual pieces of shellfish or sliced fish, typically raw. Not technically sushi because of the lack of rice. This is best for people who really love to taste the fish or shellfish since it comes with nothing else. Be bold.
Maki Rice and filling wrapped in seaweed. This is what most people picture when they think of sushi.
Uramaki Similar to Maki, but rice is on the outside and seaweed wraps around the filling. You'll find several of this type on the SakeTome menu. These rolls often have lots of toppings and sauces, they may either be cooked or raw. The California roll is a great example, with avocado, cucumber, crab, seaweed, and rice.
Temaki Sushi that has been hand-rolled into a cone shape. The cones are not as easy to share as the rolls (though very delicious!)

**At SakeTome Sushi we do our best to align with the Japanese customs while rolling creative sushi specific to Montana.

How To Order, How To Eat

The best piece of advice when it comes to ordering sushi, is to go to the bar and ask the chef what they recommend. They’re the ones who know what fish looks best, since they’re handling it, not your server. You can ask them directly if you’re concerned about cleanliness or want to avoid certain flavors or textures. Most importantly, the chef will take note of your trust in their advice, and will almost always reward you with extra care. Remember, chefs are humans, too.

  1. Order items that you don’t understand; part of the pleasure of sushi pushing your comfort zone.

  2. If you’re not comfortable eating with chopsticks, don’t worry, forks are available, and nigiri is customarily eaten with the hands (wash your hands!). Sashimi, however, is eaten with a utensil, since it is fish without rice.

  3. Don’t use too much soy sauce. Soy sauce is meant to bring out the flavors of a delicious fresh fish, not mask it. That goes for wasabi, too.

  4. Sushi is a communal meal, and rolls will often come to your table individually, as they are prepared. They’re meant to be shared, so don’t be shy.

  5. Get to know your neighbors. SakeTome Sushi is a communal space, and we want to see new friendships forged around food.

See you at SakeTome!