High Life Decoded: 15 Common Sushi Myths, Debunked

The Story of Sushi author Trevor Corson schools us to the facts about this beloved—but misunderstood—Japanese speciality.

jewelbako

Jewel Bako sushi (photo courtesy Trevor Corson)

Sushi has gone through a fascinating evolution in this country, from exotic high-end import to ubiquitous staple. Along the way, the audience has become more polarized than ever: Snobs won't go near the stuff unless it comes from the most hallowed temples of sushi-master zendom, while the downmarket version—sold in plastic containers at supermarkets—is now basically a faddish health food, as pedestrian as wraps and smoothies.

But what do we really know about sushi? Despite its popularity, the Japanese delicacy remains one of the most misunderstood cuisines in the U.S.—a minefield of misinformation littered with improperly labeled fish and supersize "Kamikaze" rolls. From assumptions about what sushi is most "authentic" to the way we slather our nigiri with wasabi and soy sauce, most of us have the raw fish game all wrong. To sort out the facts from the myths, we tracked down an pro who could set us on the path to sushi wisdom.

The Expert:

Trevor Corson, the author of The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice, traveled to Japan for the first time when he was 16 on scholarship for a summer home-stay program. When he tried sushi in 1986 Washington, D.C. in preparation for his trip, he remembers thinking, "Now here’s a cuisine that is truly repulsive and I never want to eat this again." After trying sushi at a neighborhood restaurant in Japan with his host family, he changed his tune and realized he had a lot to learn—and a lot of new fish to try.

Since his humble discovery as a teen, Corson spent three years living in Japan, worked as a commercial fisherman, and penned the pop-science bestseller The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean. He also regularly hosts educational "historical sushi dinners" in New York City (for more info visit his website). Through his own travels and his commitment to studying sushi in both its traditional and modern iterations, Corson is helping to educate others on how to better understand and enjoy sushi.

Photo by Matt Carr
Photo by Matt Carr

With that, it's time to put down the sake, leave the chopsticks on the table, and do this thing right. Here, Corson debunks 15 common sushi myths that tend to circulate among diners in the U.S.—his answers will help you navigate your next sushi dinner like a true aficionado.

Click to start the list
  • JPH

    This was honestly the worst article I have ever had the displeasure of reading. Who says any of these things? I would not like to meet the person who does. And how can you say as a title (at number 6) that it’s false that sushi is unhealthy. It’s not a true or false statement. Please Ms. Norwick, find another profession as this was simply garbage.

    • Hamhandable

      Your only example is a misread. Myth #6 is that sushi is healthy, which is labelled false with sensible reasoning regarding fatty sauces and fish of questionable origin. Learn to read before you tell others how to write.

    • tonysolo

      This thing where we rush to the end of the article to criticize it: I will never understand it.

  • Alice L.

    Please also keep in mind that bluefin tuna is always a no-no! Slide 3 points out that “there were a lot of bluefin tuna at the time,” but what it doesn’t say is that bluefin tuna has been overfished almost to extinction since then.

  • DJ Jimmy 2 Times

    This was very informative to me. It just provided insight on some sushi topics which is what I expected.

  • Elisa

    Ha, ha, are you kidding?- some fish tastes better when it’s aged a few days?? with regards to “Sundays and Mondays are the worst days to go to a sushi restaurant.” I’m seriously wondering if a sushi restaurant lobby of sorts (joke, but you get what I mean) bribed this guy to put this in, in order to have better business on those days.

    • teddy

      if you get a chance, see anthony bourdain’s show with chef yasuda of sushi yasuda. he also says that its a common misconception that fresh fish makes the best sushi. all of the sushi he serves is flash frozen and served after at least a week in the freezer. he believes it tastes better that way. yasuda’s sushi is top notch…i think there is some truth in this.

  • ineffableparadox

    “IT IS NOT A GOOD IDEA TO BUY SUSHI FROM A SUPERMARKET”
    Well, I don’t know how that is in the US, but here in Brazil, it IS a bad idea. I’ve worked at supermarkets long enough to find out what that “sushi” is actually made of: leftovers. The rice is whatever’s left of the plain rice cooked for the day before, the fish, whatever fish is not bought and probably shouldn’t be consumed anymore.

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