If I ever muster the courage to get tattooed, I would choose to have a piece of sushi forever etched into my skin. That's how much I love this cuisine. Sushi is very popular, but there are so many rolls to choose from that it's so hard to know where to start, and it can get pretty overwhelming when browsing the menu of an unfamiliar restaurant. I love trying specialty rolls (and the names can be really creative and fun), but I'm a strong believer in no-frills sushi. Call me boring, but if you have high-quality ingredients, it is unnecessary to cover sushi in tons of sauce.
In case you find yourself at a sushi restaurant having trouble picking a sushi roll, in no particular order here is a list of simple yet delicious rolls that you can find in any sushi spot near you. You can try these on their own, or they may serve as the base for a house specialty roll.
This is my absolute favorite roll. A rainbow roll is a California roll topped with avocado, salmon, tuna, and sometimes whitefish. This is a high-protein bang for your buck, and any worthwhile sushi spot should have this on its menu.
A dragon roll is a shrimp tempura roll topped with avocado and various sauces, like spicy mayo and eel sauce. Some dragon rolls will also contain unagi (eel) and are shaped to resemble its namesake.
A California roll is imitation crab, cucumber, and avocado. For many folks, a California roll is their gateway into sushi. It's extremely low-stakes if you're still warming up to the idea of consuming raw fish. This is also a must-have on any sushi menu, and it is often the base roll for more intricate rolls that have more toppings and sauces.
Also known as the Philly Roll, this was my introduction to sushi. I wasn't quite ready to eat raw fish, so smoked fish was a nice way of easing myself into it. Consisting of smoked fish, cream cheese, and cucumber, this is a very low-stakes way to invite someone to try sushi for the first time.
This is the most under-appreciated sushi roll. You will find a variety of vegetables in this roll depending on the restaurant, but most often you'll find carrots, cucumber, pickled radish, and sometimes avocado. I love this roll for the crunch and the nutrients. Ask your local sushi spot if you can top it with spicy mayo and eel sauce for a stronger flavor punch.
Shrimp Tempura Roll
The vegetables for this roll can vary from restaurant to restaurant, but typically you'll find cucumber, lettuce, and avocado in addition to the deep-fried shrimp. This is the roll that your friend who "doesn't really like sushi" orders and then they fall in love. Ask the chef to add some eel sauce on top if it's not included already. It adds to the umami in a delightful way.
You can't go wrong with a salmon roll. Whether it is the basic maki roll with just raw salmon, or it may also include avocado and cucumber. Either way, it's delicious and simple. Salmon temaki, also known as a hand roll, sushi rolled into a cone shape, is worth trying as well.
Honorable Mention: Any roll with the name "Crunchy" in the title. Trust me on this one. Tempura flakes make the world go round.