How to Order and Make Sushi

Jeffrey Elliot and Robby Cook, authors of The Complete Guide to Sushi and Sashimi, talk about how to order at a sushi restaurant and how to experiment with making your own at home. 

Kara Rota
2-minute read
Episode #82

Our guests today are Jeffrey Elliot, author of the Complete Book of Knife Skills, and Robby Cook, executive sushi chef at the renowned NYC restaurant Morimoto. Together, they are the authors of The Complete Guide to Sushi and Sashimi. They’re here to tell us about both how to order at a sushi restaurant and how to experiment with making your own sushi and sashimi at home. 

First, let's learn about the lingo. Sushi, which means "vinegared rice," always includes rice, whether individual pieces or rolls. Sliced raw fish, cooked fish, vegetables, or other ingredients are sashimi, usually garnished with shredded daikon, shiso leaves, and fresh wasabi. Nigiri refers to hand-formed single pieces of fish or seafood on sushi rice. Maki refers to any type of sushi made into rolls.

Tips for Ordering Sushi:

1) The restaurant should look clean and not smell fishy. 

2) Judge a restaurant's methods and ingredients by the quality of its nori, its sushi rice, and its tamago, a many-layered egg pancake that is complex to make and should be created in-house.

3) When ordering, trust the chef if you're sitting at the sushi bar. Don't order too much sushi all at once.

4) There's a traditional order to eating sushi. Start with lighter sashimi, then move into sushi and nigiri pieces, followed by rolls and maki. When it comes to flavor, you also want to start light: with leaner fish like yellowfish and yellowtail, then moving into tuna, then mackerel and shellfish. You then move on with sweeter items like eel and tamago, and finish with a roll or a hand roll. 

5) You only need to use chopsticks for sashimi. Everything else can and should be eaten by hand! 

6) Don't mix wasabi with the soy sauce, dab it directly onto the fish.

Tips for Making Sushi:

1) Acquire a rice cooker to make sushi rice easily and consistently. A sharp knife is also key.

2) You can get smaller filets of fish at many Asian markets. Look for bright color and firm flesh. Start with fish that you like to eat cooked, and preferably ones that are local to your community.

3) Lightly boiled shrimp is an underrated ingredient for sushi, and a great option if you don't want to start with raw fish. 

Check out this handmade sushi slideshow for a walk-through of how to make your very own sushi at home.

Image courtesy of Andrew Scrivani.

About the Author

Kara Rota

Kara Rota headed children’s programming at Chicago’s Green City Market and studied food politics at Sarah Lawrence College. Kara has been a featured speaker at numerous venues including Food Book Fair, the Roger Smith Food Conference, and the Brooklyn Food Conference. She has written about food for Irish America Magazine, West Side Rag, Recipe Relay, and Food + Tech Connect, and is the former Director of Editorial & Partnerships at Cookstr.com.