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What Do Japanese People Think of 'American' Style Sushi?

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

My first encounter with American-style sushi was back in the 90s in Los Angeles. On my way back from work, I noticed long lines of people waiting outside a seemingly ordinary restaurant called "Sushi Cafe." Intrigued by the hype, I decided to try it and find out what made their sushi so special.

Inside the restaurant called "Crazy Fish," I found a very casual setting with handwritten menus on the wall, some counter seats, and sushi chefs and waitresses wearing T-shirts. It felt like a casual dinner spot just around the corner, but they served sushi. The menu caught my attention with Caterpillar Roll, Spider Roll, Jewish Roll (aka Philadelphia Roll), Alaska Roll, and Cray Fish Roll. These were unfamiliar to me then (before I became a sushi chef).

Curious about what others were eating, I observed the dishes around me and asked the waitstaff about the ingredients in the Caterpillar Roll. I remember first trying the Caterpillar Roll, Spicy Tuna Roll, Spider Roll, and Shrimp Tempura Roll. As unconventional as they appeared, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed them.

Since then, Crazy Fish has become my go-to sushi place. I took many of my American and Japanese friends there, and they all loved the sushi as much as I did. However, my appreciation for American-style sushi like Crazy Fish didn't mean I abandoned the more traditional Japanese sushi, such as Nigiri.

American-style sushi is just another form or variation of sushi. It looks and tastes different because it was created thousands of miles away from Japan, naturally reflecting its unique influences. While some traditional Japanese sushi chefs and individuals may view rolls like the Caterpillar Roll as "disgraceful" or "not sushi at all," they undeniably fall under the definition of sushi since they use sushi rice, as the term "Sushi" refers to the seasoned rice.

In Japan, salmon sushi wasn't popular twenty to thirty years ago. But now, at Kaiten Sushi chains like Kura-sushi and Sushiro, salmon is the number one choice for nigiri. They even serve unconventional options like "Banana" and "Corn and Mayo" sushi. Sushi has constantly been evolving; the same should apply to sushi in other parts of the world.

At my first sushi restaurant, where I began my training, all the Japanese sushi chefs had learned their craft in the US. They shared the same sentiment toward American-style sushi. One of the chefs told me, "I enjoy Shrimp Tempura Roll and Caterpillar Roll. I eat them, and there is nothing wrong with that. At the same time, I appreciate Saba Nigiri as well."

I echo the same sentiment. Sushi is sushi. I enjoy both the Shrimp Tempura Roll and Saba Nigiri.

Gather your team and host an online sushi-making class. We can ship a kit with fish and ingredients to your home in 48 US states!


Gather your team and host online sushi making class. We can ship the kit with fish and ingredients to your home in 48 US states!

For more info, visit our online sushi making class page here.

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