By Natalie Lariccia
A popular Japanese delicacy, sushi is a colorful and creative food that can cater to a variety of tastes.
Often served as delicate seaweed-wrapped rolls or with raw fish atop a small bed of rice, sushi can be a healthy and fresh meal alternative.
And, although some people may be squeamish about eating sushi, area chefs and Asian-themed restaurant managers agree that Mahoning Valley diners are beginning to accept and enjoy this exotic entr e.
Rob Vossler, general manager and executive chef at the Youngstown Club, said that many people are under the misconception that all sushi contains raw fish.
In a word
The term “sushi” really refers to any dish that is made with “sushi-style” rice. This rice is flavored with vinegar and is sticky and easy to sculpt into rolls and rice pellets.
“Sashimi” is the term used to refer to raw fish — which is typically served alone — and many restaurants that serve sushi also serve sashimi.
Vossler has served sushi-style rolls at the Youngstown Club, and although sushi doesn’t have the popularity in Youngstown that it has in a big city, he said it is generally widely accepted.
Vossler said the club’s seared ahi tuna entr e — which is served raw and lightly pan seared on the outside, encrusted in black and white sesame seeds, topped with a sweet chili glaze and served with pickled ginger and wasabi — is one of the club’s top-selling entr es.
“Once I got people to try it [the seared tuna.], I can’t take it off the menu,” Vossler said.
Clint Kifolo, Youngstown State University executive chef, said when eating or preparing sushi that contains raw fish, it is paramount to use the freshest fish available — preferably not fish that his been frozen and thawed.
People who are squeamish about eating raw fish can try sushi rolls that feature cooked shrimp or crab meat or a vegetable roll, he said.
Consuming sushi with raw fish contains the same health risks that are commonly associated with eating fish, such as the fish containing levels of mercury or other potential pollutants. But Kifolo said the health benefits of eating most sushi and sashimi outweigh the negatives.
Sushi can generally be a healthy food alternative that is low in fat, calories and carbohydrates, he said.
Andy Tran, manager at Yamato Japanese Restaurant in Warren, said sushi is a popular entr eat his restaurant and he’s also noticed that he’s been getting more requests for sashimi.
The most popular sushi choices at Yamato include the spicy tuna, spicy salmon, spicy scallop and spicy crab rolls. The Tokoyo roll — a specialty roll that features cooked eel, fish eggs, avocado and a seasoned sauce — is a popular choice.
The California roll, which includes imitation crabmeat that Yamato imports from Japan, avocado, cucumber and rice that is garnished with sesame seeds or fish eggs, is also a big request.
Tran said sushi served in America is different from sushi served in Japan. Sushi served in Japan has more emphasis on raw fish, and fried or “tempura” fillings are not as popular in Japan.
Stephen Wang, manager of Hibachi Sushi in Warren, said the restaurant’s sushi bar is popular among the work crowd.
The restaurant, which opened this past summer, serves a variety of sushi rolls and tofu-pockets filled with seaweed, rice and fish eggs.
3 cups of uncooked Calrose rice
3 cups of water
1‚Ñ2 cup of Japanese rice vinegar
1‚Ñ2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
Wash the rice and rinse thoroughly. Add 3 cups of water and cook in a rice cooker. Mix together the rice vinegar, sugar and salt; cook over a medium heat until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool. Put the cooked rice into a large mixing bowl; then pour the vinegar sauce over the hot rice and mix.
1 cup of cooked rice, warm
1‚Ñ2 cup of cooked crab meat
1‚Ñ2 cup of vinegar
1‚Ñ2 cup of sugar
3 tablespoons of golden caviar
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
1‚Ñ2 avocado, chopped
Mix the vinegar and the sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until sugar has dissolved completely; remove from heat. Stir 2 tablespoons of the sugar/vinegar combination into the cooked rice. Stir the sesame seeds into the rice. Press pickled rice into a square. Cut rice into squares. Press each square so that rice clings, and dab some wasabi paste on each square. Press some crab meat, golden caviar, and avocado on each of the rice square.
1‚Ñ2 pound of fresh tuna fillet
2 cups of sushi rice
Wasabi horseradish sauce
Slice the tuna into 1-inch by 2-inch rectangles, about a quarter-inch thick. Take a small amount of the sushi rice and cradle it in your right hand at the base of your fingers. Using your hands, take the rice and form a rectangular shape to match the tuna slices. Spread Wasabi horseradish on the slice of tuna. Place the rice block on top, and press gently to shape the sushi. Serve as desired.