One of the things I find hardest to convince our UK guests is that Sushi is Great. Every single one of them has politely (and occasionally not so politely) declined my invitation to pop into one of the numerous Japanese restaurants in the Vancouver area for a quick lunch. Why? Because sushi = raw fish = Yuk. No matter how hard I plead, explain or beg, no one believes me that Japanese food is really so much more. Then I saw a comment from an English friend on Facebook; “Tried sushi today. Tasted a bit like Marmite.” I was amazed how defensive I was, and how quickly my husband leapt in to stop me making a comment back which I might have regretted. So just for you, before you come to Vancouver, here is what I have learned about sushi in 2 years.
1.Vancouver has a reputation for some of the best sushi in the world. Why wouldn’t we, with a huge variety of fresh fish leaping out of the sea and rivers onto our plates? So if, like me when I arrived here, you are a sushi virgin, Vancouver is the place to learn.
2. Find yourself a Sushi Instructor. In Vancouver, this can be pretty much anyone – a colleague, a friend, a 3-year old child; they all eat it and they all know what is good. I love going out for sushi, because I can try something new each time, and always have someone with me to explain what it is – “You’re ordering conger eel – you might like to reconsider…”
3. You can go out for sushi and not eat anything raw. My first sushi instructor was a colleague at work, a tiny little German lady, who can put away more food in one sitting than I have ever seen. She loves the All You Can Eat places, like Kisha Poppo or the lovely Ninkazu or Richmond Sushi, all in Richmond, and she knows how to order fast, order the right amount and order from the crazy tick sheets left at your table. She also does not eat raw fish, and finds plenty on the menu to suit her.
4. It’s not all cold. Chicken Teriaki, gyoza dumplings, miso soup, udon noodles, fresh tempura – all hot and all delicious.
5. Sushi itself is an art form in food. Sushi involves sticky rice, pressed into a block, or used to roll around the central ingredient. A piece may include nori (a sheet of seaweed), a variety of fillings (raw salmon, freshwater eel, avocado, cucumber, deep fried prawn, spicy sauce, chopped scallops, roe) either inside the roll or balanced on top. It is presented beautifully, garnished with hot wasabi sauce and pickled ginger, drizzled with different dressings, on a beautiful plate.
6. This is no ordinary raw fish. Sushi fish has to be the highest quality, usually frozen before use to kill parasites. Don’t make the mistake one of my friends made, at a party after too much whisky when craving sushi – he and the other guests decided to make some from a bit of salmon he had in the freezer and the results were disastrous.
7. It’s good for you! Hallelujah! Fast, reasonable food which is actually good for you. Some westernized rolls like California Roll or Philadelphia Roll contain mayo or cream cheese, but the majority of the menu is low fat, high in minerals, high in protein and makes you feel great. Even the deep fried stuff like Tempura is fried in a light batter in very hot oil and drained well.
8. It’s reasonable. Most All You Can Eat places charge between $12 and $15 for lunch. My current favourite place offers a bento box (soup, chicken teriaki, rice, tempura, gomae spinach in satay sauce, gyoza dumplings) or a lunch special of soup, ebi sunomono (refreshing cold noodles with prawns) and a roll for $10.
9. There are enough rules to please the greatest foodie. There are all kinds of rules of etiquette for eating sushi, and if you like, you stick to them. Or you can do what everyone else does, and just eat it and enjoy the food. No one will mind – this is Canada.
And finally, for my English friend, the bit that tastes like Marmite is the nori. When you get here, look me up and ask me out for lunch; I’m working towards credits for my Sushi Instructor qualification.