Sustainable sushi guides and the National Sushi Party

Today, three ocean conservation groups in the United States - the Blue Ocean Institute, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium - will each be releasing sushi fish selection guides. They all seem to be printed guides that you have to order (small quibbles: Why not a downloadable PDF so people can start using it immediately? (It seems PDFs are available if you look hard enough. (thanks Avoir!)) Also, why 3 separate guides?) but if you are a sushi aficionado and are concerned about the sustainability of safety of the fish used as sushi neta, you may want to give one of them a look. See the press release here.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium (in Monterey, California), which as far as aquariums go is one of the coolest places on earth, already has a very extensive Seafood Watch database as well as regional (American only of course) seafood guides you can order, as well as a mobile phone site. They are also having a National Sushi Party event on Facebook. You can even sign up to be a Seafood Watch Advocate if you are politically inclined (though as of this writing, the page says they have run out of Advocate Kits.)

Having briefly worked at a sushi restaurant, I have doubts as to how much effect the advocacy/politicking method with have on most restauranteurs. But what would definitely work is voting with your money; if you really want to make a statement, stop scoffing down the tuna, yellowtail and eel, and be more adventurous and varied in your sushi selection.

Fishless sushi

I have repeated this several times on these pages: Sushi does not mean ‘something with fish’. (Do remember that a key to good sushi is the quality of the rice, as much as the neta that goes on/in it.) You could even have a very nice sushi meal by going fishless. When my mother first succumbed to stress-induced digestive system problems, she could literally only stomach vegetable-based sushi (and she managed a sushi restaurant!) but she didn’t feel she was missing anything. Here are some non-fish sushi neta:

  • Tamagoyaki (sweet omelette). Having a sweet tamagoyaki at the end of a sushi meal is like dessert for me!
  • Tsukemono (pickles) such as Chinese (nappa) cabbage, burdock, carrot, turnip etc.; also takuan (yellow dyed pickled daikon)
  • Cucumber (as in a cucumber roll)
  • Avocado (the toro of the vegetable kingdom; try avocado ‘sashimi’ with wasabi soy sauce!)
  • Daikon radish sprouts
  • Umeboshi
  • Shiso leaves (one of my favorite handrolls is umeshiso, umeboshi with shiso)
  • Onion, green onion
  • Dried gourd strips (kanpyou, used in kanpyou maki)
  • Aburaage, as in inarizushi
  • Meat products - raw meat (a la carpaccio), ham etc… anything soft, rather fatty and salty. Also cheese. Rare to find these at a sushi restaurant, but at home…why not?

What’s your favorite sushi?

…besides the usual suspects of tuna, fatty tuna, yellowtail, salmon, eel? Let us know what it is, and why!

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Mackerel! Mmmm.

Mackerel! Mmmm.

Dina | 22 October, 2008 - 13:46

pdfs are available...

See the “Related Documents” area on the lower right of the page for PDFs. I was just looking at the Blue Ocean Institute Sushi Guide. My faves are on that list. (Good thing I don’t get to go out to sushi very often. I wonder how this will affect my local sushi house, which I dearly love.)

Avlor | 22 October, 2008 - 15:17

I loooooooove sushi. I

I loooooooove sushi. I don’t know if my favorite is inarizushi or a maki with fried shrimp. I love both :)
I can’t wait to try new ones when we’ll live in Vancouver !!!! Sushi sushi looove !

Nolwenn | 22 October, 2008 - 15:58

Marlin sushi are delicious.

Marlin sushi are delicious.

anon. | 22 October, 2008 - 20:23

(mostly) veggie sushi

I started out eating only vegetarian sushi (quasi-vegan with a don’t ask, don’t tell policy regarding miso soup). Here are some of the best veggie sushi items ever (aside from what you’ve already mentioned):

natto roll with green onion and wasabi (love it)
roasted sweet eggplant with a little bit of teriyaki nigiri
black walnut and avocado roll
umeboshi paste with crushed walnuts roll
roasted or fried sweet potato with wasabi and soy sauce
steamed asparagus roll
cucumber and cream cheese (I add smoked salmon to it a lot these days)

Now I’m hungry!

annenayne | 22 October, 2008 - 23:18

Shrimp & avocado

Our favorite 100 yen sushi chain offers EBI ABOKADO, a nigiri type with half a boiled shrimp, a half-moon sliver of avocado, and topped with paper-thin slivers of onion (tamanegi) and piped-on mayonnaise. The blend of flavors is wonderful!

trijbits | 23 October, 2008 - 05:41

Poor Student's Sushi Bento

As much as I love sushi, I can’t afford a lot of the more expensive traditional neta. I find myself using a lot of vegetables and other cheap ingredients that I have on hand to make strange and awkward, yet somehow delicious, sushi combinations.

Here are a couple I have made recently that I decided I would make again because they were so good:

Hot Dog roll (I know. wtf.)
strip of hot dog, sweet relish, mustard, and onion with a drizzle of ketchup on top.

Bunny roll
carrot, cream cheese, more sesame seeds than you think you need and a small handful of rice krispies.

Spinach and pickled carrots (yum!)

ginakuma | 23 October, 2008 - 14:24

we make

we make spam sushi rolls. LOL

anon. | 24 October, 2008 - 19:57

Re: Sustainable Sushi

I had heard that this list was coming out. I went to my favorite Sushi Bar the other night, and he gets live Uni and Ebi from the Santa Barbara, CA area. I had no idea that Ebi was so very destructive! The list was indeed educational. My favorite Sushi is Hamachi, and that was somewhat of a disapointment. Unagi was another favorite. Our local chain of markets, Trader Joes, has started offering frozen wild Alaskan Salmon for the very same reasons. I’m pretty sure that my “Sushi Guy” isn’t about to alter his menu, but I can still be more responsible in my own choices. Also, I forget about the variety of veggie Sushi neta available. I used to have a Vegetarian friend who loved to go to Sushi Bars. Maybe now, in light of this list, I’ll be getting more creative in my choices! Although I’ve always enjoyed finishing off my meal with tamagoyaki as well!

Karla | 25 October, 2008 - 20:39

Sustainable Sushi - Challenge - SFW Kit

Makiko! The Seafood Watch Kit is really great. I have taken their pledge and I was at the release party at FCI for the three wallet cards’ debut.

I have a slide show on my blog and will post on the kit contents soon. I wanted to let your readers know that skilled sushi chefs want to please customers and we have to enlighten them.

I love the very items we are not able to enjoy now, but I was very pleased to enjoy some new items I had not had before. Posing the challenge to the chef by showing him the “green column” and asking him to make you sushi from the approved list, maybe something you had not had before, would be, IMHO, a good way to enlist the sushi chef on your side.

Thanks for bringing this up. I will post on my own experience the next time I have enough money to go eat sushi!
-Jacqueline

jacqueline church | 3 November, 2008 - 15:05

My favourite is mekajiki

My favourite is mekajiki (swordfish) and uni (sea urchin). I like most sashimi though~

I actually have a similar problem. I’m now living in Australia, and the only sashimi being served here is tuna and salmon!!! Most people here don’t even know you can use other fish….sometimes when I go to the market I buy fish myself to make chirazushi. I have seen uni go on sale for $1 each before, don’t these people know what they are throwing away? It’s really sad sometimes…

I would like to follow the guide more, but I can’t imagine life without hamachi ^^;; I don’t eat it sashimi-style, instead I grill it with a bit of salt, like kabutoyaki

tsu | 17 December, 2008 - 14:14

Re: Sustainable sushi guides and the National Sushi Party

The first time I ever had bento was at a roadside stand in Hawaii. It had spam nigiri-zushi. It was pretty genius, and made use of the Hawaiian love of spam. they also had the sweet omelette with big chunks of spam in it. Some of the more touristy restaurants there serve spam sushi as well (but they tend to be those that cater toward American tourists, rather Japanese, I think).

While Spam is definitely free of mercury, it does have loads of other bad stuff in it, so it's kind of a toss up, healthwise.

jennythenipper | 13 May, 2009 - 19:57

Re: Sustainable sushi guides and the National Sushi Party

Spam musubi is definitely a Hawaiian tradition, and virtually unknown in Japan (ex. as a Hawaiian thing) except maybe in Okinawa...though I think in Okinawa they use Spam or 'canned luncheon meat' in other ways. I've commented on Spam musubi a few times here and on Just Bento.

On another note, I'm really glad to have discovered your classic film blog via your comments!

maki | 13 May, 2009 - 21:08

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