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Going Raw and Beyond
The last ten years has seen an enormous growth in the popularity of sushi. Casual sushi bars are favorite hotspots of the younger, trendy crowd while older business professionals often frequent the new breed of high-end Japanese restaurants which specialize in the bite-size delicacies. In short, sushi is the food of choice for people across every demographic. Even in the corporate world, many professionals are choosing to forego traditional steak and seafood business lunches in favor of a sushi-based menu.

The appeal of sushi isn’t hard to see, as the protein-rich cuisine promises a delicious, flavor-filled meal without the worry of excess fat calories. There’s also a sense of worldliness that comes with being a connoisseur of sushi. Eating and enjoying sushi conveys the message to the rest of the group that he/she is open to new ideas, isn’t afraid to step out of the pre-establish comfort zones and welcomes a sense of adventure. No other meal says, “I’m a conscientious citizen of the world” like a plate of beautifully made sushi.

Despite its popularity, there are still many who have yet to try a piece of tuna sashimi or a tuna hand roll. If neither of those terms rings a bell, then you might just be one of them. Since many employers are now requesting Japanese food for their corporate dining experiences and because San Francisco has no shortage of these excellent establishments, it’s important that meeting planners be knowledgeable about common sushi terminology as well as being familiar with the more popular selections. This guide defines some of the common terms that can be found on a sushi menu, including examples of each variety.

The California Roll: America’s Favorite Sushi
Even if you haven’t had a whole lot of experience of sushi, chances are you’ve heard of something called a “California roll.” Often referred to as America’s favorite sushi dish, the California roll is often the introduction to sushi for many beginners. For one, its origins aren’t Japanese. In fact, the California roll was designed in Los Angeles to appeal to clientele who had reservations eating the more authentic, raw fish-based menu offerings. There is no fish to speak of in a California roll. Instead, the inside is a blend of imitation crab meat, cucumber and avocado, a cool, meaty combination that appeals to the sensibilities of just about everyone.

The term sushi is often used to refer to everything in a Japanese restaurant that resembles a ball of rice with either fish or vegetables affixed to it and small enough to be handled with chopsticks. Sushi, however, only refers to the sticky vinegar rice that the other ingredients are served on. Usually menus will list their selections along with two columns that are often differently priced. One column will say sushi, the other sashimi. If a guest orders, say, one piece of salmon sushi, then they will get the a piece of raw salmon placed on top of a small fluff of rice and a piece of seaweed may be used to bind the two together. This is the image that usually comes to mind when someone thinks of ordering sushi.

Sashimi, on the other hand, does not include the rice. Orders of sashimi are usually more expensive because the cuts of fish are bigger than those used for sushi and are generally thought to be of higher quality. Also of note, many high-end sushi restaurants will use the term nigiri instead of sushi, as nigiri more specifically refers to the ball of rice pressed between the palms of the hand and topped with the main ingredient.

Maki Sushi
The term maki refers to what are commonly known as rolls. Maki is prepared using a bamboo mat that is lined with a sheet of either seaweed or soy paper. A bed of rice is then placed over the seaweed or soy paper and then the ingredients are placed on top of the rice. The ingredients might include raw fish, cooked fish, vegetables, fruit, sauces or any combination of the aforementioned. The bamboo mat is then rolled into a circle creating the round shaped maki. It is then served in six to eight pieces which constitute a single order. Popular varieties of maki include hosomoki, made with only one ingredient, and futomaki, which includes mixtures of several ingredients with complementary tastes.

Temaki refers to hand rolls, the only type of sushi that’s not eaten with chopsticks. Temaki, or hand rolls, are cone shaped orders that are large in size and must be picked up with the hands. The cone is usually made from the same lining as maki and is about 4 inches in length. Diners usually order temaki for its emphasis on the taste of the nori, or seaweed cone. Whereas other sushi varieties focus on the fish and other incredients, the seaweed provides the principle flavor for temaki. These hand rolls are at their best when filled with pieces of raw fish, especially salmon and tuna.

Faux Sushi
Many who have never tried sushi instantly fall in love with it once they finally taste it, raw fish and all. However, some people never fully acquire a preference for sushi or simply do not enjoy the taste of the more traditional options. Fortunately, California rolls aren’t the only Westernized selection on the menu, making it possible for more conservative eaters to enjoy a meal alongside their risk-taking colleagues.

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