Home CommentaryStudent Life The beginner’s guide to sushi

The beginner’s guide to sushi

by Jenna Monney-Lupert October 11, 2011
The beginner’s guide to sushi

After less than two years of casual consumption of sushi and trying to understand the Japanese menus, all I’ve figured out is this: it’s made one heck of a dent in my wallet. The average cost of sushi in Montreal restaurants ranges from $15-$30 for a simple 12-piece entrée which begs the question: what makes these little bites of heaven so darn expensive?

“It’s all about the price of the ingredients,” said sous-chef Allen Chen from behind the sushi bar of Kaizen on Ste-Catherine. While cleaning an octopus tentacle, he explained that the cost of transporting fresh fish and spices daily from Japan, Mexico and Africa, combined with the ingredient costs, are what determine the sushi’s price.

You know that pasty-green blob that makes your nostrils burn and sets your taste buds ablaze? Many of us novices never finish or even touch the infamous Japanese spice wasabi, which, believe it or not, costs $60 for a one-foot root. That’s the length of an average celery stick! Makes you think twice about discarding it, huh?

What appeals to me about restaurants like Kaizen is that you can customize your order according to how much you want to spend. About a dozen of the most common pieces of sushi will set you back about $20-25. If you’re in a splurging mood, grab some friends and order the $85 tasting menu.

“This is Kaizen’s signature seven-course meal, which includes the day’s freshest ingredients,” said Chen, who has been Kaizen’s sous-chef since 2006. “I would recommend this for adventurous people.”

For a less intimidating first experience, Sushi Shop may be the place for you.

“What I like about the Sushi Shop is that all the sushi’s already made, it’s fresh and it’s a healthier alternative than junk food,” said Jonathan Vanderzon, a first-year Concordia engineering student.

This franchise, which counts more than 35 locations around Montreal, is a great option for students who are on the go and not looking to burn holes in their wallets. An average 14-piece combo can set you back about $11.

Don’t feel like eating out? Get your friends together and have your own sushi party. Here’s how to make basic sushi rolls at home:

What you’ll need:

– Bamboo rolling mat

– 3 cups Japanese rice

– 1/3 cup Rice vinegar

– 2 Tbsp sugar

– 1 Tbsp salt

– 1 pack Nori sheets (seaweed)

– Selection of fresh vegetables, seafood and fish

Ingredients can be found at Miyamoto Japanese Grocery, 382 Victoria Ave. in Westmount.


  1. Wash rice in cooking pot until water is almost clear.

  2. Drain rice of any excess water and add 3¼ cups of fresh water. Water must cover rice by 1 inch.

  3. Bring rice to a boil and cover with lid.

  4. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

  5. Turn off heat and leave covered for 10 minutes. Don’t lift the lid during last 10 minutes because rice is still cooking.

  6. Heat rice vinegar, sugar and salt in separate pan until dissolved. Remove from heat.

  7. When rice is done, put in large bowl and slowly add vinegar mixture. You want to put your rice near an open window so the steam leaves the rice.

  8. Fold vinegar mixture into rice with wooden spoon. Don’t squish your rice; it’ll become mush.

  9. Cut 1 sheet of nori in half with scissors and place one-half horizontally on bamboo mat and add rice with hands. Leave a half-inch of nori bare.

  10. Add thin strips of veggies, seafood and fish.

  11. Holding mat with both hands, roll the bottom end over the filling and gently compress evenly across entire roll. Continue until the bare nori seals itself. If it doesn’t seal, use some water.

  12. Cut roll into even pieces and they’re ready to serve.

Sushi glossary for first-timers:

Maki: The most popular and traditional sushi roll. There are three sizes: haso-maki (thin), chu-maki (medium) and futomaki (large).

California rolls: The best sushi for beginners! It’s impossible not to like these bite-sized haso-makis wrapped in rice and nori, with an avocado, cucumber or crab core.

Tempura: Who said sushi can’t be fried? If you’re tired of eating the same old thing, give your taste buds a treat and indulge in light, crispy-battered sushi.

Gunkan: Although the name doesn’t sound very appealing, the presentation is enough to make you love it. Gunkan sushi is a tiny nori cup filled with rice and topped off with seafood. Be prepared for a mess with this one!

Nigiri-zushi: Feeling adventurous? Try this finger-like block of seasoned rice covered with a slice of shrimp or raw tuna.


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