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How to Eat Like an Asian

Sushi: Un-raw

By Mark Liao

features columnist

Nothing irks me more than crappy sushi. Excluding that numbnut that sat in front of me in 14.01 who would play (literally play) with his hair. You know who I’m talking about; he pisses you off, too. He just sits there folding a clump of his hair with his right hand, over and over, folding and unfolding with no particular pattern. For god sakes, you’re a grown man twirling your hair around like a second-grade school girl.

Ah, but I digress. In any case here are the initial things you need to look for in a good sushi bar.

First and foremost, no women behind the sushi bar. I know I sound prick, but it’s one of those weird Asian superstitions. Apparently, women naturally have more body heat then men, thus, female handling of raw fish would not be good. Now don’t come and kick me in the junk, I just report the stuff.

Next comes wasabi, that dangerously spicy lump of green playdough made famous by the Budwiser “Wazzup” guys. Most of the stuff you find these days are made from powders or squeezed out of tubes, so if you actually see someone finely grating an ugly-looking root behind the bar, major kudos to them. If you absolutely hate wasabi but want to do something about it, I highly suggest you start by purchasing a pack of roasted wasabi green peas. After four or five bags, you’ll see the light.

Now the sushi I’m going to be talking about is nigiri sushi. Sitting at a sushi bar and ordering California rolls is like going to Pour House on a Saturday and ordering a chicken sandwich.

Nigiri refers to sushi consisting of a slice of raw fish atop a carefully formed log of rice. The better sushi bars will serve you pieces of nigiri where there’s more fish than rice. As usual, we’ll start you off with baby steps, few items in this article are raw. Next week we’ll get into the more hardcore of sushi, but for now, think of this as your guide on how to convince that debonair corn de-tasseler from Bloomington, Illinois to go to sushi with you.

Tamago -- This sushi is as tame as the Snuggle bear on the box of my fabric softener. It’s essentially a piece of egg on a bed of rice bound by a piece of seaweed. They usually add some sugar to the egg which matches nicely with the vinegar in the rice.

And don’t let the tiny piece of seaweed scare you off. Every fifth grader knows they add seaweed to ice cream and stuff. Besides, you and I both know that you’ve eaten much grosser green things in your life, e.g. boogers. Yeah, where you at now boogerface?

Inari -- Another extremely tame type of sushi. Basically it’s a fried pouch of tofu filled with rice. See, nothing to be afraid of, well, except if it’s being served by a sketchy political science grad student, but that story is for another day.

Tobiko -- I’m guessing I’m going to lose about half of you right here... pansies. Tobiko is flying fish roe. Eh, the French call it caviar and then its refined but you call it roe and white people scatter. So what you’ll be getting is a lump of rice wrapped in seaweed. On top you’ll see a mound of tiny orange spheres. That’s the roe. The tiny eggs are crunchy and pop in your mouth. You’ll love it.

Ebi -- Ebi is simply a de-shelled piece of butterflied shrimp on a lump of rice. If you like shrimp, you’ll like this -- nothing to be afraid of. But if you wanna go hardcore, order ama ebi. You’ll get a raw piece of shrimp that is sweet. It doesn’t do much for me, but the fried shrimp head that they should give you on the side looks so cool and tastes even better.

Unagi -- The topic of an entire episode of “Friends,” unagi is freshwater eel. The eel is grilled with a teriyaki-like sauce. Eel is nothing more than a skinny fish, people. If you can handle canned tuna, you can handle eel.

I’ll start talking a bit more about real sushi after Spring Break.