How to Tell Good Sushi Apart from Bad Sushi

So many people make the mistake of thinking sushi is a simple dish. That leads to the belief that almost all sushi is the same if it’s prepared by someone with basic knowledge of the sushi-making art.

Sushi Set sashimi and sushi rolls on black stone slate

We should all feel bad for those people.

Turns out, making great sushi takes years to master – but the result is worth it. Great sushi is a treasure-trove of flavor, intensity and refreshment. There’s a reason the Japanese staple has inspired countless restaurants, new-age dishes and evening plans.

The simplicity disguises the meticulous skill and labor that goes in to every bite of great sushi. Mediocre sushi doesn’t hold a glass of sake to real, authentic and exceptional sushi. Here are some key ways to tell the difference.

  • The Rice

Rice needs to be kept at very particular temperatures and served at a point that matches your own body temperature. It should also be sticky enough to retain its form and hold everything in place so that it doesn’t fall apart as soon as it hits your mouth. s

Here’s the trick, though – as soon as you put it into your mouth, it should separate into individual grains that flow freely as you chew. The only way this happens is if the outer layer of the rice is denser than the inner layer.

  • The Toppings

Sometimes called neta, the topping needs to have the right proportions and be placed exactly in the right place for full effect.

In comparison to the rice, neta must be neither too big nor small, but just right. Too much neta can quickly overcome the flavor of the fish and rice, overwhelming your taste-buds and ruining the bite. Too little will give the sushi an overpowering taste of fish with no kick to it, which is also not undesirable.

But most importantly, the wasabi. We all secretly love it, or at least the idea of it. A super spicy paste that resembles guacamole but couldn’t be farther from it in terms of taste.

Wasabi’s use on sushi can be dangerous because of its overwhelming spiciness, but if used should be placed between the neta and the rice. Caution is advised…

  • The Fish

Last but not least, the highlight of the entire platter, fish.

The first hint of a sushi roll beyond redemption is any sign of a fishy smell. It should never smell like a fish market at all. That’s because good sushi has fish that is lightly masked with a tiny bit of vinegar to mask the smell. What’s more, the vinegar should be applied the morning it’s served.

Salt is then usually added to avoid the meat becoming too moist. The end result ought to be a bright, fresh-looking sample that is both succulent and flavorful rather than wet or greasy – and it should taste perfectly clean.

There are many other factors that separate good sushi from the bad, namely the way the chef prepares it or what kind of cuts they use for the fish or the conditions of their preparation. But these are a few of the tell-tale signs that will quickly get you on the correct page when it comes to sushi.

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