Nigiri – small balls of rice with the ingredients on top
Maki rolls – nori (paper-like seaweed) rolled around rice and various fillings, with a bamboo mat used to curl the sushi into a roll shape
Hand roll – nori shaped into a cone, with ingredients placed inside the cone
First, clarifying some terms around sushi and how it is prepared can be helpful. Sushi refers to dishes containing rice prepared with rice vinegar. It is made in many different ways, and served with seafood, vegetables, and cooked or raw fish. Sashimi is very fresh raw fish or meat cut into thin slices.
Sushi is healthy and tasty. However, raw fish (sashimi) can pose a health risk if precautions are not taken.
The main food safety concern is the risk of parasites like roundworms and tapeworms. Abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea are some symptoms that have been reported after consumption. There have been cases where surgery was required to remove parasites consumed in raw fish.
Acidified sushi rice can also be a concern. Traditionally, rice is held at temperatures that promote the growth of bacteria.
These risks mean that food safety standards must be applied when preparing sushi and the raw fish used in it.
The label of 'sushi grade' refers to the manner in which the raw fish is stored. The fish is typically frozen below –35 C until solid, and stored for 15 hours or –20 C for seven days. Provincial regulations ensure that fish that is intended to be eaten raw is frozen under these conditions before being sold to restaurants or consumers. These regulations may vary across Canada.
Some basic steps help ensure homemade sushi is safe. The following guidelines for raw fish and acidified rice have been adapted from Alberta Health Services recommendations.
Canada’s Food Guide recommends that pregnant women consume at least 150 gm (five ounces) of cooked fish each week. However, Health Canada advises that pregnant women thoroughly cook raw fish and seafood. Eating raw or partially cooked fish and seafood may increase the risk of getting a food-borne illness.
Health Canada also suggests that pregnant women pay attention to the types of fish they eat to minimize potential contaminants like methyl mercury. Choose types of fish that tend to have lower levels of contaminants. These include salmon, trout, herring, haddock, and canned light tuna.
With a little knowledge and advance preparation, you can enjoy this healthy and delicious food at home.