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Strategies for getting people to try sushi?

I'm not the kind of person to force adventerous foods on people. As evidence, I'm not coercing my parents into letting me take them to the Ethiopian restaurant today, as much as I want to visit. However, I believe that everyone can like sushi... it's just a matter of convincing them. So how can this be done???

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  1. First, and most importantly, start them somewhere really good. One of the very few things that I've found Emeril Lagassee to have said on his show that I think entirely true is when people say to him "but I don't like scallops" he says "you've been eating bad scallops." So, start them with good sushi. Then, begin with cooked items. Raw scares a lot of folks but there is so much in traditional (not to mention new style) sushi that is cooked and much that isn't fish/seafood at all. Smoked salmon instead of fresh, cooked shrimp instead of ama ebi, real crab, etc.

    When I was introducing my younger brother to sushi, we started with maguro because he loves rare steak. Super rare. Really good tuna has a lot of the same qualities as a perfectly prepared cut of steak, so it was a natural move for him. Then we stuck to similar things for a while (hamachi, for example)...and then we were off an running. Have fun!

    1. My gateway sushi items were unagi nigiri pieces and spicy tuna rolls.

      1. I'll agree that going to a GOOD sushi place will help. But I will disagree with the assumption that "everyone can like sushi". I for one don't. I've tried and tried. My taste buds just aren't that subtle and don't respond to the Zen of clean, water-like flavors. Other than ahi (well, that's sashimi), but my gateway food to that was carpaccio, so you gotta thank the Italians.

        1 Reply
        1. re: rjw_lgb_ca

          I think my tastes are similarly "unsubtle," for lack of a better term, but I think sushi has become one of the more disputed foods among the masses in terms of what's "good." If it tastes good to me, it's "good," regardless of whether the cook used the wrong kind of vinegar or had 3 extra grains of rice. Obviously there's reasonable boundaries, but how discriminating a person's tastes are will affect how they react to what you might find "good." I let the experts argue the subtle differences and just focus on enjoying my food.

          I think spicy tuna rolls are a good way to go as well. You don't see the cut of fish like you would with tuna, or god forbid squid. That may prove a deal-killer for first-timers. I think ccbweb offers some good points as well, especially with the cooked crab. The americanized rolls exist to let people who might not normally try sushi give it a shot with lower "risk."

        2. Three things:

          1. You can lead a horse to water but you can't get him to enjoy the view.

          2. Most traditional sushi does not have sashimi. Start with those.

          3. Sashimi is best with hot Japanese rice. Start them on sashimi with hot rice.

          1. IMO, Ethiopean food is more adaptable than sushi (I love both) - as long as you skip injera (a lot of people who dislike ethiopean food do it for solely the bread). Many restaurants serve their food on regular plates with silverware. And when presented that way, their food looks more familiar than sushi will ever do. And I also think their flavors are not overly exotic. Anyone who likes meat likes ethiopean methink.

            1. Are you talking sushi or sashimi?

              You don't mention your parents age, but if they are up there in age, I wouldn't push sashimi on them.

              Make it clear to them sushi is more than raw fish. Go to a good place.

              1 Reply
              1. re: rworange

                Agreed. Cali rolls are a good start or even Tempura or Teriyaki and they can share your cooked Sushi for the 1st time. Mikaku Sushi in Herndon, Va is authentic Japanese but offers many pseudo-Westernized Sushi choices also. The rice with a half sliced shrimp is very good and it is cooked. Next time, try the Salmon and Tuna. Do not push too much at the first try. Most people develop their taste buds by age 12. There is another place called Tachibana in McLean, Va and one in Columbia, Md that I do not remember the name that is near the Five guys by Broken Landing and Snowden Pkwy. Remember to use soy sauce and ginger and wasabi to change the taste and clean the palate.

              2. I remember my first sushi foray. i was certainly scared. here is how to get people to venture out:
                1. go w/ a large group of people who like sushi.
                2. order lots of dishes, but not all sushi. get cooked items, rolls, sushi, and sashimi. get the popular rolls like spyder rolls, soft shell crabs, california, spicy tuna. guide the non-sushi people through the rolls w/ cooked items and non-fish items. hopefully they will love the flavors of the rolls and then venture out to the spicy tuna roll and then eventually to the sushi. the mass quantities of food and the liberation of the senses might possibly outweigh the fear of trying something new and thus the person might just start sampling everything that is out there in a drunken state of confusion and excitement...especially when there are of positive comments and noises heard while eating certain dishes.

                god, I love sushi!

                1. Leave them alone. Why force it on someone. have been to Japan numerous times and if I never see a piece of raw fish again it will be too soon, especially after being served even live little fish over ice that you were supposed to let swim down your throat.- go ahead and tell me that sushi does not involve raw fish: I am not a rice lover either.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: emilief

                    Yep. Why coerce adults into trying new foods? If they're interested, they'll try it on their own, or ask you take them to a sushi restaurant....

                    1. re: emilief

                      i was never coerced or forced, but i was nudged. had i not ever been nudged i would probably would have never tried it or be as adventurous as i am today. it was an eye-opening experience. one of the chapters of my 'foodie life.' i once dated a girl that said, "i felt nauseas any time i saw sushi or saw anyone eating it." i never once entertained the thought of having her try it after hearing a comment like that. of course, we didn't last too long.

                      1. re: adkim

                        I think it's perfectly normal to nudge people into trying different foods, especially if they've had little to no exposure to it. Certainly not everyone reacts well to this sort of persuasion, but you don't have to FORCE people to do anything. Find a place that has sushi along with other cuisine, eat it while they eat whatever they're eating, and maybe it'll intrigue them.

                        I'm grateful for people nudging me into trying food I had never considered. I never would have tried a pupusa (because I didn't know they existed), ramen (because of college and maruchan), or a number of other dishes. I may have discovered them on my own eventually, but am very happy I was introduced earlier rather than later.

                      2. re: emilief

                        I agree with not forcing them, but I didn't read the OP that way. I'm betting that everyone on this board participates because they love food; for me, it makes me happy to find food (like sushi) that's really good. I want to share good things with the people that I love, because for me, that's sharing part of myself. I think I feel this way because of the way that I was raised, so sharing the food I love with my family makes me especially happy.

                      3. I can sympathize w/ those suggesting, live and let live, but nonetheless... Agree that starting w/ cooked things in *sushi style* may be a good way to go, i.e. barbecued eel, tamago, California Roll, or a tempura roll. One other thing to think about though is the potential distaste for seaweed. I LOVE sushi, or most of it, so long as there ain't no seaweed/nori... I prefer my rolls wrapped in rice paper, or even better, soy paper. The smell of nori is also distinct, so just maybe that might also be a turnoff. You might consider going to a place that offers soy/rice paper, and this also allows the fish to shine, rather than competing with the taste of nori.

                        1. What emilief said. Personally I've always found raw fish among the most disgusting things I've ever had in my mouth. The texture is supposed to be the big deal, but AFAIC, the texure is 95% what's wrong with it. And I've never entirely forgotten the asshole who almost shoved it my mouth for the first time 25 years ago, something to consider while pondering you next act of "friendly convincing"... I knew I didn't like undercooked fish, it wasn't like it was something I'd never experienced before.

                          1. I have no intention of pushing it on anyone, but something else has occurred to me. I fell in love with sushi in San Francisco, and I imagine back in TX unless I'm dropping some serious cash, no sushi is going to live up to what it took me to understand it. So, maybe if I end up in SF with them sometime I'll say, "we have to get sushi..." otherwise, I'll just let it be. But then again... tomorrow my brother and I are going to try to take them to dim sum (and my dad thinks subway requires too many decisions)

                            1. You get people to try things the same way I got my kids to eat everything - by not making a Big Deal out of it. No coaxing. No begging. No explaing that this will be a Life Changing Experience That Will Make Them Better People. It's just food. It's normal. It's what people eat. I ended up with 4 year olds who ate raw oysters and artichokes. And sushi.

                              If you are eating a meal at your house, pick up some ordinary sushi, even the supermarket kind. It will look familiar to them because they will have seen pictures in even regular newspapers or TV. Just put it out without any fanfare as before dinner snacks. Chances are they'll be curious enough to try it even though they've never been curious enough to buy it or order it in a restaurant. So what if it's just boring old CA roll? Everybody starts somewhere. The next time get something a little more adventurous - again without making a deal out of it. When they finally ask or comment, suggest that they might like to try a sushi bar.
                              Whatever you do, no Big Deal! Plenty of time for that later once they become fans. Then they'll be pumping you for all sorts of info and begging to go to the hot new places. Of course, they might also hate it. But you tried.
                              Always worked with my kids. You can't believe the range of foods that are perfectly normal to them. They can't understand people who won't try things..

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: MakingSense

                                That's really great to hear. Not that adventerous eating is extremely virtuous per se, but its a great way to get kids to think outside of their world. All the kids I know that were eating diverse foods as youngins seem much better adjusted.

                                1. re: amkirkland

                                  For my kids, trying things was normal. Nothing "adventurous" about it, unless we were tracking it down in some third world market or fishing for it. Kids in China or Morocco or Peru eat stuff like this so it's kid food. Sometimes, they really didn't like something. Hey, sometimes I didn't either. But we all gave it a go. There's something everywhere you can eat to keep from being hungry until your next meal.