3 Tips for a Traditional and Sustainable Sushi Experience


Sushi has become a year-round favorite worldwide, but especially in summertime, when hot weather calls for cool foods, the sushi bar beckons. If you’re worried about how you can fully partake in this Japanese classic with sustainability in mind, we have the answers to help you find sustainable sushi that meets your traditional expectations.

When it comes to the sushi bar, perhaps one of the first questions to ask yourself if you truly want to enjoy this time-honored tradition is how best to approach the menu. Sustainable choices but also traditional and authentic ordering are the keys to making the most of your sushi bar meal. Choose a high-quality sushi bar with a chef who is open about where he sources his products. From there, enjoying your sustainable sushi meal is easy!

1. Eat Sushi in the Correct Order

Sushi is intended to be eaten in a certain order: it allows the palate to fully appreciate the subtle flavors of some fish and the richness of others. Make your selections bearing this tradition — as well as sustainable seafood options — in mind.

Start things off with milder flavored fish, like sustainable lionfish. Mild fish are usually white or silver in color. From there, continue to red fish like maguro. Steer clear of bluefin tuna; opt instead for local troll- or pole-caught yellowfin.

From these milder fish, you can move on to richly flavored salmon or salmon roe, being sure to select sustainable wild salmon. The fattiest fish should be the last fish you order. This is generally toro, or fatty tuna belly. When choosing toro, make sure that you’ve picked the same yellowfin variety as with maguro, or opt for sustainable albacore which shares the soft, fatty texture of toro.

2. Order Rolls to Signal the End of Your Order

Once you’re done ordering nigiri, or sushi by the piece, you can begin ordering maki, or rolls. This shows the sushi chef that you are nearly done with your meal. While in Japan, most rolls are simple maki — fish surrounded by rice and seaweed — many sushi bars have their own plays on tradition to offer.

A lot of purists would say that the elaborate rolls that sushi bars are too different from Japanese options to be an authentic choice, but trust your sushi chef and see what he can come up with. Creative chefs may integrate sustainable shrimp, sustainable crab or sustainable lobster into their rolls, giving you new flavors to enjoy.

3. Taste the Fish! Not the Wasabi.

Diners have developed a habit of blending wasabi and soy sauce to add flavor to sub-par sushi, but when the fish is top-quality, your meal doesn’t need it!

Wasabi should only be added to sashimi — the chef has already added the appropriate amount to nigiri and maki. As for soy sauce, dip the fish lightly, just to add a hint of flavor; never soak the rice in soy sauce, or you’ll risk drowning the delicate flavor of the rice. With the right fish and the right chef, that should be all you need!

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Image: ThinkDraw de Dubai, UAE

Emily Monaco is a food and culture writer based in Paris. Her work has been featured in the Wall... More about Emily Monaco