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Food for thought: Eating sushi

By Jason Wong
On April 2, 2014

With the relatively recent opening of the Haru Aki Café in Storrs Center, I thought I'd talk about sushi, one of my favorite foods, in today's column. Sushi can be intimidating to someone unfamiliar with it. I'll admit I was very squeamish about trying sushi for a long time, finding the idea of eating raw fish to be mildly disgusting and possibly unsafe. One day I finally took the plunge, and I've never regretted it.
Sushi is a Japanese food consisting of cooked vinegared rice combined with other ingredients like seafood, vegetables and sometimes even tropical fruit, all wrapped up in a dried seaweed wrap. Sushi is most often prepared using raw fish, but some sushi is completely cooked. Raw fish sliced and served without rice is called sashimi. Sushi is also often served with shredded ginger, soy sauce and wasabi.
The traditional ingredients of Japanese sushi, raw fish and rice, are naturally low in fat, high in protein, carbohydrates (the rice only), vitamins and minerals, as are ginger (gari) and the black seaweed wrappers (nori). Other vegetables wrapped within the sushi of course also offer various beneficial vitamins and minerals, and many of the seafood ingredients also contain omega-3 fatty acids.
I personally prefer sushi over sashimi because I like the texture of the rice, my favorites being spicy tuna and unagi, which is (cooked) eel sushi. I find sushi to be quite a refreshing food, and unlike some cuisines that are heavy in their use of starch, dairy and fat, sushi and sashimi don't leave you feeling bloated or gassy after a meal. Moreover, the portions are always within healthy limits; I have never been served a plate of sushi and thought it would be a difficult task to clean my plate.
Maybe you're still on the fence about trying sushi. Maybe traditional sushi isn't for you. Never fear, like many foods, there are forms of sushi that have been crafted to suit Western tastes. Obviously, any type of sushi that has an English word in its name (e.g. California roll, rainbow roll, spider roll, etc.) is not of Japanese origin. These types of sushi often (but not always) don't actually contain any raw seafood, often substituting imitation crab, smoked or grilled salmon and actual crab for the orthodox raw fish.
The Haru Aki Café in Storrs Center is a good place to go for sushi, whether you're looking to try something new or if you've already found your love for it. It's cozy and doesn't offer a huge selection, but I actually see that as a benefit, as it keeps you from feeling overwhelmed. I've personally tried their spicy tuna, spicy salmon and unagi, which I found to be as good as any sushi I've ever had. Moreover, the restaurant has many "Asian" drinks that are difficult to find outside of an Asian supermarket. All in all, sushi is a healthy food that's fantastic if you don't feel like stuffing yourself or if you're looking to eat a little healthier. Give it a shot - you won't regret it.

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