Sushi is Not Raw Fish
Written by Alissa Dana   
Shogun • Japanese Restaurant | Sushi is Not Raw Fish | IndependentNEPA.com     From across the room, he is immediately drawn to a table of eight diners. Their laughter and spirited conversation spark his curiosity. As plates of delicious works of art are carried to them, he moves forward in his chair. Their eyes widen as each plate is gently placed before them. Before long, they practically fall over each other to try some of their friends’ selections. He wishes their table sat nine.
     He inquired as to what food could possibly cause such excitement, and his waitress responded, “sushi.”
     “Oh, never mind then. I don’t like raw fish.”
     Like so many people, he’s chosen to deprive himself of experiencing some of the most tantalizing food there is because of a misconception. What these “quick to dismiss” diners don’t realize is that many items on a typical sushi menu include entirely cooked food. You see, sushi refers to the rice. Su means vinegar, and shi is derived from the Japanese word for rice, meshi. (Su + Shi = Shushi).
     When people say they don't eat sushi because they don't eat raw fish, what they actually mean is they don't eat sashimi- raw fish that is often paired with sushi rice. Nigri, balls of vinegared rice that are topped with a filet of a cooked or raw protein or vegetable, are the most common type of sushi rolls.
     The friends that evening ordered sushi rolls and appetizers that were devoid of anything raw. One of them, in particular, Marie, from Kingston, has been eating sushi and sashimi for the past 15 years.
     “The very first time I ate it, I hated it,” she said. “I ordered what someone else had. A couple of weeks later, bored with the usual burger, chicken, hot dog, and pizza options, I gave it another shot. The sushi chef walked me through the entire menu. Second time was the charm.”
     At that time, the early ‘90s, there were only two Japanese restaurants in our area: Robata, now Osaka, in Scranton; and Katana, in Wilkes-Barre. These days, you can’t throw a quarter in NEPA without hitting one. In the 570 area code alone, there are more than 27 locations.
     Why the escalating interest in sushi? There are many reasons- taste, variety, culture, and health. Sushi is high in protein and low in fat.
     “When I got serious about losing weight, I decided to give the South Beach Diet a try,” she said. “With all of the non-starch and non-sugar choices I get with sashimi, it was a natural fit. I lost 30 pounds.”
     The taste of sushi, paired with raw or cooked food, is unmistakable. Crab. Shrimp. Egg. Eel. All are cooked, all are beyond description, and all are a great place for the sushi novice to start. Then you can move on to tuna, yellowtail, salmon, red snapper, clam, and to the more exotic choices.
     Each sushi chef at each Japanese restaurant in our area uses these proteins as a base for their rolls. What they roll with them is what creates countless varieties. The most popular pairings are crab and avocado (California roll); smoked salmon and cream cheese (Philadelphia roll); and crab, lettuce, and mayonnaise (Boston roll).
     “I don’t understand why people have such an aversion to eating sushi,” Marie said. “Red Lobster sells tons of crab legs. Ever have lox with your bagel? If people could get past the word ‘sushi’, they would have so much more fun eating out.”
     In fact, thousands of patrons in our area have fun, even a blast, eating sushi. Plates get passed around hibachi tables, each person trying a little of everything. Others sit alone or with friends at the sushi bar.
     “Sushi has been with me through so many changes in my life,” she said. “When I returned home after living in Georgia, most of my friends were paired up in relationships and I ate alone a lot. I still enjoyed eating out, so the sushi bar fit me just fine. You’re never alone there.”
     “I have hundreds of funny sushi stories,” she continued. “I was eating an American roll in the Poconos when it got robbed before my very eyes, and, a two-year relationship with a boyfriend ended, in part, because he felt I should have spent my money somewhere other than at a Japanese restaurant. I could write a book.”
     You can start writing your own book today. What a delicious way to do research!

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