Sushi Tips for Beginners

If you're a sushi newbie, the whole experience can be a little overwhelming. What to order, proper etiquette, those new words you've never seen before; all can be a lot to take in for someone who is new to sushi. If you're curious about where to start and would like to be prepared for your first experience with sushi, you've come to the right place.

Sushi is not always raw fish.

Any piece of fish, or other ingredient, can be placed on top of a ball of rice and called "sushi". The word sushi actually means "vinegared rice with seafood". There are many types of seafood and fish that are cooked before being prepared as sushi: Crab, shrimp, octopus, eel, and tamago (cooked egg).

Sushi Etiquette

It is perfectly acceptable to eat sushi with your fingers instead of chopsticks. But you should only choose one or the other. Eating sushi with something else, such as a fork, is considered bad manners. And if you are to eat sushi with your fingers, you should try to only use one hand, such as the custom of not having one hand, elbow, or arm on the table while you use your other to eat your food.

Alcohol is Okay in Moderation

There is a type of bacteria in your stomach and intestines that breaks down food and helps to prevent you from getting sick from eating raw food. This type of bacteria is temporarily killed off and useless when you consume alcohol, especially in large quantities. It is probably safe to drink one or two beers or a glass of wine during, before, or after eating raw fish, but until you see how your system reacts to eating raw fish, it's probably best to limit yourself.

Try Again

Don't let one bad experience ruin sushi for you. Out of all of the sushi restaurants, hole in the walls, and buffets that serve sushi, most of them are going to be decent. If you have a bad experience the first time around, you'll miss out on some amazing cuisine.

Although there a lot of very good restaurants that have low prices, the best way to avoid a bad experience is to pay more for your sushi at a higher priced restaurant if you are new to sushi. If you are tech-savvy, finding a sushi restaurant with good reviews should help.


A safe way to tell if you're getting good sushi is to order two things:

  1. California roll
  2. Salmon Nigiri

Then do a test:

  1. Is the rice is dry (old?). Is the cucumber crisp (freshness?). Does the crab meat or seafood mix taste fresh (freezer burn?)
  2. Does the salmon have the right color and texture? This test requires more experience than explanation.

Learn more

If you're interested in learning more about sushi, check out some of these books:

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