The menu of any sushi restaurant has a dizzying list of pieces describing different types of fish, sauces and particular perks included in every individual style.

The one thing to think about is, if stripped down to the bells and whistles, “what does sushi taste like?” when they roll around in your mouth?

While most sushi aficionados and writers will go into details whether what types of fish define the many tastes of sushi, what they overlook is the ingredient that brings it together – rice.

1. Sushi Rice – The Base of the Roll

Sumeshi is the name of the traditional rice used in many sushi dishes. What makes it different than just regularly cooked rice is the use of sushi-su, a vinegar-based solution, mixed into it.

This type of cooked rice is incredibly important in preparing good sushi – maybe to the point of saying sushi really is not sushi without sumeshi.

How To Make Sumeshi

The cooking of sumeshi is straightforward, as you are only cooking two things and mixing them together.

  • Cook your rice according to recipe or taste.
  • Once the rice is done, place it in a bowl of your choice. (there are some to consider)
  • During the rice cooking, put in rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a separate pot over medium heat.
  • Stir until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
  • Gently pour the sushi-su mix over the rice, gently tossing it via cutting motion using a rice paddle or spatula.

  You can choose between short grain Japanese and medium grain US grain rice to make sumeshi, depending on preference.

You must also rinse the rice you are going to cook before cooking – the powder on the exterior of the grains will make it harder to absorb the sushi-su.

A rice cooker is the best option for sushi rice so that you get the right texture and consistency.

2. Fish – from Tuna to Ahi

A lot of people assume that all types of fish have the same tastes and smells, but that is further from the truth.

For the most part this is due to the popularity of eating rolls that use salmon or tuna.

Bluefin tuna alone has its own variations of tastes that people might not know or consider.

  • Akami is the cut made from the leaner meat of the fish and is the tuna cut that you are normally used to seeing and eating as sushi.
  • Chutoro is the marbled pink part of the tuna that’s medium fatty compared to akami. It is next to the akami and runs down to the belly tip of the fish. It has a very rich taste and buttery texture.
  • Otoro is the cut from the underside of the tuna and contains the most fat. Because of the content it falls apart in your mouth easily and is packed with umami.

Why Do People Like The Taste Of One Part Over The Other?

Many of the preferences between the three come from their traits. Some love the super-fatty texture of otoro, while other think it is too oily and prefer the milder fattiness of chu-toro.

Then again, the fact that otoro is the most expensive cut of Bluefin tuna might say something about the way people think of the taste.

Read more: Fish Eggs

The Many Flavors Of Fish In Sushi

Here are some more fish types you worth discussing:

  • Salmon in its raw state is more buttery compared to when you eat it grilled. Some consider the taste to be creamy and sweet as well.
  • Mackerel has that distinctive “fish” smell that translates into a strong flavor that can take over others like ginger.
  • Striped Jack has a smoother and richer taste than others in the jackfish family. It is a good choice for otoro fans.
  • Yellowtail has a mild taste and is not as soft as tuna. It is also not as fishy as salmon.
  • Ahi has a firm texture and a medium-mild flavor. It has a deep, red and raw color.

3. Ingredients For The Right Sushi Taste

Once you get an understanding of the two basics, then you dive into the other important parts of the sushi experience.

  • Kombu is a dried seaweed/kelp used for seasoning in daishi, a stock common in Japanese cuisine. For sushi, kombu is placed in the water during the rice cooking to give the rice a daishi flavor. It is sometimes placed in the vinegar during the mixing of the sushi-su.
  • Nori is the edible seaweed sheet used as that famous wrap you see on sushi rolls. The color of nori shows different tastes and styles. For example, what does sushi taste like in a bright green nori roll? Normally it’s a nutty flavor from the sesame oil and salt was used to toast it. Raw nori sheets are much darker in color.
  • Gari is sweet, thinly sliced ginger served with sushi. It is made to cleanse the palate between different pieces of sushi. It is not like regular ginger – it is marinated in vinegar and sugar, and because of the process takes on a pink color.
  • Avocado is used in many types of sushi rolls due to its buttery texture. It serves as an otoro replacement as far as flavor is concerned, since otoro can be really expensive at times. While it is an American invention, it can now be found in rolls throughout the world.
  • Wasabi, the green and spicy paste found next to every sushi dish, is made from the wasabi root. The strong flavor it produces is a full event around the mouth – not just your tongue, but your nose as well! Depending on preference, some people mix wasabi with their soy sauce. Some rolls actually have a bit of wasabi spread onto the rice before wrapping.

4. Tastes to Avoid

On the other hand, what will be the red flags for bad sushi? Some fish, like salmon who should not have a strong fish smell, will have that “fishy” smell if it’s a bad raw piece.

Another sign that you should stay away from is if the fish is tough to chew or falls apart in a stringy manner. Even worse, you can taste it and it is watery or slimy.

A Plateful of Tastes

Now that you know the basics – the way the rice is made, the texture of fish and the flavors of the ingredients – you can play around and see what does sushi tastes like in your own styles.

  • Chop up mangoes and add a sweetness to your roll
  • More of a spicy fan? Kick it up a notch with habanero.
  • Look for vegetarian options using radishes, cucumbers and peppers

Just as long as you meet the tastes of the sushi rice and desired fish, you will have no problems in making the roll with your favorite flavors.

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